Policy and regulatory barriers keep our provinces and territories from realizing their bioeconomy potential.

Whenever the Biomass North team holds regional information sessions, community design charrettes, or knowledge/technology exchange activities with other countries and jurisdictions, we are asked similar questions:

  • With our wealth of sustainable forest biomass supply, why has Canada not realized the economic, environmental, and social benefits of a thriving bioeconomy?
  • Why are we, for example, still heating 1.4M homes in Ontario with expensive oil, propane and electricity, when other countries are reducing their carbon footprint, saving money, and creating jobs by using wood residues and cutting-edge clean-tech equipment to heat their homes and businesses?
While the answers are complex, one of the critical issues is policy and regulatory barriers. Our forest tenure structure is being slowly reformed, but community bioenergy projects and bioproduct manufacturers are still struggling to secure long-term access to biomass supply and this prevents them from securing capital investment for their projects. The environmental approval process for bioenergy projects can take up to 6 years in certain regions. Our boiler regulations pre-date the development of computers and related technology, and still require a human to be on-site staring at "the dials". This can add up to $240,000 per year in unnecessary operating costs. Provincial renewable energy policy has focused almost exclusively on electricity generation, while 80% of residential energy demand and 75% of commercial energy demand is for heat, not power.

The Biomass North team, with its network of members and stakeholders, have been driving policy and regulatory reform.

Several of the Biomass North stakeholders in academia, industry, and government have been working together to target and reform specific policy barriers that are blocking the development of Ontario's bioeconomy. These individuals and organizations have struggled to make the progress they have. The Northern Ontario Bioeconomy Strategy recognizes the need for a top-down strategic and coordinated initiative to identify and reform the policy and regulatory barriers to a vibrant Ontario bioeconomy. Biomass North is working with all stakeholders to implement that initiative.
The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change sought input and direction on the best options to reduce Ontario GHG emissions and the Biomass North team was invited to participate in several roundtables. Transitioning the province to a low carbon bioeconomy, as several northern European jurisdictions have learned, would yield significant GHG emissions reductions, while driving economic growth and earning social dividends.
The Biomass North team, in consultation with its stakeholders, created a budget submission to Minister Sousa, recommending the Government of Ontario support and implement the Northern Ontario Bioeconomy Strategy through the budget mechanism. With the potential economic, environmental, and social dividends the province could earn, a strategic investment in the future bioeconomy is a wise policy choice.
Ontario's focus on renewable power and lack of focus on renewable heat is a critical policy barrier to realizing the economic, social, and environmental benefits of transitioning to a sustainable low-carbon bioeconomy. The Biomass North team gathered input from its stakeholders and made a submission to the Long Term Energy Plan consultations in 2013. Our contribution led to the inclusion of bioheat in the 2013 LTEP.

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