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.