Garbage — it’s generated day after day, in ever increasing amounts, and Marion County wants it considered a renewable resource.
Under a bill being considered this session, the electricity created when the Brooks incinerator burns garbage would be classified as renewable.
It puts burning garbage for electricity in Marion County on par with turning turbines on a wind farm and capturing the sun’s power with solar panels.
The designation is coveted because Oregon requires 25 percent of the state’s energy to come from renewable resources by 2025.
“We want the classification in four more years when we have to go out and market the energy we get from garbage in the county,” said Marion County Commissioner Sam Brentano. “I am banking that we will be able to sell it at a premium.”
Even though renewable energy advocates support the bill, they say that the inclusion of municipal solid waste is misguided.
“Just because we have a lot of garbage and we will continue to have a lot of garbage does not make it a renewable resource,” said Jeff Bissonette, a spokesman for the Citizens’ Utility Board of Oregon. “When we talk about renewable energy, we are usually talking about a fuel source that is naturally occurring and unlimited. If you think about wind, wind happens by itself, and the wind is going to blow long after we are on this planet.”
While not specifically named in the bill, the Covanta garbage incinerator at Brooks likely will be the only beneficiary of the bill’s solid-waste language.
The municipal solid waste language was included in the bill at the request of Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem.
Courtney said it is typical to include municipal solid waste in renewable energy legislation that covers biomass, including wood waste.
Courtney’s adviser Phil Bentley said the waste-to-energy industry in Oregon is still in its infancy and that this legislation is not likely to create a rush in facility construction.
Courtney said the “significant restrictions” on a facility such as Covanta’s eases any concerns he has — particularly regarding air quality.
Covanta officials count more than 20 states that define municipal solid waste as renewable.
Of seven western states that also have a renewable energy standard, five states specifically exclude garbage burning, said Kip Pheil, a senior policy analyst with the Oregon Department of Energy.
Nevada allows it but doesn’t have any such facilities.
California’s law excludes municipal solid waste except for electricity generated from a single facility.
House Bill 3674 also allows the burning of wood waste to meet the state’s renewable energy goals.
The caveat is that the electricity generated from garbage or wood waste can’t be considered renewable until 2026 — a year after utilities must have25 percent of their energy from sources such as wind, solar and wave.
It’s still a boon to the Covanta garbage burner and wood waste facilities because utilities will have to maintain that 25 percent renewable energy load in the face of increasing electricity needs and population growth.
Utilities can “bank” the renewable energy as early as 2011 by purchasing a renewable energy certificate for the electricity.
The legislation is a revision of a 2009 bill that the governor vetoed last summer.
Renewable energy advocates and the governor are satisfied with the revised bill because it still means that about 1,800 average megawatts of new renewable energy — from traditional sources such as wind — will be developed for Oregon.
Beth Casper, Statesman Journal – http://www.statesmanjournal.com/article/20100206/GREEN/2060328/1001/NEWS