In the US, a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) is a federal mandate that requires the increased production of energy from renewable energy sources. It relies on the private markets for its implementation but it increases market demand by generally requiring that electricity supply companies produce a specified percentage of the their electricity from renewable sources. RPS-type mechanisms have also been adopted by such countries as Sweden, Britain, Poland, and Chile. Here target percentages, policy and regulations are set at the state level and vary considerably from state to state.
An easy-to-use website for State comparisons is the Union of Concerned Scientists Renewable Electricity Standards database (unfortunately only current up to 2009). New York’s RPS program is administered by NYSERDA. Our state has an ambitious target percentage: 25% by 2013 and 30% by 2015, but then 19% of NY electricity was already from renewable resources, mostly hydroelectric. Most states are looking at longer time frames with smaller percentages.
In New York, among other renewable technologies, eligible biomass technologies include biogas, direct combustion, combined heat & power, and co-firing with existing fossil-fuel combustion. Eligible sources of biomass include both woody and herbaceous agricultural residue, multiple other sources of wood, and woody or herbaceous crops grown specifically as energy feedstocks. New York has an interesting, successful Customer-Sited Tier for distributed technologies that might be useful for small scale implementations but currently is only applicable for solar, wind, fuel cell, and biogas. Unfortunately it accounts for only 2% of the RPS program. The 2009 NYSERDA New York Main Tier RPS Impact and Process Evaluation report stated that The Customer-Sited Tier enabled NYSERDA to achieve 119% of its 2009 target by the end of 2008 while the Main Tier RPS program, though cost effective, may have considerable difficulty meeting its 2013 goal. So why isn’t small scale agricultural biomass getting more air play in New York?
One of New York’s goals is to diversify energy resources for security and indendence. So why isn’t the importance for multiple types of feedstocks in multifuel stoves and boilers getting more air play in New York?
NYSERDA administers the RPS in New York State but the Public Service Commission has controlling authority over the generation type and fuel source eligibility requirements. The New York State Public Service regulates, electric, gas, steam, telecommunications and water utilities. The Main Tier RPS electricity replacement program is concerned mainly with biomass co-firing, hydro, landfill gas, and wind. Heating oil (which is now almost back to 2009 prices) and propane for rural areas do not fall under public utility’s jurisdiction. In fact there is no comparable agency for these fuels which have no price regulation other then the free market. Why let this large fossil fuel-using segment slip away? So why isn’t biomass thermal combustion for heat getting more air play in New York?
These are some of the questions we are hoping to ask (and influence) at the July 20th meeting on Grass Energy in New York from 1-4 pm at Tompkins Cortland Community College (TC3) Sprole Conference Room at 170 N Main Street (Rt 13) in Dryden, NY. Call or email Doreen of Broome Biomass at 607 849 3945, email@example.com or Betsy Keokosky of the Danby Land Bank Cooperative at 607 342 5430, firstname.lastname@example.org.