Biomass such as wood waste or energy crops such as high-yielding grasses can be burned in high- efficiency combustion systems to produce electricity, heat or bio-oils. The renewable feed stocks for these systems can be readily grown in rural Ontario.
As plants grow, carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change, is absorbed from the atmosphere. When biomass is used to make electricity, heat, or bio-oils, the carbon dioxide stored by the biomass is released. With new high-efficiency biomass conversion systems the emissions are very low. No new greenhouse gases are produced making biomass fuel “carbon neutral”. As long as replanting and new growth can sequester the same amount of carbon as the biomass removed from the system for burning, biomass can be used as an alternative to fossil fuels in order to mitigate the impacts of climate change.
The Ontario government has committed to phasing out coal at Ontario Power Generation (OPG) facilities by December 2014, which is a key strategy to meet greenhouse gas reduction targets in Ontario. Other coal users are looking at alternative energy feed stocks (e.g. cement industry, some greenhouse operations, etc.) as the need to reduce GHG emissions increases.
It will take at least five years to establish the residential and small commercial/industrial market assuming significant support in all areas is in place – marketing, lobbying, incentives similar to those offered for geothermal or solar energy, and the creation of an infrastructure for both appliances and bulk pellet delivery.