California PUC to consider incentives for burning damaged trees in power plants

On the agenda for the Oct. 27 meeting of the California Public Utilities Commission is a draft resolution that would institute various ways to encourage more use of woody materials to fuel power plants, which was called for by Gov. Jerry Brown to deal with a major forest die-off in parts of the state.

This proposed decision adds specific new features to the bioenergy feed-in tariff, or market adjusting tariff (BioMAT), for the California renewables portfolio standard established by Senate Bill (SB) 1122. The additional provisions for the BioMAT program set out in this decision respond to the tree mortality emergency identified in the governor’s Proclamation of a State of Emergency from October 2015.

This proposed decision:

  • Clarifies that the BioMAT category of “bioenergy using byproducts of sustainable forest management” (Category 3) includes fuel obtained from high hazard zones (HHZ) designated in accordance with the Emergency Proclamation by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CALFIRE);
  • Accelerates the program periods for BioMAT Category 3 from bimonthly to monthly;
  • Implements SB 840 by allowing developers of Category 3 generation facilities to maintain their eligibility to bid in the BioMAT process once they have met the initial interconnection study requirements, even if they do not hold an active position in the interconnection queue;
  • Requires a developer that exits the interconnection queue to make a deposit of three times the fee for an initial interconnection study (currently $30,000), with the investor-owned utility (IOU) for each project that the developer wishes to remain in the BioMAT bidding queue, with the deposit to be refunded upon the developer’s execution of a BioMAT standard contract with the IOU;
  • Requires Category 3 generation facilities to provide annual reports to the IOU with which they contract on the proportion of fuel from HHZ used at the facility in the reporting year;
  • Updates a requirement that Energy Division staff hold a workshop on third-party verification of fuel use by Category 3 generation facilities to include third-party verification of HHZ fuel-use reports provided to IOUs by generation facilities in Category 3; and
  • Requires each IOU to file a Tier 2 advice letter incorporating the changes made by this decision into its BioMAT tariff, standard contract, and ancillary documents within 20 days of the effective date of this decision.

SB 1122 created a new bioenergy feed-in tariff within the procurement programs of the renewables portfolio standard (RPS) program. The commission began its implementation of SB 1122 with a decision which, among other things, allocated the capacity targets for each IOU set by SB 1122, defined the categories of bioenergy sources set out in the legislation, and set the tariff price and mandated a process for periodically adjusting the price.

In February 2015 the IOUs filed and served their Joint Submission of Proposed Tariffs and Standard Forms to Implement SB 1122. The first program period for the BioMAT program opened Feb. 1, 2016. After the Commission approved the BioMAT standard tariff and contracts, Gov. Brown issued the October 2015 Proclamation of a State of Emergency to address the impacts of extensive tree mortality due to the extended drought in California and resulting epidemic infestation of mountain forests by bark beetles. The Emergency Proclamation includes direction to this commission to take action to increase the use of fuel from high hazard zones in bioenergy facilities.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.