Using wood chips for heat: P.E.I Forestry Commission’s recommendations
November 17, 2023 By Caitlin Coombes is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The P.E.I. government has begun to review the process of using wood to heat buildings in P.E.I. after the submission of the Forestry Commission’s review of the growing industry.
An emerging industry across the Island, biomass heating is the process of using woodchips to produce heat as an alternative fuel source to traditional furnace oil.
A review of the Island’s biomass heating industry presented to the government by the Forestry Commission in October prompted the province to begin amending the process surrounding the current environmental impact assessment.
Jean-Paul Arsenault, chair of the Forestry Commission, told SaltWire last month that provincial legislation would benefit from redefining terms such as sustainability in legislation.
Arsenault says the commission wants the province to define key environmental terms such as sustainability, biomass fuel and mixed residue so that those definitions can be referenced in legislation and future government activities.
“We asked ourselves ‘what does sustainability mean,’ and we couldn’t find a definition anywhere,” Arsenault said.
On the ground
Alex Pratt, biomass operations manager at Wood4Heating agreed with the commission’s review, stating clarification and encouragement of sustainability would benefit the industry in P.E.I.
“When looking at managed lands, that is the desirable for everyone on board.” – Alex Pratt
Wood4Heating is a biomass contractor specializing in woodchip boilers and sustainably sourced wood and was one of four biomass heating contractors named in the Forestry Commission’s review.
“We share the same goal as the commission – we want sustainable forestry and we do already source our wood from sustainable sources so it’s no problem,” Wood4Heating CEO Detlev Elsner told SaltWire on Nov. 2.
Elsner voiced his agreement with many of the commission’s recommendations to the province, saying that the biomass industry needs forestry management to thrive.
“We feel we would be impacted by deforestation in the long run, because our business is needing a healthy forest and is at the same time a contributor to maintaining a healthy forest,” Elsner said.
The commission also recommended that the contracts for biomass supply to government-owned buildings be reworked to include the Department of Environment, Energy and Climate Action.
In a statement to SaltWire last month, P.E.I. Environment Minister Steven Myers said the provincial government would take the recommendations into consideration moving forward.
“We will be working with staff in forestry and environment, along with the staff responsible for biomass use in public buildings at transportation and infrastructure, to update environmental assessment processes, biomass definitions and review biomass contracts.”
The provincial government will continue to review the commission’s recommendations in the coming weeks and evaluate the role of biomass in the “Path to Net Zero” by 2040 plan.
Caitlin Coombes is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter for The Guardian.
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