Leaving no area of alternative fuels untouched, the California Energy Commission (CEC) Monday released a plan and set of recommendations for the stepped up development of biomass — biologically derived renewable materials that can produce heat, power, transportation fuels and what state officials think can be other valued-added products and chemicals.

The underlying premise of the report that will be used to build Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s action plan is that California enjoys an abundance of biomass as a significant renewable energy resource.

Consistent with Schwarzenegger’s direction, the report’s recommendations are designed to create institutional and regulatory changes that will “significantly increase” bioenergy’s role in the state, the CEC said in announcing the release of the final report, compiled by a favorite outside energy consultant in Sacramento, Navigant Consulting, Inc.

The CEC last summer was tasked by the governor to lead an interagency effort to prepare a broad set of policy recommendations that could form the basis of what Schwarzenegger wants to make a comprehensive action plan, something that has become a standard byproduct of his administration’s approach to major issues.

CEC Chairman Joseph Desmond, the governor’s chief energy adviser, called bioenergy “critical to California’s energy supply and vital to its waste and resource management efforts, including reducing petroleum dependence and achieving climate protection goals,” which will be part of a separate statewide summit in San Francisco Tuesday on global climate change. Desmond said the plan released Monday on bioenergy “lays the foundation” for the state’s ultimate action plan to address the challenges that face the biomass industry and the ambitious goals of harnessing its power.

A 10-agency working group that the CEC headed based its recommendations captured in Navigant’s report on four key policy objectives, the CEC said. Those were:

According to the report, California leads the nation currently in electricity produced from biomass, with more than 4 million dry tons of solid biomass used last year by 28 biomass-fueled generation plants, producing 615 MW of baseload renewable energy. Another 360 MW was generated using landfill gas and biogas from sewage treatment, food processing waste and animal waste digestion.

“Combined, these resources meet 2% of present total electric demand in the state and can produce as much electricity annually as about 2,500 MW of wind power,” the Navigant report stated.

Among its recommendations, the report urges that the governor later this year to issue an executive order calling for 10 specific steps to push bioenergy, along with a parallel effort in California to work with other states and the federal government on ways to enhance biomass. It also promotes new state legislation this year to establish “a stable funding program” for bioenergy, and to create financial incentives to encourage more investments and support innovation in the industry.

The nine other agencies that joined in the working group with the CEC are the California Air Resources Board, Environmental Protection Agency, Resource Agency, Food/Agriculture Department, Forestry/Fire Protection Department, General Services Department, Integrated Waste Management Board, Public Utilities Commission, and the Water Resources Control Board.

The final recommendations for the state bioenergy action plan report can be found on the CEC website (www.energy.ca.gov).

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