Why should Rhode Island electric ratepayers subsidize an incinerator? If state legislators expand the definition of net metering resources to include “biomass” fuels, this will be the result.
When you hear “renewable energy” you think of something green, clean, and good for our environment, like solar or wind energy. But this proposal is different. This bill would change the definition of renewable energy to include the burning of wood – and construction debris in particular – which is known to release high levels of particulate matter and carbon dioxide. This would negatively affect our state’s ability to meet our Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative commitments and Resilient Rhode Island Act targets.
Biomass incineration releases soot and other air pollutants that are known to have a negative effect on air quality and health. According to Kids Count, Rhode Island already has the seventh-highest self-reported child asthma prevalence among ranked states.
Biomass incineration is not a low-carbon power source. Just like fossil fuels, when wood burns it releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Burning wood releases all of its stored carbon dioxide instantly, up to four times more carbon than coal for the same energy produced.
The carbon dioxide spike released worldwide from biomass burning will take several decades to neutralize through the replanting of trees, time we don’t have before we may cross dangerous and irrevocable climate tipping points. It was for these reasons that biomass was specifically excluded from the 2011 net metering bill.
Supporters say this change will bring the law into compliance with the Renewable Energy Standard set in 2004, but this standard sorely needs to be updated in view of current science. I would argue that the Resilient Rhode Island Act of 2014 supersedes the standard and directs all state agencies to take climate change into consideration.
So let’s connect the dots: Climate change is causing sea level rise. Rhode Island has 400 miles of coastline and is vulnerable to sea level rise. Science tells us that sea level rise is occurring due to increased human-produced greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. Let’s not exacerbate the problem by bringing on another CO2-producing power plant in.
Terri Cortvriend of Portsmouth is a candidate for House of Representatives District 72, covering Middletown and Portsmouth