19 April 2012
of the Legislative Council
ENERGY (ELECTRICITY) AMENDMENT REGULATIONS
Biomass Energy Industry
(Rosevears)- Thank you to the honourable member for Huon for bringing
on the discussion about biomass. I am convinced and I think it is
fairly obvious that some time in the future Tasmania will be
producing electric power from forest residue. It is a proven
technology, but presently it is not competitive with fossil fuels for
power generation. Yes, the forest residue is free, but handling it,
transporting it, processing it and burning it is expensive.
Certainly, Madam President, granting renewable energy certificates
for bio-energy projects would make forest biomass energy more
competitive, but I still doubt that it would be as economic as power
generated from fossil fuels, even though it has the great advantage
of being renewable. But who knows what the future might bring in
respect of advancing technology?
that is no reason not to grant renewable energy certificates. I
believe the Federal Government should look at this issue again, so I
do support this motion. Those arguing for forestry biomass power
generation cite the example of Sweden, as we heard from Andrew Lang,
particularly, in our briefing yesterday. Forest residue provides 20
per cent of all energy consumption in Sweden, including wood-fired
district heating systems satisfying more than half of the residential
heat demand. However, Sweden, of course, has no domestic oil or
fossil fuels and about 60 per cent of the country is covered by
managed forests. One incentive is the very high carbon tax on oil and
coal use. That is about $150 per tonne of carbon dioxide produced.
Sweden and Finland are both fine examples of efficient forest biomass
energy industries. For the above reasons they are not really
comparable to Tasmania but that is not a reason not to have a much
closer study of forest biomass energy here and a system of renewable
energy certificates. The certificates have been opposed because of
the fear that a forest biomass energy industry would lead to mass
forest felling. Those who argue along these lines point to the
Tasmanian woodchip industry. They cite the early justification for
the industry, that it would only involve waste from sawlog harvesting
operations. They say that wood chipping eventually dominated the
industry. They fear that a similar thing could happen if the
bioenergy industry was established to use forest waste. However, the
Standing Committee on Agriculture, Resources, Fisheries and Forestry
chaired by the Federal Member for Lyons, Dick Adams, and supported
along the way by some people who I will not care to name in case I
have my facts wrong, in its report on the Australia forestry industry
and biomass sourced electricity said, and I will use the same quote
that the member for Huon used:
sourced from native forest biomass should continue to qualify as
renewable energy, where it is a true waste product and it does not
become a driver for harvesting native forest.'
is likely in the future that most potential residue for a bioenergy
industry will come not from native forests but from tree plantation
harvesting and other forms of biomass. It is also likely that a new
process will be involved known as pyrolysis. Pyrolysis is coming
closer to commercial reality in Australia. One company developing
this process is called Pacific Pyrolysis and it has been offered $4.5
million by the Victorian Government to pilot a commercial-scale
production facility in Melbourne.
project will demonstrate Pac Pyro's proprietary technologies ability
to deliver a solution for urban green and wood waste by converting it
into renewable electricity and biochar. I am going to get a little
bit technical here but I want to get it on Hansard.
Wilkinson - We like it
when you are technical.
FINCH - Thank you. Slow
pyrolysis is the heating up of biomass in the absence of oxygen so
that it thermally decomposes without burning. The volatile components
of the biomass are given off and this is combustible gas stream
called SIM gas. It is then cleaned up to a quality that can be
utilised in gas engine generators for electricity production or in
many thermal-energy applications such as driers or boilers.
FINCH - I knew the
technical part would involve some interjections. The solid remaining
after what is called the devolitalisation of the biomass is called
char. The processing results in a dense carbon structure of what is
known as conjugated aromatic rings which has a highly developed
wait, there is more, and I am cutting to the chase. When this char
product is utilised as a soil amendment it is referred to as biochar.
The greenhouse gas balances across slow pyrolysis projects have
garnered a lot of interest because they have the potential to be
carbon negative, that is, to remove carbon from the atmosphere.
Apologies again, Madam President, for being technical but I want to
point out that this process has great potential benefits for us here
in Tasmania. So, we should be watching its development very closely.
Taylor - Through you,
Madam President - the pyrolysis - thank you for the explanation
because it was really good - it is exactly the process that I talked
about last year in a previous debate and that is being used for
municipal waste in Toyohashi in Japan. It is not new. It is new to
FINCH - Yes, new to us.
Taylor - It is proven
FINCH - I will be
watching with interest, this development in Melbourne, where they
have been given the grants, the money, to develop more successfully
President, the motion before us speaks specifically of residues.
Residues at the moment are burnt without providing a single watt of
useful energy and on that basis I think the motion should be