Members of the timber industry were in the state capitol today, arguing for the passage of a bill that would support the state’s struggling biomass industry.
New Hampshire has 6 biomass plants. The plants convert wood waste products to energy, and they have trouble competing against the cheaper cost of natural gas.
Senate lawmakers were already working on a bill to help the industry when they got the news last week that the state’s smallest biomass plant, in Alexandria, was going to close.
Bob Guida is one of the bill’s sponsors. The Alexandria plant is in his district.
"I call it the canary in the coal mine," he says. "All the sudden we have one, we’ve got five others now that, given the economics of the market for spot electricity, and the inability of these folks to pay any less for their fuel, then we’ll see others of the 6, if not all of them, ultimately close as well."
Senator Guida says the effect would be staggering – not just for the 100 or so people who work for New Hampshire’s biomass plants – but also for the North Country’s forestry industry. Sawmills can’t sell off their excess wood to paper mills anymore, and biomass has given them a new market. Advocates say that economic relationship also helps with forest management.
The Senate bill is under consideration by the House. If passed, advocates for the biomass industry estimate that New Hampshire energy consumers would pay about 16 cents extra a month for the subsidy.