Tuesday, May 17, 2011

New website to support the use of forest biomass for energy in Australia

The Wood Energy Group is an informal collection of advisors and supporters with expertise in various areas of bioenergy and who have no particular political affilation. The group is convened by Andrew Lang, the member representing the Australasia-Oceania region on the board of the World Bioenergy Association. The group includes academics, manufacturers, tree growers, government departmental officers and consultants. TWEG mission is to provide accurate and unbiased information on bioenergy, and may cover important subjects related to energy. If the information in this website occasionally appears biased toward bioenergy it is because we feel this sector has been ignored too long here and needs some help to catch up.

The background to the formation of this group is that across Australia people aware and educated about energy and the potential of bioenergy became increasingly concerned at the way it was being ignored in policy formation. Some were academics and researchers working in the field, others had seen how bioenergy now is developing in other countries and are aware that while the politicians here are occasionally saying the right things they are rarely doing them. Some of our supporters in government departments are frustrated at the slowness of policy change. Expereince ahs shown that changing the direction of policy in Australia can take years, and sometimes decades may be wasted in short-term politically expedient policy directions.

One reason given for why bioenergy is so retarded in this country by comparison with almost any other is that there was a successful anti-bioenergy lobbying effort when the Howard Government was developing the legislation for the first level of a renewable energy target in 2000/2001. The combined Greens and Democrats holding the balance of power in the Senate objected to the inclusion of bioenergy as an eligible form of renewable energy. The Howard Government buckled to what it saw as an implacable if irrational opposition and, to get the legislation through, agreed to this unfortunate demand. Opposition by these groups to any use of biomass from native forestry (as part of their opposition to native forest harvesting) has seen us us lose over a decade of possible development of domestic bioenergy R&D and manufacturing.

This opposition to bioenergy appears to be entrenched among most environmental groups and the Greens, and the pro-wind, pro-solar PV, pro-geothermal and even the pro-nuclear lobbies drive the public debate on renewable energy. All the time proven, cost-effective options exists to make baseload energy and bio-fuels from biomass presently mostly burned, allowed to rot or being put in landfill.

The Wood energy Group hopes to change the position the bioenergy sector is presently in. Of coming from behind, of rarely hearing an informed opinion on renewable energy stated by a media commentator or political spokesperson, of knowing that there is great but unrealised potential for Australia to be generating up to 20% of its electricity from biomass (including sorted MSW), much of its industrial and commercial heat, and a significant fraction of our transport fuels.

Link to the official website from here

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