Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Quebec Calls for 125MW of energy from forests

This is a guest post from Nicolas Mainville, Director of Conservation, CPAWS Quebec:

Following the launch of its new program for woody bioenergy in July, the Quebec government just announced a call for 125 MW coming from forest biomass, to be purchased by Hydro-Quebec. This decision, approved by the Ministers’ Council (Conseil des ministres) last week, confirms the strong intention by Quebec to open large scale woody biomass energy projects across the province. Although no public hearings or debates have been put forward, this new strategy to “dynamise Quebec’s forest sector” has attracted a lot of attention lately. Here’s an overview of the new program to be included eventually in Quebec’s Forest Act, as described by the MNR:

Overview of the program

  • The program was mainly put forward to accelerate conversion strategies of heavy fuel oil heating systems towards woody biomass (150 M$ is allocated over 3 years to the conversion strategy included in the Quebec Climate Change Mitigation Plan), but the new 125MW call shows that Quebec wants more than that and is ready to actively develop this sector.
  • The program specifically allocates new volumes of woody biomass on Crown lands
    • These volumes come from:
      • not-harvested allocated wood,
      • Not allocated left-overs (branches, leaves)… roots and stumps are not included in the program
      • From naturally perturbed areas (wild fire, insects infestation, etc)
      • “Back log” or temporary permits
  • Anybody can apply to the program
  • The best projects will be elected depending on:
    • Profitability
    • Environmental “gains”
    • Support from local communities and regional authorities
    • Investment proposed by the contractor
  • It’s a 5 year program, that apparently will be included in the Forest Act once ongoing projects show their profitability

Goals of the Woody bioenergy Program:

  • Create jobs and stimulate the regional economies
  • Reduce Quebec’s dependence on foreign oil
  • Promote new forest management strategies and improve the health of deciduous forests


  • The harvest must not interfere with soil productivity or biodiversity
  • There is an “open door” for post-harvest fertilization

However, no guidelines, thresholds or monitoring is planned or described in this program. It is also ambiguous how it is going to cost the harvester and how much the government is planning to invest. The calls for submissions are ongoing but the industry is already complaining about the short amount of time dedicated to the program (5y). This program is shown as one of the best solutions to tackle climate change…many of the arguments are based on the false claim that the bioenergy sector is “carbon-neutral”.

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