King Announces Support for Bipartisan Bill to Revitalize America's Forest Economy

The Community Wood Energy Innovation Act of 2018 would encourage biomass-fueled energy systems and spur markets for low-grade, low-value wood.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) announced his support for the Community Wood Energy Innovation Act of 2018, a bipartisan bill that would reauthorize the Community Wood Energy Program, which expires at the end of 2018. The legislation, which seeks to promote energy security and incentivize new uses for low-grade and low-value wood, was originally introduced by Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.).

“For generations, Maine people have relied on the states forest product industry to make a living and support their families,” said Senator King. “But as market demands shift, it is important to pursue new innovative uses for Maine’s natural resources that can sustain good-paying jobs, help address rural energy needs, and ensure our forests remain healthy for future Maine people.”

The Community Wood Energy Program is a competitive grant program that aims to assist state and local governments with the costs of installing high-efficiency, biomass-fueled energy systems, such as combined heat and power (CHP). In addition to reauthorizing the Program, the bill would also expand eligibility for the Program to private entities and provide $25 million in annual funding for matching grants that would support capital investments in facilities in systems that use low-grade wood.

Senator King has been a strong advocate for reducing energy costs and supporting job growth for Maine industry. The Economic Development Assessment Team (EDAT), originally requested by Senators Collins and King in March 2016, recommended the development of markets for forest product residuals including low-value wood in CHP biomass plants, micro-grids, and modern thermal systems. In the EDAT report, the Department of Energy announced support through its CHP Technical Assistance Program to help Maine’s forest industry with feasibility assessments of existing operations to install CHP technology as a strategy to lower costs through generating onsite power. In early October, Senator King hosted a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee field hearing at Robbins Lumber, a fifth-generation family owned sawmill in Searsmont, to discuss how CHP and microgrid technology approaches can support rural industries and communities and to underscore the energy saving potential of colocation energy approaches. Robbins Lumber currently has a CHP facility under construction that will generate electricity and thermal energy from wood waste produced in the region’s logging operations and sawmills. The field hearing included witnesses from the Maine forest products and energy industries as well as the Director of the Advanced Manufacturing Office in the Department of Energy.