$444M boost for bioenergy options


Three-year provincial program keys on turning waste into energy.

The province has committed an unprecedented $444 million over the next three years to encourage Albertans to develop bioenergy alternatives using waste such as manure and wood chips.

In coming years the government will double and then triple the amount of money going into renewable energy development, from $66 million this year to $162 million in 2013, then to $216 million the year after that.

'It is to encourage bioenergy production in the province, as a renewable source of energy,' Alberta Energy spokeswoman Christine King said recently.

'Of course, it goes back to our environmental responsibilities, (and) reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.'

The Bioenergy Producer Credit Program was established in 2006 in support of the province's renewable fuel standards, which require five per cent of gas and two per cent of diesel to be comprised of renewable fuels.

In its first six years, King said, the total taxpayer investment was $150 million, and the government saw $2 billion in private investment as a result of the incentive.

Practically speaking, the program provides grants to entrepreneurs who want to start bioenergy businesses and then 'tops up' the rate that energy producers get on the market, King said.

The focus has turned away from energy being produced from cereal grains, King said, and toward projects that focus on producing heat or electricity from the 20 million tonnes of waste Albertans produce each year.

Jesse Row, director of the Sustainable Communities Group at the Pembina Institute, said the organization supports the initiative and would like to see similar pro-grams to support wind energy technology and energy-efficiency projects.

'The bioenergy economy growing around the world has largely been driven by government policy, so this is exactly what we need to be doing,' Row said, adding that programs like the bioenergy producer credit help keep rural and agricultural communities strong.

He said the province could improve the program by setting clearer targets for credit recipients and by following up to ensure they're meeting those targets.

He also encouraged the province to expand into other areas.

'Bioenergy is just one of the opportunities that are available for economic development and reducing environmental impact,' Row said.

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