Assessing Extent to Which US Southeastern Woody Biomass Supply Can Meet Renewable Electricity Demand in Present and Future Scenarios
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Woody biomass has rapidly come to the forefront of renewable energy discussions as a potentially reliable and affordable energy solution. The reason for such is rooted in international and domestic policy evolution. The increasing reliance on alternative energy options is a direct response to the desire for national energy security as well as a commitment to mitigate climate change. This project attempts to quantify the contribution of Southeastern forest resources to a proposed federal 15% Renewable Electricity Standard demand. Results indicate residual biomass supply can only provide 19% of a 15% RES demand under current population pressures and climate change conditions. More expansive biomass definitions increase the total biomass contribution, yet some of this supply requires unrealistic market expectations. Utilizing the more reasonable expansive supply, unused pulpwood capacity (peak production minus current production) provides, on average, an additional 8% to a 15% demand. Following initial calculations, biomass supply and electric demand were projected and estimated under future climate change scenarios for the state of North Carolina. Results of future projections suggest biomass can meet anywhere from 8- 17% of a 15% RPS demand. However, these are likely best-case scenarios, as climate change, demand for other products, and social acceptability for forest management all create uncertainties that will likely increase in the future. It is clear that biomass can only be a part of a renewable energy solution, at least in terms of offsetting traditional electric energy demand. Although biomass has the potential to be a significant contributor, policy makers must incorporate a flexible and diversified energy portfolio to establish complete RES compliance or recognize the increased efficiency of biomass in alternative energy applications.
DepartmentNicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences
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