Earlier this month the well-meaning Dr. Michael Noll likened our commission’s support of woody biomass energy as “shooting ourselves in both feet.” He said it was foolish to utilize wood in energy production criticizing my Valdosta colleague, Jason Shaw, who was instrumental in getting some additional biomass capacity approved for our state.

What Dr. Noll has failed to see is the thousands upon thousands of acres of forest residuals left on the ground after a logging crew clears an area. Limbs, tops, scraggly little trees and stumps remain – and without this additional biomass capacity there is no value proposition to chip up that material. 

Commissioner Shaw’s amendment creates a price for this material which then puts more people to work, builds boilers at facilities and then creates steam and power helping to keep mills like the WestRock Mill in Dublin afloat. 

No form of energy is perfect, but biomass energy at a plant allows a Georgia resource that would otherwise be burned in a field with no pollution controls to be utilized at scale in a way that makes sense. That is why the United Kingdom, Germany and other countries are using southern pine to replace coal. They are able to turn off coal scrubbers and further meet their clean-air obligations under the Kyoto Protocol. 

And as to solar, Georgia is adding it in a big way. Commissioner Shaw and my colleagues just approved a massive amount of solar that will be deployed in southern and middle Georgia. With no subsidy, this solar in fact will fractionally lower rates and bolster the tax digest of many counties in need of financial boost.

Georgia isn’t California or New York and we don’t approach energy in the way those states would have us go. We push back against resolutions like the Green New Deal that would shut down our nuclear and coal plants before we have a chance to even finish paying for them. The grid is not broken in Georgia, despite Dr. Noll’s assessment, and we’ll continue to put forward policies that grow our state’s economy and keep our rates low.

 

Tim Echols is a statewide elected official in Georgia serving as vice chair of the Public Service Commission. 

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