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New report outlines nine steps Canada should take to remove red tape around bioenergy projects

Now more than ever, Canada needs bioenergy — to rejuvenate failing forestry towns, replace high carbon fossil fuels with clean renewable energy, and create much needed jobs. Developers are ready to embrace new, advanced bioenergy technologies in Canada, but there’s one major problem – red tape. 


April 3, 2009
By Newswire

“For decades biomass projects have been stopped or delayed because of known regulatory barriers,” says Bruce McCallum, author of a new Canadian Biomass Energy Association (CANBIO) report, Addressing Barriers Restricting Bioenergy System Applications in Canada.

McCallum points to three big regulatory hurdles and recommends nine steps to address them — and make bioenergy projects shovel ready.

The first is staffing regulations. Boiler plants above 1.5 MW (thermal) capacity, about the size a large high school would use, require round-the-clock staffing by boiler engineers. This huge operating expense makes most small-scale bioenergy heating plants too expensive to ever get off the ground.  

McCallum points to Sweden’s latest boiler regulations as a good model for Canada to adopt. Both steam and hot water boilers above 3MW can be operated during the week with only two operator inspections every 24 hours.  

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World Biomass Association (WBA) President Kent Nyström says Canada needs to change its restrictive regulations to build a profitable, sustainable market. “You must have a regulatory system that corresponds to the performance capabilities of the equipment. In Europe, with modern computer monitoring technology, we safely operate biomass plants larger than 1.5 MW without continuous staffing,” says Mr. Nyström.  

The second challenge is boiler regulatory issues that make it almost impossible to use state-of-the-art European biomass pressure vessel appliances in most Canadian provinces.  Canadian provinces, which regulate boilers in Canada, recognize the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) boiler design code. But complying with ASME is very difficult for all but the largest of European boiler manufacturers. So Canadians don’t get access to some of the best European biomass technologies. This can easily be overcome if Canadian provinces also recognize two key European Union Standards governing biomass appliances, says McCallum.

The final hurdle is the approval process for automated residential biomass appliances. A small company wishing to sell state-of-the art biomass boilers must spend at least $20,000 and often a year just getting approvals to sell the product in Canada. As an example, an Austrian small-boiler manufacturer spent two and a half years getting certified, and to do so had it to import the steel from the US to make the boilers for subsequent export to Canada, a hopeless example of inefficiency. Insurance companies defer to the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) to certify domestic wood burning appliances like pellet boilers, giving them undue influence on appliance design and marketing.  “In the case of European pellet boilers, we are asking manufacturers to re-certify appliances that have already gone through a rigorous EU certification process.  This hinders and delays the introduction of state-of-the-art biomass appliances in Canada,” said Bruce McCallum.

McCallum says recognizing European standards is the answer. He wants provincial governments and insurance companies to recognize the EU standard EN 303-5 for biomass boilers up 300 kW.

“This CANBIO report points the way forward to unleashing Canada’s huge biomass energy potential,” said Doug Bradley, President of the Canadian Bioenergy Association. “We urge our provincial governments to move quickly to implement its recommendations.”