16 April 2013 — The State and Federal governments should promote the opportunities for woody waste to produce more renewable energy, provided these resources are sourced from sustainably managed forests, the Australian Forest Products Association says.

AFPA strategic policy manager Mick Stephens said Australia was lagging behind much of the world in the use of woody waste from forestry and wood processing activities.

This was resulting in potentially higher costs for emission reduction strategies and missed opportunities for value adding across the industry.

“This woody waste includes the large volumes of sawdust, shavings and bark left over from sawmill operations of which a small amount is used for low value products such as garden mulch or burned on site.

“A major disincentive is the exclusion of wood waste from natural forests as an eligible source of renewable energy under the Renewable Energy Target scheme. This was simply a political outcome between the Government and Greens Party that was not based on the scientific evidence.”

Mr Stephens said overseas experience from North America and Europe had demonstrated the important contribution woody biomass can make to renewable energy.

“The use of forestry biomass is carbon-neutral, because the carbon contained in wood originates from the atmosphere as a tree grows and is released when converted to energy,” he said.

“Furthermore, the link between excess fuel loads in the forest that can contribute to large scale wildfires and renewable energy is becoming increasingly apparent at an international level.

“The Californian 2012 Bioenergy Action Plan, for example, has multiple goals including a reduction in the cost to the community from large scale wildfires through fuel reduction by unlocking a potential 25 million (dry) tonnes of forestry biomass per year for bioenergy production.

“Some environmental activists claim that using wood waste to produce bioenergy will increase logging activity in our natural forests. This is simply not true, as the regulatory environment for using such material is strictly regulated and the wood waste is a by-product from normal harvesting activities for sawn timber and pulp and paper production.”