North Carolina appeals court upholds state utility commission's decision to allow Duke Energy to count use of whole trees at converted coal-fired power plants as form of renewable fuel

LOS ANGELES , August 5, 2011 () – An appeal by The Environmental Defense Fund and the Southern Environmental Law Center against the state of North Carolina’s decision to allow Duke Energy Corp. to count the use of whole trees burned in its converted coal plants as a form of renewable energy has been rejected by the state’s appeals court, BrighterEnergy.org reported Aug. 3.

The groups argued that the North Carolina Utilities Commission’s decision last year to allow whole trees to be considered a form of renewable energy would result in natural old-growth forests to be razed for biomass fuels. The groups added that state renewable energy credits should be limited to fuel made from waste wood.

This week however, Judge Steelman concluded that the Utilities Commission had been correct in their decision to use whole trees under the ‘renewable energy resource’ category as described by state laws.

Judge Steelman said that resources that are organic and renewable can be considered a biomass resource, and fuel made from wood meets both of these requirements. He added that the law did not intend for its definition of biomass resources to be exhaustive.

The case started when Duke Energy applied to register two of its coal power plants for electricity production as renewable energy facilities under the renewable energy portfolio standard of North Carolina in an effort to gain incentives for using biomass fuels.

From 2012, North Carolina’s renewable energy portfolio standard requires utilities to reach renewable energy and energy efficiency targets.

Duke Energy wanted to use a woodchip and coal blend in the power plants, and the state law allows a biomass resource to fall under the renewable standards, but the environmental groups claimed the law did not directly name whole trees as a biomass resource.

The primary source of this article is BrigherEnergy.org, York, Pennsylvania, on August 4, 2011.

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