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Manitoba Adds New Biomass Program; Advancing Renewable Energy

Manitoba’s biomass industry got a shot in the arm this week when the Manitoba government announced plans to boost the industry with the new Manitoba Biomass Energy Support Program (MBESP) by providing up to C$400,000 in grants. The program aims to encourage coal users within the province of Manitoba to switch to renewable fuels within the province.

“Manitoba is committed to reducing our greenhouse-gas emissions and with the assistance of programs like this, Manitoba farms will reduce their carbon footprint and continue to be part of the solution to environmental challenges,” said Manitoba agriculture minister Ron Kostyshyn, in a release on why the new program is important for provincial businesses to make the switch from coal to renewable energy sources.

Biofuels are clean-burning fuels. Fossil fuels, which come from long-dead plants and other organisms, create combustion that allows large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. On the other hand, biomass released as energy can be carbon neutral as long as it’s  not used more than the rate at which the source is being replenished.

“Biomass is a made-in-Manitoba fuel that can be produced from agricultural residues like straw, oat hulls and flax shives,” said Kostyshyn in the release.

Other examples of biomass used for energy include: woodchips, livestock waste, switchgrass, and crop residues.

There are two components of the new program. The ‘consumer support’ part of the two-part approach will allow coal users to receive up to C$12,000 in grants to offset potential cost differences between January 1, 2012- March 31, 2012 from switching to biomass energy from coal, according to the release.  The second involves a capital part, where biomass producers and users can receive as much as C$50,000  for developing strong, quality biomass products for combustion heating systems. The capital fund will also be used for upgrades to infrastructure that can either be for expanding existing or creating new biomass capacity for consumption or manufacturing, the release said.

The MBESP’s funding will increase later this year to C$1.5 million, thanks to a coal tax implemented January 1, 2012.

While Manitoba is known more for another renewable energy resource, hydro, and is known for its cheap clean energy with Manitoba Hydro, the new biomass program will allow the province to diversity its clean energy sources, supporting climate change protection, and moving away from coal.

Photo Credit: Biomass Energy System Technologies Inc.biomass

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