A plan to reduce barriers to the development and deployment of bioenergy won California Energy Commission approval this week. “We focused on actions in the near term to support continuation of existing biopower and biofuel facilities, which is more effective than building new plants,” explained John Nuffer, manager of the integrated energy and climate change unit in the commission’s renewable energy office. Bioenergy involves making electricity with fuels made from biomass, including plant and animal residues from forests and farms, as well as crops grown to produce energy. “We certainly need to expedite the permitting and construction of new plants, and we can’t afford to lose existing plants, which represent almost 1,400 MW of renewable baseload electricity and over 200 million gallons per year of biofuel capacity,” Nuffer said. Under the 2011 Bioenergy Action Plan, which the CEC approved on a 5-0 vote March 23, five specific goals to advance bioenergy were set. They include increasing bioenergy production at existing facilities through such means as restarting idle plants and repowering existing facilities. “There are lots of challenges facing bioenergy development, not the least of which is the difficult financial straits we find ourselves in,” commissioner Jim Boyd said. The plan’s researchers said combined or integrated bioenergy facilities could increase efficiency and provide a model of how researchers can extract more energy and value from existing biomass resources. Other goals outlined in the plan include building new bioenergy facilities; commercializing new thermochemical and biochemical conversion technologies; and improving the consistency and coordination between local and state regulations. Although the plan approved this week was prepared by commission staff, it received input from a number of state agencies, collectively identified as the Bioenergy Interagency Working Group. Members of the BIWG included representatives from the California Public Utilities Commission and eight other regulatory bodies. The plan approved this week is a follow-up to a 2006 plan addressing some of the same issues. The 2006 plan was finalized a month after an executive order that then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger issued in April of that year setting a goal of generating 20 percent of California’s renewable energy from biopower by 2010 and 40 percent by 2020, as well as producing 20 percent of its biofuels within the state by 2010, then 40 percent by 2020 and 75 percent by 2050. The BIMG is expected to meet quarterly starting next month to discuss continuing challenges to bioenergy development and to plan future efforts aimed at addressing those challenges.