The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia
Tuesday, 14 November 2023 06:45

Enviva’s financial problems shed light on biomass energy flaws

npr.brightspotcdn.webpThe Impacted Communities Against Wood Pellet Coalition (ICAWP) organized the protest and says the company has been ignoring the concerns of impacted communities while receiving millions of dollars in subsidies and tax breaks from the state.  ICAWP

This week Enviva, which is the world’s largest wood pellet manufacturer, saw its stock price fall by more than 90 percent from its height earlier this year following a grim financial report from the company. The company’s money problems show the massive flaws with the biomass energy industry and are due in part to the company being held accountable for its polluting pellet plants.  

Enviva operates pellet plants across the South. These dirty facilities release huge amounts of air pollution, dust and fine particulates that can cause asthma and respiratory illnesses in nearby communities. The hazardous plants are often times sited near communities of color that are already overburdened with industrial pollution. 

Enviva’s current financial crisis is due in part to the company being forced to internalize the environmental costs of its dirty operations, rather than pushing them off onto nearby communities. SELC, along with community partners across the region, have scored major victories against Enviva and other pellet companies, forcing them to install pollution controls and better protect people living nearby.  

“Enviva’s wood pellet plants have caused long-lasting damage to communities across the South. The company’s financial problems are partially caused by communities standing up and pushing back on this dirty industry,” said Heather Hillaker, Senior Attorney for SELC.

Wood pellet facilities also frequently violate regulations, making them even more dangerous for nearby communities. Enviva has received tens of thousands of dollars in fines in recent years for violating permits.  

Wood pellet facilities are a key part of the biomass energy industry, which cuts down forests, turns trees into pellets and then burns them for power. While biomass companies tout the process as a clean energy solution, the truth is the process emits more climate-warming carbon than burning coal — all while hurting Southern communities and degrading forests.  

Enviva’s money problems clearly demonstrate what we have known for years: the biomass energy industry is not financially viable. These companies are propped up by billions of dollars in tax credits and incentives from the United Kingdom and European Union. Without these subsidies, the biomass energy industry wouldn’t be able to exist at this scale. 

Leaders in the U.K. and E.U. are rethinking biomass handouts and discussing pulling the plug on the disastrous biomass energy experiment.  

However, leaders in the U.S. are currently weighing giving similar subsidies to biomass and wood pellet facilities under the guise of clean energy tax credits. This would be a massive mistake that would continue to prop up an industry hurting the climate, our communities and our forests.