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Reference scenarios for evaluating wood pellet production in the Southeastern United States

Wood pellet exports from the Southeastern United States (SE US) to Europe have been increasing in response to European Union member state policies to displace coal with renewable biomass for electricity generation. An understanding of the interactions among SE US forest markets, forest management, and forest ecosystem services is required to quantify the effects of pellet production compared to what would be expected under a reference case or ‘counterfactual scenario’ without pellet production. Inconsistent methods to define and justify the counterfactual scenario result in conflicting estimates and large uncertainties about the impacts of pellet production on SE US forests. Guidelines to support more consistent and transparent counterfactual scenarios are proposed. The guidelines include identifying major influences on current SE US forest conditions, developing potential futures that clearly document underlying assumptions and associated uncertainties, identifying the most likely alternative feedstock fates, and estimating the effects of no pellet demand on future forest conditions. The guidelines can help modelers to more accurately reflect the past and current forest dynamics and to consider the implications for SE US forest landscapes of future scenarios with and without pellet production. WIREs Energy Environ 2017, 6:e259. doi: 10.1002/wene.259

Esther S. Parish , Virginia H. Dale , Keith L. Kline , Robert C. Abt
Contact Person
Esther S. Parish
Contact Organization
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Contact Email
Bioenergy Category
Publication Date
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Funded from the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Bioenergy Technologies Office.