Voices of Enviva

The Solution To Climate Change Grows On Trees

The American public is tired of half measures on climate change. Seven in ten Americans want utility companies to completely overhaul their operations and generate 100 percent of the nation’s electricity from renewables in the near future, according to a new poll.

That’s an ambitious goal considering that renewable energy accounts for just 17 percent of electricity generation today. Utility companies often claim an all-renewable future is impossible, since wind and solar only generate power when the wind is blowing and the sun is shining. Utilities say they need a reliable energy source, like natural gas or coal, that can produce electricity at night and on calm days.

Fortunately, there’s an environmentally friendly alternative to fossil fuels — and utilities can use it around the clock. Wood biomass, trees and the parts of trees that the timber industry can’t use, is plentiful and reliable. And it helps utilities dramatically reduce their carbon footprint on a lifecycle basis.

Replacing fossil fuels with wood biomass should be part of our overall approach to preventing catastrophic climate change.

Climate change is primarily caused by a build-up of heat-trapping “greenhouse gases” like carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Last year, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a comprehensive report detailing the potential consequences of global temperatures rising 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. It warned of more extreme weather events — including heat waves and droughts — rising seas, and risks to food and water supplies.

Already, the planet has warmed roughly 1°C above pre-industrial levels. And that level keeps rising as we burn more fossil fuels — which emit lots of carbon dioxide.

We don’t have much time left to prevent further temperature increases. That’s why Americans are so determined to drastically cut emissions by embracing renewable energy.

There’s no shortage of talk about solar and wind energy. And rightfully so. These sources account for a growing share of U.S. electricity generation and help reduce emissions. But wood biomass also has an important role to play in the renewable energy revolution.

Wood biomass is relatively simple to produce. Companies take wood that would have otherwise gone to waste — like limbs and sawdust — and grind it into wood pellets. Power plants can burn those pellets to generate electricity.

Wood biomass is much more environmentally friendly than fossil fuels.

  • By: John Keppler, CEO

  • April 5, 2019

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  • The Value of “Senior” Employees

    In January 2018 I was hired as a Regional EHS Manager by Enviva after a nearly two-year search for full-time employment. This journey has been quite a learning experience, and I would like to share some lessons learned from my 30 years in industrial health and safety.

    First and foremost, I continue to advocate for the value of being a positive influence in life and, in particular, in the workplace. One of the benefits of being a “senior” professional is that I’ve lived a full spectrum of experiences. Since coming to work for Enviva, I’ve had to expand my knowledge in a sector of industry that I knew nothing about—wood pellet manufacturing for power plants in the U.K., EU, and Asia.

    Enviva is a leading global energy company specializing in sustainable wood biomass—and it’s the world’s largest producer of wood pellets, which provide sustainable, low carbon heat and power, replacing fossil fuels. Enviva owns and operates seven manufacturing plants in five states in the Southeast United States. These are 24/7 operations, and the men and women who work in these plants work 12-hour shifts with plenty of opportunities for overtime. It is hard work. Seasoned professionals have learned the detrimental impacts of low morale on productivity and safety. True leaders have learned a key lesson: If you take care of your people, they will take care of you.

    As a seasoned health and safety professional, I’ve learned not only to provide constructive feedback when employees are not strictly adhering to health and safety practices and policies, but also to provide positive reinforcement when employees are performing to the organization’s expectations. Too many times, employees hear from leaders only when they are underperforming. An experienced professional can be invaluable in shaping a leadership team’s approach to developing a culture that values the contributions of individuals for the success of the entire team.

    Whether an organization has an Operations Management System, Integrated Management System, or Operational Excellence Management System, a critical element is developing and sustaining a culture that underpins operational excellence by valuing individual contributors as key stakeholders. Over my three decades in industry, it has been my experience that front-line workers often feel undervalued simply because leaders will pass them in the workplace when they’re hot, sweaty, tired, or working in a difficult situation and not take the time to say,

  • By: Scot Rudolph

  • January 14, 2019

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  • Collaboration Key to Expanding Longleaf Restoration in the Florida Panhandle

    Enviva is collaborating with state and federal agencies and non-profit conservation organizations to help restore the critical longleaf pine forest ecosystem around our Cottondale plant in Florida.

    Longleaf is a critical forest ecosystem for two reasons. First, it supports a wealth of plant and animal species—dozens of threatened and endangered species depend on the open-canopy pine savanna habitat that well-maintained longleaf ecosystems provide. Well-maintained longleaf stands are characterized by having widely-spaced trees that let enough light reach the ground to support a thriving, ‘understory’ plant community; both the pines and the understory plant community are adapted to and are even maintained by having low-intensity fires every few years. Without frequent fire, longleaf and other kinds of pine savannas get overgrown by brush and small trees that shade out the understory plant community.  

    Second, longleaf is critical because it’s been largely lost from the landscape, converted mostly to densely-planted pine plantations or farm fields. It was once the predominant forest ecosystem across the Southeastern coastal plain, extending from Southeastern Virginia down to Florida and across to Texas. Where longleaf forests once covered 90 million acres, now they only cover about 4 million acres.

    Because of its importance for wildlife diversity as well as its rarity, the longleaf ecosystem is the focus of a concerted restoration effort to restore eight million acres of longleaf in 15 years, involving state and federal agencies, conservation organizations, private landowner organizations, foresters, and some forest product companies.

    Enviva has supported longleaf restoration on public lands in an important way in recent years. We provide a market for the trees, tops, and limbs that are removed in two types of restoration operations. Existing longleaf stands often need to be thinned to improve their habitat quality and to get them back in a condition to have safe, low-intensity prescribed fires. And to re-establish longleaf where other types of forest now grow, public land managers sometimes need to remove the existing stands entirely.

    To date, we’ve purchased thinnings from longleaf stands at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida and the Croatan National Forest in North Carolina, and we will soon start purchasing thinnings from the Geneva State Forest in Alabama, where almost 900 acres will be thinned over two years to improve the habitat for the threatened gopher tortoise.

    The gopher tortoise,

  • By: Ben Larson

  • December 13, 2018

  • Voices of Enviva

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  • Forest Area and Forest Inventory: Adding Greenwood to the Mix

    In the EU earlier this year, policymakers from the Commission, the European Parliament, and the Council laid out an ambitious political agreement, defining a renewable energy target EU-wide of 32% by 2030. The agreement also described sustainability criteria for bioenergy, explaining that biomass could be considered renewable (i.e. with stack emissions counted as zero) if that biomass is delivered from a supply base where carbon stocks are stable or increasing.1 In other words, based on input from key stakeholders, including scientists, environmentalists, academics, and industry groups, the EU’s policymakers and regulators concluded that the trend in forest inventory (which is linked directly to carbon stocks) across the forest sourcing area is the operative variable determining the lifecycle GHG emissions benefit associated with wood pellets. The bottom line is this: if regional forest inventory is stable or increasing, then EU policy finds that the GHG emissions from wood pellets are counted as zero at the stack.2

    Forest inventory has increased steadily South-wide for decades3, so this decision by EU policymakers ensures that bioenergy from the SE US will continue to help the EU meet its aggressive renewable energy targets. Between 1953 and 2015 the amount of inventory stored in Southern forests more than doubled, and forests in this region continue to be carbon sequestration powerhouses, adding more carbon every year than they had the year before, even after accounting for all of the forest products that the region produces every year. That’s because a healthy forest products market encourages landowners to invest in forests and in sound forest management.

    Because we know that inventory is what determines the GHG benefits of using wood pellets, we will focus more and more on that variable going forward. But this doesn’t mean forest area isn’t important – it is.

    Forests in the SE US are under threat from urban development and population growth, especially in rapidly-growing regions like the urban corridor between Charlotte and Atlanta (Figure 1). Experts agree that investment in forest products serves to keep forests as forests4, so when the forest products industry does not provide adequate compensation for forest owners, the likelihood of conversion increases. What’s just as important as that the inverse holds too:  when robust markets for forest products are there,

  • By: Jennifer Jenkins

  • December 7, 2018

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  • How Wood Biomass Can Help Solve Climate Change

    The recent UN Report on climate change has put renewable energy back in the headlines, and rightly so.  If we want to avoid the most serious damage from climate change, we need an all-in approach, solutions that are available today, and policies that support our working forests.

    While solar and wind power are the most talked-about renewable solutions, bioenergy is a critical part of the mix – and one that is available right now.  As an alternative to coal, wood pellets help power utilities reduce their carbon footprint up to 85% on a lifecycle basis, often without undergoing major renovations to their existing infrastructure.  Power generation using biomass also provides a reliable, clean source of energy that complements the intermittency of wind and solar energy.

    The Guardian reported last week that “the capacity of renewable energy has overtaken that of fossil fuels in the UK for the first time, in a milestone that experts said would have been unthinkable a few years ago.”

    Bioenergy is making this possible.  Countries like the UK, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, and Japan are increasingly turning to wood-based bioenergy.  Across Europe, biomass represents more than 60% of renewable energy consumption, and is widely seen as essential to the strategies for meeting ambitious carbon reduction goals.  That’s why The Economist recently noted: “if climate targets are to be met … it will be impossible without the contribution of a critical, yet often overlooked source of renewable energy: modern bioenergy.”

    Just as importantly, wood biomass – and strong demand for forest products — helps ensure forests stay forests.  Today, in the southeast U.S., private forest owners are growing 40% more wood than they remove every year.  Why?  Because additional demand raises the value landowners can get from keeping their land as managed forests.  Absent strong demand for wood, landowners have the incentive to convert their land for a higher return.  That could mean less environmentally beneficial agriculture, or worse – a housing development or a strip mall.   

    But, we also must recognize that not all biomass is good biomass.  How we source our wood is critical.  As the world’s largest producer of wood pellets with an expanding footprint, we take seriously our responsibility to maintain and improve forest health. Enviva uses industrial wood waste (like sawdust), or low-grade wood – including “thinnings,” limbs,

  • By: John Keppler, CEO

  • November 12, 2018

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  • US Forest Service’s Inventory Program Supports Sustainable Forest Management in the US South

    FIA Data Confirm Forest Growth in US South Outpaces Harvesting Rates

    By Kim Cesafsky, Manager of Sustainability

    You may have noticed a few changes to Enviva’s Forest Trend Map page and Track & Trace (T&T) infographic after the latest T&T web release. Along with the usual details on our feedstock sourcing, we also added updated data from 2016 to the graphs which show forest landscape trends in the US South and in each of Enviva’s individual supply areas. This information comes from the US Forest Service’s Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) program, and it helps us illustrate a point that we at Enviva and others in the region’s forestry industry take pride in: the US South is a robustly forested landscape with a timber resource that’s growing far faster than its being harvested.

    Not many natural resource industries can boast a similar track record of prolonged sustainable management, and as FIA data support almost every forest-related policy and industry decision made in the region, the program is an important player in Southern forestry’s success story.

    Keeping tabs on over 250 million acres of forest is no small task, however. FIA field staff continuously collect detailed forest measurements from over 300,000 sample plots across the country (nearly 90,000 plots in the Southern region alone), with each plot being revisited about every seven years.1 The end product is a comprehensive forest inventory database that’s updated annually for each state.2

    At Enviva, we primarily use these data for monitoring forest conditions in our supply areas, and we just recently added new 2016 inventory data from FIA to our Forest Trend Map page. While data collected two years ago may seem to be far from current, the truth is that these estimates are actually quite accurate and useful for guiding decisions made today.

    The updated T&T infographic includes fresh estimates of forest area and inventory growth in Enviva’s combined supply area between 2011 and 2016. As 2016 FIA data wasn’t available for all Southern states when we ran this analysis, we substituted the most recently available 2015 or 2014 inventory data for Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Tennessee. Our new analysis shows that from 2011 to 2016 forest area in our combined supply area increased by approximately 323,525 acres.

  • By: Kim Cesafsky

  • April 18, 2018

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  • Enviva’s Track & Trace™: Celebrating Another Milestone

    One Year of Public Reporting and Leadership in Transparency

    By John Keppler, Chairman and CEO

    Our latest release of Track & Trace data celebrates one year of public reporting and industry leadership in providing supply chain transparency. Track & Trace’s innovative program allows Enviva to quite literally track and trace every ton of wood we buy to its origin in the forest or the sawmill, measure forest health and stewardship and better understand the unique characteristics of the forests from which we source.

    Track & Trace is our public commitment to transparency and forest preservation. The program, which is audited by NSF International (an independent third party), delivers actionable data that we use to refine and enhance our practices and ensure that our suppliers provide us with wood that meets strict sustainability requirements. Before selling wood to Enviva, suppliers must provide details about an individual tract’s location, acreage, forest type, species mix, age and the share of wood from each harvest that goes to Enviva versus other purchasers.

    It is because of our rigorous data collection that we can confidently say our sourcing practices encourage sustainable forest management, and we know sustainably managed forests mean thriving and healthy, growing forests. Forest area in the regions where we operate has increased by nearly 320,000 acres since 2011. These numbers are a testament to sustainable forest management, and the importance of ensuring forests – like the forests in our supply regions – grow at faster rates than they are harvested.

    The world has recognized the importance of biomass for a low carbon energy future and just how good sustainably harvested biomass can be for climate and the environment, most recently with the positive January 17th vote by the European Parliament on the Renewable Energy Directive (RED) II policy. As an industry leader, we have the opportunity to demonstrate, on a factual, transparent basis, just how beneficial biomass is and can be. Track & Trace does just that.

    The stakes are high for the next generation of energy production. Sustainably sourced biofuel plays a critical role in transitioning away from fossil fuels, and the procurement and publication of sourcing data is a fundamental step in helping to advance that goal. Track & Trace stands as an example of our commitment to transparency and is an important element of our Responsible Wood Supply Program.

  • By: John Keppler, CEO

  • February 9, 2018

  • Voices of Enviva

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  • Wood Pellet Industry Enables Forest Protection and GHG Mitigation

    As someone who cares deeply about the planet and our role in climate change, I have dedicated my career to understanding and quantifying the relationship between forests and climate. There is no doubt that the growing wood pellet industry is a positive development for forests and for people. We at Enviva work hard every day to make sure that continues to be true.

    Bioenergy provides significant and immediate GHG savings compared to coal. This effect is most appropriately calculated at the landscape scale, which is the scale at which forests are managed: every year 2 percent of the forest in the SE US is harvested while the remaining 98 percent of the forest continues to grow and store carbon.1 In fact, every year there is more wood stored in the forest than there was the year before,2 and so any emissions from harvest are more than compensated – immediately – by sequestration. When bioenergy is used to replace coal, we’re reducing GHG emissions even further by allowing that coal to stay underground.

    These GHG benefits have been examined and proven, again and again, by scientists all over the world.3 In fact, in March 2017, 125 scientists from with global expertise in biomass production, sustainability, and carbon accounting signed a letter disputing the conclusion that biomass emissions are worse than coal, and stating that “The development of bioenergy and the bioeconomy as a whole are critical in order to realise a low-carbon economy.”4 The fact is that we’re facing a climate crisis, and as a society we need to use all the tools at our disposal – including bioenergy — to solve it.

    Timber harvests are an important part of life in the SE US forest-based economy, and most of the trees harvested are used to make long-lived products such as housing construction and furniture. The SE US provides one-sixth of the timber that is used globally each year,5 and forests cover 245 million acres of land in the region. This means that more than 45 percent of the land area in the southeastern US is forested.6 The number of forested acres is increasing each year,7 and the forest industry contributes nearly $48 billion annually to the regional economy.8

    For context,

  • By: Jennifer Jenkins

  • January 9, 2018

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  • Confronting Stories With Facts

    By: Dr. Jennifer Jenkins, Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer


    A few key facts: using Track & Trace data to inform the discussion

    As the EU considers its renewable energy strategy this Fall, there has been a good deal of attention paid to biomass and bioenergy. Enviva often finds itself a target when people criticize bioenergy, and recent months have been no exception. Enviva believes just as strongly as our critics that we have a responsibility to protect forests, and our sourcing policies and practices reflect this. Today we’re publishing our most recent T&T data for January-June 2017 and we’d like to use this opportunity to make a few points — based on our data — that we believe illustrate our commitment to ensuring that biomass is a responsible alternative to coal.

    1. Enviva does not source from forests that will be converted to another use.

    Enviva only sources from working forests where timber harvesting is the norm, and we simply do not purchase wood from tracts where the landowner does not intend to reforest: it’s our policy. Measured data from the US Forest Service back this up: in our supply regions (i.e. the area immediately around our mills where it is economically viable for us to purchase wood), there is more forest area now than there was when we opened our first US mill in 2011. The fact that every year there is more forestland than there was the year before is a direct result of the robust market for forest products that exists in the Southeastern United States generally, and in our supply regions specifically. Enviva is a key participant in that market, and we know that working forests work.

    1. Enviva’s pellets are made from low-grade wood that is a byproduct of a traditional timber harvest.

    This can be hard to visualize, but foresters will tell you that from every forest harvest, there can be 5-6 “products” created. Those products are separated by the logger at the point of harvest, and getting that product separation right can mean the difference between making a profit or not for a given landowner.

    Some of the trees are big, round, sound and straight, and these are good for sawtimber, which is used to make long-lived products like furniture and housing construction materials.

  • By: Jennifer Jenkins

  • October 30, 2017

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  • Enviva’s sourcing supports the restoration of critical habitat in Florida

    By Ben Larson, Director of Sustainability 

    In the Florida panhandle, Enviva’s sourcing is proving to be a helpful conservation tool in restoring longleaf pine forests, which can be one of the most biodiverse forest types in North America.

    As a type of pine savanna, well-managed longleaf forests harbor many plant and animal species because their widely spaced trees let sunlight support a flourishing, ground-level plant community. Longleaf forests were once one of the major forest types in the region, covering over 90 million acres in the Southeast United States, but now only about 4 million acres of longleaf forests remain. Restoring 8 million acres of longleaf within 15 years is the focus of a concerted regional effort involving landowners, foresters, nonprofits, and state and federal agencies.

    “Chipping of overstocked stands and low quality hardwoods on upland longleaf sites can provide income to the landowner while simultaneously preparing the land to be restored to a functioning longleaf ecosystem. As the land is restored, it becomes more valuable to the landowner as well as the understory plants and rare wildlife that inhabit the longleaf forest. Put simply, fuel chipping can be an important part of longleaf ecosystem restoration.”

    Robert Abernathy, President of the Longleaf Alliance

    East of our Cottondale plant Enviva foresters and contractors are helping prepare 140 acres at Torreya State Park for longleaf restoration. The first step of restoration is removing brush and small-diameter trees, mostly sand pine but also some species of hardwoods. Chipping these materials to make pellets has compelling advantages over conventional logging, which became obvious during a recent visit to the Park with Enviva Chief Sustainability Officer Jennifer Jenkins and Sustainability Forester Shawn Cook.

    On one side of the logging road, Enviva’s contractor had microchipped the brush and small trees, leaving the site cleared of residues and nearly ready to plant, with only minor site preparation left to do. A few live oak and other hardwood trees, which Florida Park Service Biologists marked for the loggers to leave for wildlife. The chipping operation didn’t noticeably disturb the soil.

    Enviva Sustainability Forester Shawn Cook is rightly proud of how Enviva’s purchasing practices can enable restoration: “By microchipping tracts like this, most of the fiber is utilized and site prep costs are drastically reduced, making restoration projects more feasible for the landowner,” says Cook.

  • By: Ben Larson

  • October 24, 2017

  • Voices of Enviva

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