Voices of Enviva

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

  • Voices of Enviva

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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

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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

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  • Merchandising volume reflects regional variation

    A year’s worth of T&T data points out ecological differences in our sourcing regions

    Last month, Enviva reached an important milestone. With the publication of the third set of data from our Track & Trace forest supply chain tracking system, 15 months of Enviva’s sourcing data are now available in the Track & Trace section of our website. We hope you’ll explore the Enviva Wood Supply Map to learn more about the 1200+ harvests from which we sourced between October 2016 and March 2017. While you’re on the website you can go back in time too, by viewing the archived summary data on our wood supply, dating back to January 2016.

    A few highlights from the most recent release: enterprise-wide, about a quarter of our incoming wood (23 percent) came in as sawmill residues, and just under a third of our material (29 percent) was sourced from southern yellow pine forests, primarily as thinnings. The data also show that we continue to source the lowest-grade wood: on average, 31 percent of the wood from a given harvest was delivered to us, with the remaining volume going to other regional forest products markets.

    These aggregated summary statistics – the ones that pop up first on the website – provide a snapshot of our sourcing. They are helpful as sound bites and communication tools, but they tend to gloss over important regional differences between our sourcing regions. The U.S. South is home to a wide range of forest types and management practices, and the Track & Trace dataset – which summarizes our wood purchasing for all 6 of our mills in the SE US, from Virginia to Florida – underscores this diversity.

    We do break down the characteristics of the forests from which we source by region on the Wood Supply Map page of the website. We know, for example, that in the Chesapeake region we source wood from more mixed pine-hardwood forests than anywhere else, and we use more sawmill residues in our Southeast region than in our other regions. But there are important reasons for these differences, reflecting the ecological and market realities in the various forests where we operate.

    Percent merchandising at Cottondale

    As a specific example, information we collect on percent volume to Enviva, or the total proportion of wood from a harvest sent to Enviva versus other forest products consumers,

  • By: Jennifer Jenkins

  • August 10, 2017

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  • Enviva’s Track and Trace Results Reinforce Sustainability Practices

    Today, we released the latest data from our innovative Track & Trace system. We now have 15 months of sourcing data and information, enabling us to provide unmatched transparency about the origin and sustainability of every truckload of wood that comes to Enviva directly from the forest. We know the precise condition of the forest and its habitats, the location of the harvest site, who owns the land, the type of forest, how it was harvested, the number of years since the last harvest, the number of acres harvested, and the percentage of the total harvested volume for each tract that came to us (and by implication, the amount that was purchased by traditional forest products users).

    As the world’s largest producer of wood pellets, Enviva depends on healthy and growing forests and the natural habitats they support. From day one, we have been steadfast in our dedication to our people, to the communities where we work, and to the resources we use to make our products. Sustainability is embedded in everything we do, and our commitment to responsible sourcing is grounded in a deep understanding of our supply chain. Simply put: we thrive with responsible sourcing practices.

    This wealth of data provides us with a detailed understanding of the wood we use. Most importantly, it helps us to ensure that our raw materials meet our rigorous sustainability requirements. The regional inventory data we summarize on our website also provides an assessment of our impact on the overall health of the forests in our region. As you can see for yourself, we can say, unequivocally, that forest area and inventory continue to increase in the areas where we operate.

  • By: John Keppler, CEO

  • July 20, 2017

  • Sustainability, Voices of Enviva

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  • Why do we invest?

    By: John Keppler, CEO

    Today, Enviva and the US Endowment for Forestry & Communities announced the grantees for the second year of the Enviva Forest Conservation Fund program. We were impressed by the very high quality of the projects that were proposed to us, and our only disappointment was that we couldn’t fund more of them. It is expensive to invest in forest conservation, but our grantees tell us that our unrestricted funds can often mean the difference between a project getting done or not. Five million dollars over 10 years is a big investment for a company of our size, and we are proud of our direct contribution to conserving the most sensitive forests in these working forest landscapes.

  • By: John Keppler, CEO

  • June 7, 2017

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  • Track & Trace Data Release: July–December 2016

    Today, we at Enviva are pleased to launch the second set of data from our Track & Trace (T&T) system, covering our wood supply from July to December 2016. The initial launch of our T&T website earlier this year sparked a lot of great conversations on Enviva’s sourcing practices, the role of biomass markets in the overall forest products supply chain, and the importance of family-owned working lands to the U.S. South’s vast forested landscape.

  • By: Jennifer Jenkins

  • March 24, 2017

  • Sustainability, Voices of Enviva

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