A solution to climate change

Published 5:37 pm Tuesday, January 14, 2020

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By John Keppler

I had the privilege of founding Enviva more than 15 years ago with the simple purpose of fighting climate change with effective solutions that could be implemented immediately.

Today, our plants in Ahoskie and Northampton, along with Sampson and Hamlet in North Carolina, all help make Enviva the world’s largest producer of wood pellets and allow us to connect local communities to global markets as we export our wood pellets from our port in Wilmington.

A renewable alternative to coal, wood-based bioenergy is part of an all-in renewables strategy to reduce carbon emissions and limit dependence on fossil fuels.

We have had tremendous impact. In the UK, a core Enviva market, coal now accounts for less than 2% of electricity generation, down from one-third 10 years ago, due in part to the wood pellets we provide. Our customers there and around the world have placed their trust in us for the long-term, with many signing contracts beyond 2040. Our business is robust. We have a bright, sustainable future ahead.

Bioenergy has been in the news recently, so it’s an appropriate time to revisit the science behind our industry and its benefits.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) explicitly recognizes bioenergy as a renewable energy source that is a critical to our low-carbon future. It includes bioenergy in every single one of its proposed pathways to limit warming to 1.5°C. The IPCC also concludes that sustainable forest management, aimed at providing products like timber, fiber, and bioenergy, is critical to preventing forest conversion to non-forest uses.

Support for bioenergy also comes from numerous other international experts, including an endorsement from the

US Environmental Protection Agency.

Our industry is a critical part of maintaining healthy forests. Today, in the southeast U.S., private forest owners grow 40% more wood than they remove every year. As Michael Regan, Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, recently noted: “We are not seeing a loss of forest lands in the state; we’re actually seeing an increase.”

Demand for forest products like bioenergy raises the value landowners receive by keeping their land as managed forests. Absent strong demand, landowners have the incentive to convert their forest land to agriculture or to housing or strip malls.

We strive to be a good partner in the communities where we live and work, for instance by voluntarily investing in new emission control equipment well beyond legal requirements. Secretary Regan emphasized this by saying, “Enviva has gone above and beyond what we could require from a legal or regulatory standpoint.”

Most importantly, we are proud of our employees and the contributions they make in their communities. In North Carolina, Enviva’s facilities directly employ nearly 500 people, support nearly 1,000 indirect jobs, represent a more than $500 million investment in the state, and are part of a broader North Carolina forest products industry of over 160,000 jobs.

We appreciate the support we have received from North Carolina and look forward to working together to fight climate change.


John Keppler is the Chairman and CEO of Enviva.