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Energy and Environment Cabinet

FCCTC students conduct tests while producing biodiesel. Photo by Mary Jo Harrod

Division of Biofuels

The Division of Biofuels’ mission is to provide leadership to encourage the growth of Kentucky’s biofuels and biomass industries through research, development and commercialization while continuing to produce safe, abundant and affordable food, feed and fiber. The division has oversight in implementing Strategy 3 (biofuels) of the governor's 7-point strategy with the goal that Kentucky will derive 12 percent of its 2025 fuel demand from biofuels.

Biofuels are fuels for transportation made from biomass or its derivatives after processing. Biofuels such as ethanol and biodiesel offer a renewable alternative to oil for liquid transportation fuels. They can be made from virtually any plant-derived organic matter, agricultural crop or from recycled materials like restaurant grease and sewage sludge. Corn ethanol and soy-based biodiesel have a positive net energy balance and burn more cleanly than gasoline and diesel. Their use strengthens rural economies, decreases America’s dependence on imported oil, reduces air and water pollution, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. If you have a question regarding industry terminology see the glossary adapted from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) Glossary of Biomass Terms.

Biomass (organic matter) can be used to provide heat, make fuels, chemicals and other products, and generate electricity. Wood, the largest source of bioenergy, has been used to provide heat for thousands of years. But there are many other types of biomass – such as plants, agriculture or forestry residues, and the organic component of municipal and industrial wastes – that can now be used to produce fuels, chemicals and power.  Kentucky's Agriculture Council has developed a strategic plan to project the future growth and development of biomass in Kentucky.

Bio-based products are produced from renewable plant and animal sources, and are generally presumed to be more environmentally benign than their petroleum-based counterparts. They are usually biodegradable and can be returned to the earth at the end of their useful life or recycled and used again.

This is an exciting time for biofuels and biomass development in Kentucky. In November 2008 Gov. Steve Beshear released the Commonwealth’s Energy Plan - Intelligent Energy Choices for Kentucky’s Future: Kentucky’s 7-point Strategy for energy independence and set the foundation for growing this industry with the overall goal being to restructure the Commonwealth’s energy portfolio in such a way to use it as a tool for sustainable economic development. To move us forward toward these goals Gov. Beshear appointed the Executive Task Force on Biomass and Biofuels Development in August 2009. The task force had 22 members representing government, industry and academia, convened for six separate sessions with 22 presenters, concluded its activity within 90 days and had no budget. The final report was issued in December 2009 and concludes with strategic actions and recommendations.

The Commonwealth of Kentucky is fortunate enough to have exceptional university research assets and personnel located throughout the state. The Department for Energy Development and Independence (DEDI) has assisted a number of these initiatives through financial support, advisory input and networking with other industry expertise. Each of these efforts involve dedicated research teams and interested stakeholders working to address specific barriers and opportunities related to Kentucky's energy future. Information and other resources accessible at each institution may be instrumental in helping attract commercial investment, leverage other grant opportunities, provide technical expertise, tackle specific production issues, and streamline the deployment of innovative solutions. The United States Department of Energy administers the Alternative Fuels Data Center and their site is a good resource for various state and federal financial incentives.
The Division of Biofuels helped facilitate a successful application in 2014 on behalf of various stakeholders within the U.S. Forest Service’s Statewide Wood Energy Team (SWET) Cooperative Agreement solicitation.  The Kentucky SWET will have access to $250,000 in federal funds over a four-year term. The SWET will be the catalyst to coordinate the efforts of a number of existing agency personnel, rural development leaders, agricultural organizations, forestry expertise and other stakeholders for the purpose of improving the utilization of woody biomass resources for energy uses. In order to enhance the stewardship of our natural resources, strengthen existing forest industry sectors, identify efficiencies, and stimulate new demand for undervalued woody materials, the emphasis will be on LOGS -- Logistics, current Opportunities, Growth potential, and Sustainability.