Powering Mississippi’s economy

Published 7:00 am Saturday, August 27, 2016

Mississippi’s abundance and wide array of energy resources means we pay less than the national average for residential, commercial and industrial electricity.

At the same time, Mississippi’s renewable energy resources are putting our people to work, processing the raw materials and restoring the forestland. 

Mississippi’s 19.8 million acres of forestland fuels a thriving forest product industry, generating a $12.3 billion economic impact and 70,000 jobs, according to the Mississippi Forestry Commission.

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A U.S. Energy Information Administration report shows Mississippi generated nearly 2.3 percent of its electricity from renewable energy resources during 2015, with wood and wood waste accounting for almost all of the state’s renewable electricity generation. 

Renewable energy sources contributed 56.5 trillion Btu toward the state’s overall energy production, ranking fourth, after crude oil, nuclear energy and natural gas.

The performance of Mississippi’s energy products draws worldwide attention. For example, Drax Biomass Incorporated’s Amite BioEnergy facility in Gloster produces a softwood pellet used by a British power company. The power company uses Mississippi-made pellets as a cleaner alternative to coal.

The wood pellets are formed from low-quality soft pine harvested as part of trimming 

the stock of quality wood. Not long ago, much of this material would have gone unused. 

Today, they contribute to Mississippi’s energy profile, fueling economic growth. With the Gloster mill working in concert with a sister Drax facility in Louisiana, the companies are capable of producing 450,000 tons of wood pellets a year. Turning material once considered a natural waste product into a valuable export fuel creating career opportunities and building a stronger economy for Mississippi.

A study by Duke University and North Carolina State University found the increasing demand for wood pellets from the United Kingdom and European Union has increased 

U.S. forested areas and investments in U.S. forestry. This is a direct result of more effective and intense management by forest owners who strive to increase the value of their forests and optimize biomass production and use. 

This increased demand is welcome news in Mississippi, the No. 1 ranked state in the U.S. for the number of tree farms.

In a 2013 Area Development survey, executives ranked energy availability and costs as one of the top-10 factors in site selection. 

Paired with existing energy sources ranging from nuclear power to reserves of natural gas to a robust transmission system within the state’s borders, Mississippi’s renewable energy is one of the selling points used to attract career-producing jobs here. As a mega energy state, Mississippi can leverage its energy and natural resource strengths to attract investment, boost the economy and improve the overall quality of life. 

By Glenn McCullough