PKS are considered a renewable energy source because new fruit bunches will grow quickly – rotations happen up to three times a year – to replace those that were harvested. And every new palm fruit tree goes on to absorb carbon from the atmosphere.
An Eco-Business.com article highlights that, coupled with the fact that PKS’s net emissions into the atmosphere happen only during shipping, this makes their combustion carbon neutral.
By contrast, forests felled to create wood chips or pellets can take years to absorb an equivalent amount of greenhouse gases released.
Under the European Union’s (EU) 2009 directive on the promotion of biomass energy sources, sustainability criteria, and recognised Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emission calculators, PKS is classified as a by-product where no GHG is emitted during its production – the GHG produced in the process of PKS collection is attributed to the main product, namely, crude palm oil.
For any biomass option to qualify as sustainable, it needs to emit at least 60% less GHG over its lifecycle, as compared to that of fossil fuels. In the case of PKS, this reduction works out to a whopping 84%!
Most countries that burn coal – the planet’s dirtiest fossil fuel by far – usually source it from far beyond their own shores, adding even more transport emissions to those released upon combustion.
Two prominent examples: South Korea orders 90% of its coal from overseas, while Japan imports 99% of it, with the bulk of supply for both countries coming mostly from Australia.
Depending on the logistics of procuring, exporting and combustion, it is estimated that burning PKS instead of coal could slash emissions of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and sulphur oxide by a minimum of 75%!
As evidence of PKS’s ever-increasing acceptance as a cleaner, greener alternative to coal, they are burned for utility-scale power production mainly in Singapore, Japan, and South Korea.
The Japanese government pays a Feed-in Tariff (FiT) for PKS-enabled electricity, deeming it a type of renewable energy. Under the FiT scheme, electric power companies are required to buy power generated by companies and households using renewable energy sources, at fixed rates for periods as long as 20 years.
In South Korea, the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) has replaced the FiT system in order to accelerate the country’s renewable energy deployment so as to create a competitive market environment for the sector. Power producers participating in the RPS system receive a certain amount of Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) – power generated from PKS qualifies for RECs.