The Nova Scotia government should be careful in using biomass for power generation, an expert panel said Friday, warning the province’s already stressed forests can’t handle more pressure from the hungry energy sector.

The clear position could make it more difficult for Premier Darrell Dexter to fulfill his pledge to produce 40 per cent of Nova Scotia’s electricity from renewable resources, like biomass, by 2020.

Allan Shaw, one of three members of the arms-length panel, said there is the risk that the province will deplete already taxed forests as it tries to ease its reliance on coal and other polluting energy sources.

“We very much encourage a very cautionary approach, a very slow approach and one that will allow the government to look at what is happening to the forests before further commitments are made,” he told reporters at the release of the report titled A Natural Balance.

The document suggests the government should instead look to other sustainable methods to generate power as it tries to reduce greenhouse gases and come up with new energy sources.

The recommendations come just weeks after the NDP government pledged to expand the province’s green energy sector and get at least 25 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2015.

It’s an ambitious goal since only 11 per cent of its electricity comes from renewable sources today. Dexter has said much of that should come from wind power, but it will include forestry biomass, which involves the burning of wood waste and wood products.

Natural Resources Minister John MacDonell reiterated Friday that biomass will be part of the 10-year strategy, but said he realizes government has to find the right balance.

“I don’t see any environmental advantage to cutting our carbon emissions, but turning the province into a moonscape by cutting all the trees and burning them,” he said.

“The question is how much can you reasonably do that’s sustainable over the long period.”

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