Tuesday, February 16, 2010

California leads again in progressive, sometimes strange, renewable energy incentives

In some ways, the Alliance for Green Heat thinks the incentive program in the Central Valley around Fresno, CA, could be a model for wood stove change-outs in areas with particularly bad air quality non-attainment problems. We like to see larger incentives for pellet stoves than for wood stoves and they have a very generous incentive for low-income families of $1,500 to trade in old wood stoves for a new wood or pellet stove.

What baffles us is why California hasn't adopted stricter wood and pellet stove emissions standards to start with. In California, unlike Washington and Oregon, you can still buy and install a pellet stove that emits 4 grams of particulates an hour, or a EPA certified wood stove that emits 6 or 7 grams an hour. If counties are going to sink funds into change-out programs, they should require that the new stoves meet stricter emission standards of 4.5 for wood stoves and 2.5 for pellet stoves. In fact, the entire state should have adopted these standards more than a decade ago, and there wouldn't be the air quality problems from wood appliances that they have today.

The program also offers a $500 incentive to switch from wood or pellets to a gas appliance. We feel that an ultra-low emission pellet stove should not receive same trade-in incentive as an old, polluting wood stove. We realize that in a few places in the country air quality is so bad that it may be justifiable to urge people to switch back to a cleaner fossil fuel. First, the central valley or all of California should adopt stricter emission standards for wood and pellet stoves, especially for those bought with incentive funds. More on this topic.

Central Valley’s annual wood-stove change-out begins

January 19, 2010 12:09pm

• Incentives offered for cleaner units
• ‘A valuable incentive to make one change in their daily lives to help improve air quality’

For the fourth year, residents of the San Joaquin Valley can tap a financial incentive to swap their older wood stove for a cleaner-burning one.
The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District sponsors the program.
“We’re pleased to once again offer Valley residents a valuable incentive to make one change in their daily lives to help improve air quality,” says Samir Sheikh, director of the district’s Emission Reduction Incentive Program.
The 2010 program begins Jan. 19 and continues until all funding is exhausted.
Residential wood burning is a major source of wintertime air pollution in the Valley and wood-burning emissions cause serious health problems, the district says.
The program offers varying incentive amounts, depending on the type of device being changed out and purchased:
• $100 to upgrade a non-certified wood-burning device to a an EPA Phase II-certified wood-burning device;
• $250 to upgrade a wood-burning device to a pellet stove;
• $500 to upgrade a wood-burning (including pellet stove) device to gas-burning device; and
• $1,500 to low-income residents for the purchase of any of the above devices (low-income status as verified by tax returns, pay stubs, unemployment or disability checks, or bank statements submitted with applications).
Eligible households must be located in the eight-county air basin.
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Forest Guild Breaks New Ground on Sustainable Biomass Policy

The Forest Guild, a national non-profit forestry organization, has developed a policy framework for biomass that brings together interests of forest owners, forest managers, loggers, conservationists and others. The policy was developed because the demand for renewable energy demands may ultimately put unsustainably demands on our nation's forests.

The policy addresses four critical issues: 1. Assurances for sustainability; 2. Highest and best utilization of biomass for energy; 3. Climate change mitigation; and 4. Biomass removal on public lands.

One of the key findings is that "appropriately scaled, community-based uses for biomass developed through a collaborative process yield significant benefits for rural communities and reduce concerns about sustainability. Community-based uses are typically thermal or combined heat and power (CHP) applications and yield far greater energy efficiencies than stand-alone electrical generating facilities or liquid biofuels production."

With regard to climate change, the policy statement concludes "forest biomass can play an important role in mitigating climate change when biomass comes from source forests that are managed to sustain forest health, productivity, function, structure, composition and carbon stocks." However, "once the biomass leaves the forest, its effectiveness as a renewable energy source ... will depend on its use and method of combustion." For the complete policy, click here.

Orlando, NSPS and the future of wood burning in America

With the national wood and pellet stove trade expo in Orlando fast approaching, the buzz about the EPA's review of New Source Performance Standards is growing louder. As EPA prepares to sit down with hundreds of attendees in Orlando, some prominent voices say that EPA could make solid fuel products obsolete and put hearth stores out of the solid fuel business.

Others welcome the move as a long overdue step to help cleaning up a widespread winter public health problem in thousands of towns around the country. But in between these extremes are scores of thoughtful and important voices, including many leaders of the wood and pellet stove industry. The December issue of Hearth & Home magazine (dedicated 10 pages of excellent coverage of the issue and interviewed many industry leaders. Brad Determan, President of America's largest manufacturer of wood and pellet spoke positively about the NSPS process and said, "there's no question that the first NSPS was good for the industry." Craig Shankster, President of Moresö US, said, "I welcome it [the new NSPS], to be honest. I think it's needed."

Another thoughtful voice is John Gulland, who has run the Canadian non-profit educational group, the Woodheat Organization, for years. He argues that overly strict emissions standards in the 2 - 3 gram area could result in many manufacturers going back to catalytic models which could be counterproductive because so many users do not replace their catalysts often enough. And, he cautions against over emphasizing laboratory emissions testing at the expense of other strategies to reduce wood smoke. Click here to read this article.

The NSPS process addresses scores of complex issues, of which emissions are only one. At this early stage of the process, the Alliance for Green Heat takes these positions:

1. National emissions standards for wood stoves should be well under the current Washington state 4.5 standard. Washington State showed Washington DC more than 10 years ago that 4.5 grams an hour was achievable and the new standards need to be relevant for 10 more years.
2. Wood and pellet stoves should be third party tested for efficiency and required to clearly put both efficiency and emissions numbers on the back of the stove. In the renewable energy revolution, stoves need to be more of a mainstream appliance, and that means disclosing efficiency and emissions numbers.
3. The government should subsidize the initial phase of third party testing for emissions and efficiency when the new standards come into play. If wood and pellet heating appliances got even 1% of the R & D funds going into biofuels and other renewable energy sources, the US could the world leader in manufacturing clean, high efficiency wood heat appliances.

For more information on the HPBExpo in Orlando: http://www.hpbexpo.com/.