Wednesday, July 28, 2010

State of the Hearth and Biomass Industry - Themes for the Future

Dear Hearth Industry Friends,

In May of this year, I attended fantastic conference which bodes very well for our industry. The "Heating the Northeast with Renewable Biomass" was sold out with over 500 attendees, and was put together by a coalition of "green" biomass groups - see the web site at:
for the list of hosts and sponsors.

Some of these names may be familiar to you, others not so much. Yet these new groups and coalitions represent much of the future of our industry....should we choose to share in and promote that vision! The Hearth Industry has always been a fractured and regionalized industry, which has sometimes diluted our effectiveness. For instance, the idea of gas logs is somewhat foreign to a New England "Yankee" mentality, while the idea of Central Heat with wood would almost never cross the mind of someone from California. In effect, the United States and Canada are really like a number of separate countries....when it comes to heat and especially biomass heat!

I was honored to be invited to sit on the closing panel of the HeatNE conference, where the future vision of this group was discussed. This vision is quite extensive - you can find it on the web site - but the executive summary is this....the group aims to have the Northeast (New England and NY State) get 25% of their heating energy from efficiency renewal biomass! This is not some pie-in-the-sky number, but one borne of real world experience in parts of Europe which decided to start on this journey.

I came away from the conference with more questions than answers, yet at the same time can foresee a changing dynamic in they way our industry is promoted. We have always known about this regionalization, and yet other than the seperate HPBA chapters, it has rarely been part of the actual policy and planning of our industry as a whole.

As one of the few "old guys" still hanging around the industry, I can't help but watch and think about all the changes taking place - and, in this case, commenting on them!

I find myself, for instance, disagreeing with some of the stances of our national trade group, the HPBA. Our local paper constantly has articles about the follies of Outdoor Wood Boilers and I was shocked to read one story a few weeks ago where the HPBA was fighting against regulation of even the dirty models! Another recent HPBA email was telling us all to circle the wagons because it was possible that gas appliances were going to be forced to meet certain efficiency standards! Horror of Horrors!

This is nothing new. Trade organizations have always had to walk somewhat of a middle ground to keep all their constituents happy - however, I think it can be said that our industry has failed to really ride the new wave of green and renewable energy popularity, and part of the reason may be that we sometimes fail to actually stand for something!

But, as my dear old dad always say, Nature abhors a vaccuum. In this case, it seems a number of small regional and national orgs are stepping up to the plate to promote wood and pellets (biomass) as a clean, green and efficient fuel...and then putting their money and energy in lazer focus toward specific efforts to MAKE SOMETHING HAPPEN. One of those groups is the Alliance for Green Heat:
Another is The Heat Green Council
Another that most of us are familiar with is the HPBA sub-group, the Pellet Fuels Institute:

In short, there is a lot happening in our industry, and most of it bodes well for the future. But at the same time, we are right at this moment in the Worst of Times on the economic front! Reports from manufacturers and retailers are as bad as I have ever heard them...yet I do feel that their is light at the end of the tunnel....and relatively soon.

The 2010 tax credits should certainly help, and it seems as if the Federal Home Star program is going to pass the Congress - this would mean even better deals for consumers into the future. We have a Federal Government, unlike the last administration, that is BIG on renewable fuels and is interested in clean residential biomass as being part of the mix.

Some Links for education and entertainment

My last email mentioned a number of free white papers I had wrote about the state of the hearth and biomass industry. In case any of you missed that annoucement, here is the link again:

I recently gave a talk to 150 dealers at Jotul North America. In order to introduce myself to the audience, I prepared this pictorial history of some of my exploits in the Hearth Business:
Who knows? One of you may become inspired and hire me!

Well, that's about it for my mid-2010 state of the industry ramblings.....except for the usual plug for which is coming next! was read by 3.25 million visitors in 2010, who read over 19 million pages of the site! Our readers are by far the most extensive and targeted audience for Hearth and related products. If you'd like to find out more about promoting your business on, please shoot me an email at or read about the basics at:
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Craig Issod, Founder

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