Monday, June 13, 2011

Are We Ready for Large-scale Deployment of Pellet Stoves?

The EPA is undertaking regulations for New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for wood stoves and for the first time ever, for pellet stoves. EPA will publish their recommendations in the federal register in January 2012 and they will begin to take effect in 2013.

The EPA has floated initial recommendations for pellet stoves to be required to emit no more than 4.5 grams of particulates per hour, the same as non-catalytic wood stoves. Oddly, the only appliance that the EPA appears to be recommending for stricter emission limits is the catalytic wood stoves, which as of now will be recommended at 2.5 grams an hour.

Approximately, 80% of pellet stoves being manufactured today already emit 2.5 grams or less. The EPA argues that it is not a cost effective regulatory measure to require 2.5 grams per hour if the equipment already meets that standard. However, this standard may be in force for the next 10 years or longer, and new companies, particularly in China, could swamp market with cheap stoves that emit over 3 or 4 grams per hour. Chinese producers are already trying to be a big player in this market.

The Alliance for Green Heat believes that if we want to see widespread deployment of pellet stoves in the US, like they have in Europe, a stricter standard will be helpful. According to the HPBA, in 2009 about 44,000 pellet stoves were sold in the US (the figure is likely somewhat higher because some small pellet stove producers do not belong to HPBA or share their sales numbers.) If fossil fuel prices rise quickly enough, or better policies are enacted to incentivize pellet equipment, sales are likely to double, triple or quadruple. In urban and/or air quality non-attainment areas, having stricter emissions standards will help gain confidence and support of air quality officials and the environmental community. When air quality experts and policy makers compare emissions between fossil fuel heaters and the cleanest pellet stoves, one or two grams per hour makes a huge difference.

Moreover, there is great value for policy makers, the renewable energy community and the public in recognizing how clean pellets heat is compared to cord wood. If EPA sets the same emission limits for both wood and pellet stoves, pellet stoves may lose some of their luster as the clean alternative.

If EPA leaves pellets at 4.5 grams per hour, it is possible, if not likely, that in coming years Washington or Oregon will set its own, lower standard, as they did with wood stoves. This will lead to multiple standards that will motivate most manufacturers to build to the lower standard. We believe that since almost all pellet stoves already meet a stricter standard, a stricter standard is warranted and will best position the industry for growth.

The Alliance for Green Heat is interested in your opinion on this. Please send comments to

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