Friday, February 3, 2012

A Plan to Advance Thermal Biomass in Maryland

The Maryland Wood Energy Coalition, organized in April, 2010 and composed of university, state agencies, private representatives and nonprofit representatives – including the Alliance for Green Heat, recently released a report for Maryland Policy Decision Makers and Citizens titled A Prospectus For Advancing Biomass Thermal Energy In Maryland.

The 20-page prospectus provides research‐based information and policy recommendations to increase the adoption of advanced wood energy technology in Maryland. Officials from the Maryland Energy Administration and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources were among the key authors. 

The Alliance was also very involved in the preparation of the report and drafted sections that addressed residential wood and pellet heating. The effort was informally chaired by the University of Maryland Extension Service. 

The Coalition found there is great potential for residential scale technologies in the state, finding that over 7 billion BTUs of thermal energy are available from sustainably harvested biomass and could offset significant amount of propane, oil and electric heat. 

The Coalition recommends the following to support residential scale thermal biomass:
  • Establish programs to accelerate the transition from older technologies to efficient and clean technologies. Continue to support the Maryland Department of Environment’s $100,000 effort to change out older outdoor wood boilers. A well designed air quality/renewable energy program could effectively swap out older non-certified conventional wood stoves and give homeowners credit towards upgrading, several states, especially Oregon have designed effective programs to do this.
  • Extend residential renewable energy property tax breaks for solar and wind to advanced residential wood combustion.
  • Energy Performance Contracting (EPC) should include evaluation of biomass for heating and cooling systems.
  • Expand focus on wood appliances in home energy audits, weatherization programs, and energy assistance programs. Maryland home energy auditors and contractors should be trained to better assess wood stoves or fireplaces for energy efficiency, contribution to the energy needs of the home, and safety. Weatherization and energy assistance programs should classify very old stoves as health and safety risk.
  • Low interest loans or outright grants for biomass appliance assistance for homeowners. This program could provide a scaled financing system favoring low- income consumers. Envisioned is a rebate program or tax incentive for installing EPA certified wood or pellet stoves. 
Additional insights on the energy savings of residential wood heat can be found on pages 12 and 13 the report.

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