Friday, April 13, 2012

Maryland to Give Rebates for Wood & Pellet Stoves

For Immediate Release
Thursday, April 12, 2012 
Contact: 301-841-7755

Maryland to Give Rebates for Wood & Pellet Stoves

The Maryland Energy Administration (MEA) is starting a $50,000 pilot program that will provide rebates for partial payment of qualifying wood and pellet stoves.  The pilot program will start later this year and operate on a first come, first serve basis.

“This program will extend our renewable energy incentives both to a different technology and to a potentially a diverse group of participants including those in rural parts of Maryland,” said Frederick Hoover, Director of Clean Energy at MEA in a letter to Delegate Heather Mizeur.  The Maryland delegate was the lead sponsor of the bill HB 996, the Renewable Energy for All Act, which laid the groundwork for this pilot program.

“We are thrilled that the cleanest wood and pellet stoves will finally be part of Maryland’s renewable energy rebate program,” said John Ackerly, President of the Maryland based non-profit, the Alliance for Green Heat.  “Throughout the US, rural low and middle-income families struggle to pay their heating bills while generous rebates and tax-incentives flowed to some of our wealthiest citizens to install solar panels.  A $3,000 pellet stove can displace as much fossil fuel as a $30,000 array of solar panels,” Ackerly explained.

The Alliance for Green Heat led a coalition of Maryland organizations, businesses and consumers during the two-year push to establish this program.  The program was supported by the Maryland Clean Energy Center, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, the Mid Atlantic Hearth Patio & Barbecue Association and many other groups.  Hearth retailers in the state, led by Richard Thomas of Courtland Hardware and Suzanne Turner of Survival Products also campaigned for the program. The coalition was especially trying to help rural Maryland residents who do not have access to natural gas and heat with the most expensive fossil fuels: oil, propane and electricity. 

“At a time when millions of Americans are out of work and struggling to pay bills, this is a way to help families affordably heat their homes and switch to a renewable, local energy source,” Ackerly said.

Delegate Heather Mizeur, who represents Maryland District 20 that shares a border with Washington, DC, included this message to her constituents:

“While grant programs help Marylanders purchase solar, wind, and geothermal energy systems, the cost of these systems is out of reach for most families. The Renewable Energy for All Act would incentivize the purchase of biomass systems that generate heat energy via wood and corn pellet products, helping families switch to a less expensive heat source and participate in our clean energy future. … Homeowners with less efficient stoves could also receive a $200 change-out grant to replace their old stove with a more efficient, cleaner burning unit.”

During negotiations with the Maryland Energy Administration HB 996 was amended to focus on a pilot program with MEA funding.  The House committee of jurisdiction voted against the amended bill, but MEA has reaffirmed their commitment to undertake the program.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Best of AGH Newsletter: March 2011 – March 2012

 The following stories from our monthly newsletter, Green Heat News, were the most popular stories amongst our readership. Our mailing list of about 4,000 people includes hundreds of state and federal regulators and policy makers, over a thousand in the wood and pellet stove industry and hundreds of consumers and non-profits.

The EPA has begun to release what will likely be their new proposed emission standards for wood and pellet stoves, boilers and other appliances. EPA is proposing to match the Washington State standards that they adopted in 1995 of 4.5 grams an hour for wood and pellet stoves and 2.5 grams and hour for catalytic stoves. Indoor and outdoor boilers would be held to 0.32 lb. / mmBTU heat output by 2014 and 0.15 lb. / mmBTU heat output for 2016.

The Maryland House of Delegates heard testimony on HB 829, the Renewable Energy Act for All. HB 829 was introduced by Delegate Heather Mizeur (right) who represents the Alliance for Green Heat’s district. The bill would provide a rebate to people buying the cleanest wood and pellet stoves, as part of a larger rebate program for solar, wind and geothermal. HB 829 combines important goals in Maryland, including promoting renewable energy, helping low and middle-income residents to affordably heat their homes, changing-out older wood stoves, etc.

April 2011 - Oregon Bans Phase 2 Outdoor Boilers
Oregon recently adopted a rule that prohibits the sale of any solid fuel-burning device that is not certified for sale by the DEQ or by the EPA. This mainly affects outdoor wood boilers and single burn rate wood stoves. These devices are no longer exempt in Oregon. Pellet stoves, masonry heaters, cook stoves, fireplaces and antique stoves continue to be exempt. This policy, similar to ones in Washington State, has the unfortunate result in also banning the cleanest indoor pellet boilers, including those that have so successfully started replacing fossil fuel boilers in Europe.

May 2011 - Solar Pellet Focus
The new pellet boiler OCTOplus by Solafocus recently received the "Energie Genie 2011" innovation award. The boiler combines solar and biomass technology into a fully automated system, with both a pellet burner and a 500-liter (130 Gallon) solar accumulator tank. System advantages include high efficiency (94%), compactness, simple hydraulic integration, an innovative control system, intuitive operation and a large removable ash pan. 

June 2011 - Are We Ready for Large-Scale Deployment of Pellet Stoves?
The EPA is currently undertaking regulations for New Source Performance Standards for wood stoves and for the first time ever, pellet stoves. 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 is needed.

July 2011 - Commentary: Innovative Hydronic Heater Bill Stalls
Rhode Island residents and legislators have some innovative ways to combat the residential hydronic boilers that are often highly polluting. H5783 required anyone selling or renting property with a traditional hydronic heater to remove it. The Alliance supported this bill but opposition by outdoor boilers companies prevented its passage.

Biomass: Sustainable, but "Never Carbon Neutral"
Recently, Vermonters have begun to think about forests in a new way: As renewable energy from waste wood products that can heat homes, campuses, and more. How much of the region can-or should be-harvested?
August 2011 - Biolite campstove, with USB charging
The Biolite stove is not only being utilized by backpackers who look to cut down on the fuel they carry, but also the companion homestove is revolutionizing cooking in developing countries. The Biolite stove can charge cell phones and LSD lights as well as producing heat that increases its usefulness across the board. 

No Process for Resolving Air Pollution Problems
Many families are experiencing excessive wood smoke from a neighbor's outdoor wood furnace coming into their home. You would expect that there would be some agreed-upon process for resolving this kind of problem. There's not. Some families have been forced to move.

September 2011 - New Developments in European Stove Technology
European wood and pellet stoves are making technological advances, offering more options for consumers. From heating water, to syncing with heat pumps and solar thermal systems, to using ducts to heat adjacent rooms, there is clearly a renaissance of development in both wood and pellet stoves in Europe.

Hydronic Heater Ads Misleading Consumers
Through the hydronic heater Phase 2 Partnership Agreement, outdoor boilers were testing at up to 99% efficiency. The Alliance for Green Heat calls on the EPA to disassociate the Phase 2 program from the now discredited efficiency numbers that are still being used by some manufacturers.

Reliable Pellet Stoves
Objective ratings of pellet stoves are nearly impossible to come by, but Scott Williamson, an independent pellet stove technician, kept meticulous repair histories from more than 5,000 house calls. He rates what he found to be four of the most reliable pellet stoves. He includes a Harman, a Lopi, an Enviro and, pictured left, the England Stove Works model 25-PDV. 
Wood was the fastest growing heating fuel nationally but in some regions, electricity, natural gas, propane and even oil are experiencing rapid growth. Wood grew the fastest (+34.6%), followed by electricity (+26.8%) and natural gas (+4.9%), and both propane (-16%) and oil (-21.9%) declined. But regional differences abound. The map on the right shows where oil heat grew fastest in black, electricity in blue, gas in brown, propane in orange and wood in green. 

2010 Census Shows Wood is Fastest Growing Heating Fuel in U.S.
Recently released U.S. Census figures show the number of households heating with wood grew 34% between 2000 and 2010, faster than any other heating fuel. In two states, households using wood as a primary heat source more than doubled - Michigan (135%) and Connecticut (122%). And in six other states, wood heating grew by more than 90% - NH (99%), MA (99%), ME (96%), RI (96%), OH (95%) and NV (91%). Numerous outlets, including the AP, USA Today and many other papers, covered the analysis done by the Alliance for Green Heat.

How to Get the Best Firewood for Clean and Affordable Energy
A clean burning, EPA certified stove is only half the equation. John Gulland, member of the Alliance's Board of Advisers, spells out why firewood is equally important to heating your home. 

Nov/Dec. 2011 - How to Choose the Right Woodstove
Deciding which woodstove to buy can be tough, even if you've been heating with wood for years and are simply looking for a replacement stove. John Gulland, writing for Mother Earth News, brings a fresh, important and independent perspective to the subject. 

Senators Propose New Tax Credit up to $5,000
Senators Snowe, Bingaman and Feinstein introduced the "Cut Energy Bills at Home Act" which would give up to a $5,000 tax credit for performance-based home improvements. The bill, as written, makes biomass heaters eligible if savings can be calculated with approved energy efficiency software packages, such as RESNET, BPI or alternative software. The Alliance for Green Heat is working with Congressional offices and efficiency standards organizations to ensure that there will not be unforeseen barriers for biomass heaters. Currently, most energy efficiency software does not have sufficient ability to analyze performance and savings of biomass heaters.

February 2012 - Next Generation Wood Stove Design Challenge
The Next Generation Wood Stove Design Challenge will be launched later this month and run through the fall of 2013. We have been building an impressive list of partners to support it, lawyers to make sure we have dotted our "i"s and crossed our "t"s, and, maybe most importantly, reaching out to dozens of university engineering departments and stove manufactures.  

Why Wood Stove Change-Out Programs Underperform
Change-out programs are now commonplace in the wood stove community, but often provide fewer benefits than expected and are very expensive. In assessing the effectiveness of change-out programs, the Alliance for Green Heat found a lack of rigorous analysis or debate about how to best achieve air quality improvements. In response, we offer four strategies that might improve change-out programs.

├ľkoFEN Developing Residential CHP Boiler
├ľkoFEN is working on the development of an heat and electricity-generating pellet boiler for private homes. The small CHP plant works with a stirling engine integrated in the pellet heating system. It is expected to deliver 1 kW of electrical energy and to cover the majority of the daily electricity consumption in a household. The stirling engine has low noise and emission levels and is extremely low carbon when operated with sustainably produced biomass.

March 2012 - Year After Year "Miracle" Amish Fireplaces Find Unwitting Buyers
Don't be fooled by advertisements claiming to sell Amish "Miracle Heaters". The company, Heat Surge, runs expensive, full-page advertisements for these heaters in prominent magazines and had a booth at the Atlanta Expo to sell their wares to hearth dealers. Despite claims, the company's heaters that sell for $200 or $300 put out the same amount of heat as a regular $40 electric heater.

The 2012 Atlanta Hearth Expo
If you like wood and pellet stoves, Atlanta was the place to see clean ones last week, like the ones that are burning in the picture to the left. But if you were looking for innovative new stoves, you would have been disappointed. Many manufacturers are still waiting to make sure they know what the new EPA emission numbers will be before bringing out new products.