Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Maryland Rebates for Wood & Pellet Stoves Reach Less Affluent Families

Alliance for Green Heat, February 12, 2013 - Initial data released by the Maryland Energy Administration (MEA) shows there have been more wood and pellet stove grants awarded per capita in the more rural and less affluent counties of the Eastern Shore than the more populated central region of the state. This provides some early indication that the Clean Burning Wood Stove Grant Program has succeeded in delivering more benefits to the areas it was intended to help. Both Somerset and Dorchester counties on the Eastern Shore had two of the highest per capita rebates and are both among the state’s poorest counties.

The other striking trend is that Marylanders used the rebates for pellet stove twice as often as for wood stoves, defying national trends. “We are extremely pleased by these early numbers, showing that Maryland crafted a renewable energy rebate program that really works for average Maryland families,” said John Ackerly, President of the Alliance for Green Heat.

The average cost of purchasing and installing a wood or pellet stove in this program was $4,180 and the majority of projects cost between $3,000 - $5,000. Five of the 78 projects to receive rebates cost less than $2,000 and 3 cost more than $6,000. The typical MEA stove grant covered between 8% - 20% of the total project cost.

MEA launched the Clean Burning Wood Stoves Grant Program in September as a pilot program with $50,000 in funding. The initial $50,000 is gone, but MEA says they are extending the program indefinitely. If it were made permanent, it would join programs established for residential solar PV, solar thermal, geothermal and wind.

The Clean Burning Wood Stoves Grant Program is innovative in that it only provides rebates to Maryland households heating with oil, propane or electricity and does not cover homes with access to natural gas. This has resulted in funds being focused on the half of the state’s households that uses the highest priced and most carbon intensive heating fuels. The initial data also shows that on a per capita basis, many of the rebates have gone to homeowners on the Eastern Shore, where natural gas is not widely available. However, the program has not yet shown the same results in Western Maryland where access to natural gas is also limited. Thus far, no household has received a rebate from Garrett or Allegany County, which are among the most rural and least affluent in the state.

Of the 78 grants that have been paid, only 20 have gone towards wood stoves and 58 to pellet stoves. In most states, wood stove outsell pellet stoves by 2 or 3 to 1. The reverse trend in Maryland may have something to do with the higher rebate level for pellet stoves ($600 instead of $400). The popularity of pellet stoves in this program is a very positive sign that these families are using their pellet stoves as a sole or primary heat source and completely avoiding use of oil, propane and electricity for heat. Wood stoves are more likely to be a secondary source of heat or provide 60 or 80% of heat, whereas pellet stoves are more likely to provide 90% or 100%.

The other notable and more predictable trend is that pellet stoves were most popular in counties with higher average per capita income. The most pellet stove rebates have been awarded in Anne Arundel and Harford counties, which are located in central Maryland and have higher median per capita income at $37,600 and $32,700, respectively. Counties with a median per capital income of $25,000 or less chose wood stoves as often as pellet stoves. Median income in Maryland is $34,500, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.

MEA is still compiling data about how many homes had wood or pellet stoves prior to buying a new, cleaner one with the rebates what they did with their old stove and what heating fuel was being replaced.  The program only provide rebates to the cleanest stoves on the market. Wood stoves must emit no more than 3 grams of particulates per hour and pellet stoves 2 grams.

Thanks to Kyle Haas at MEA for providing this data and managing the program.  For more information on the program and how to apply for a wood or pellet stove grant, visit MEA’s site or the Alliance for Green Heat’s Frequently Asked Questions page. One page fact sheets are available for download here and here.

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