New Hampshire’s location in northern New England means that the winters are long and cold. Heating costs are high and can be crushing for many households, especially because many parts of the state do not have access to cheap energy from natural gas. For affordable heating, many residents turn to the same resource that has been keeping homes in the state warm for centuries: wood.
Wood is abundant in New Hampshire, but older wood stoves are frequently highly polluting and inefficient, and require significant fuel storage space. New Hampshire policymakers have therefore taken several steps so that residents can purchase new equipment using improved biomass heating technologies that address these issues.
Helping Residents and Businesses Switch to Wood Pellets
The New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission created a Residential Wood-Pellet Boiler and Furnace Rebate Program. It offers rebates of 30 percent (up to $6,000) for high-efficiency, bulk-fed, wood-pellet central heating boilers and furnaces. The pellets are made from compacted sawdust and other industrial waste byproducts left over from lumber, manufacturing, construction, and woodworking industries. Since lumber and woodworking companies are abundant in New Hampshire, wood pellets present a plentiful local fuel source. Wood pellet boilers are highly efficient, inexpensive, and compact, making them an excellent modern alternative to wood, propane, or oil. When wood pellet fuel is delivered in bulk, which New Hampshire’s program was specifically designed to facilitate, wood pellet boiler systems offer the same convenience as oil heating systems. To date, the residential program has dispersed close to $1.5 million in rebates to almost 300 participants, with an applicant investment of close to $4.2 million.
The Public Utilities Commission also created a rebate program for commercial applications. The Commercial and Industrial Bulk Fuel-Fed Wood Pellet Central Heating Systems Rebate Program offers a rebate payment of 30 percent of the cost of equipment and installation, to a maximum of $50,000. An additional incentive of up to $5,000 or 30 percent of the system cost is offered if thermal storage is included. To date, a total of $383,000 has been dispersed to 20 non-residential projects, with an additional $.5 million in process or reserved. The average non-residential rebate has been just over $20,000.
To better promote wide-scale market growth and technological development of biomass thermal technologies, New Hampshire became the first state to add a carve-out for renewable thermal technologies to its Renewable Portfolio Standard. This carve-out requires utilities to produce or otherwise support a minimum amount of renewable thermal energy each year.
“This is an important step forward in efforts to gain equal consideration for thermal energy,” said Joseph Seymour, Executive Director of the Biomass Thermal Energy Council, an industry trade association. “With little happening on energy policy in Washington, efforts must focus on state policy to achieve a more fuel and technology neutral incentive structure for renewable energy. New Hampshire has led the way in showing the nation that it is possible to enhance state RPS programs by adding thermal energy.
Impacts Beyond New Hampshire
States across the country are looking at New Hampshire as a leader and a model for supporting renewable thermal technologies. For example, other states, such as Maryland, have explored adding renewable thermal requirements to their RPS.
This blog post was originally published in CESA’s 2015 report “Clean Energy Champions: The Importance of State Policies and Programs.” This report provides the first-ever comprehensive look at the ways states are advancing clean energy and suggests how to further encourage clean energy growth.
This blog post was also published in Renewable Energy World.
Quotes from Joseph Seymour are taken from a June 2012 Renewable Energy World article, "New Hampshire Sets Renewable Thermal Carve Out," by Jennifer Runyon.