10 May 2010

Fired Up: Bioheat Gains Momentum as Recovery Takes Hold

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The renewable energy industry has grown substantially in recent years, despite the down economy. But while solar, wind and to a lesser extent, geothermal energy put up solid growth numbers, the bioheating market has lagged behind

The reasons are simple enough. Low rates of new construction, a declining housing market and lower oil prices have made capital intensive investments in wood pellet, chip and gasifying systems a tough sell.

But the signs of recovery are now being seen in this space. Consumer demand is improving and policymakers are placing renewable heating higher up on their energy agendas. In the last six months, the American Renewable Biomass Heating Act of 2010 (S.3188) was introduced in Washington, D.C. The bill would add renewable heating systems to the list of technologies that qualify for federal renewable energy tax credits. New state- and utility-level incentives were also created in New Hampshire, with more expected in other Northeast states.

Charile Neibling, chairman of the Biomass Thermal Energy Council (BTEC) and general manager of New England Wood Pellet, said the policies being put in place at the government and utility level signal a return to pre-recession thinking, when oil was expensive and both consumers and corporations were looking to be more eco-friendly. The result, he said, is that the industry is seeing momentum return, leading leading policy makers and utilities to put incentives in place to help get the market moving again.

"In Washington, there are three pieces of legislation we're working on. All of them are demand side incentives for commerical, residential and industrial applications for high efficiency biomass thermal technologies," Neibling said. "The utilities, which have historically been focused solely on electricity, are starting to view their role more expansively and are viewing the efficiency monies that they administer in a more technology and fuel neutral way, and that's a really encouraging sign."

(Renewable Energy World)

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