Posted in Lignetics on October 14, 2013 by Administrator
By Bill Bell, Executive Director, Maine Pellet Fuels Association
“We’re this far from taking off,” said a speaker at a pellet boiler firm’s recent sales meeting in Portland, Maine, while holding his thumb and index finger two inches apart. At the same time, another major pellet boiler firm in Maine is pounding the television airwaves with a commercial comparing the price of pellet fuel to heating oil, and Maine’s state energy agency recently announced an incentive program whereby up to 50 residential pellet boiler purchasers will receive rebates up to $5,000. The boiler firms and installers hope that this incentive will prove so popular that it will be extended beyond the initial funding.
Speaking at the 2013 Kedel (a Danish pellet boiler) Summit in Portland, former Biomass Thermal Energy Council Chairman Charlie Niebling was asked what it will take for residential pellet boiler sales in Maine and New Hampshire to achieve liftoff. Niebling suggested that increased tension in the Middle East, thereby spiking oil prices, would be an obvious stimulus. Absent such a spike, Niebling stated that while the pellet sector is “poised to significantly expand,” it behooves the industry to undertake a strong education and promotion program.
Other speakers at the meeting cited the need to answer consumer questions about bulk delivery, the long-term price outlook for pellets, the resale value of homes with central pellet heat, and greenhouse gas emissions. A panel of customers speaking at the end of the meeting emphasized that the desire to “get away from oil,” for both economic and environmental reasons, trumped whatever unanswered questions they had about switching to pellets. A secondary reason cited was a desire to spend their fuel dollars in support of Maine’s forest products economy.
Sales staff at the meeting spoke with confidence, noting that the 20-year longevity of oil burners means that every year, five percent of Maine homeowners are in the marketplace for a new heating system. The marketing pitch is “pellets are half the price of oil, and emit one-tenth the greenhouse gas.”
Will Maine be a significant partner in achieving pellet heat liftoff? According to its critics, the outlook among some trustees and staff at the state’s energy agency, Efficiency Maine, is that economic development considerations—the huge multiplier effect of a heating system using a locally produced fuel—are not central to the agency’s mission. In addition, the “insulation uber alles” crowd continues to demand that no home receive funds for a heating system change-out without the building envelope first being secured, a proposition that often leaves the homeowner with only enough funds for a new oil burner.
There are indications that the insulationists’ shrill arguments, threatening legal action if Efficiency Maine does not interpret an ambiguous section of new state law in their favor, are losing sway at the state agency. Also, Efficiency Maine recently made a modest grant to assist the Northern Forest Center’s promising Model Neighborhood project, which incentivizes pellet boiler installations in a concentrated area of homeowners.
At any rate, Efficiency Maine has just announced a wide range of incentives designed to reduce both energy demand and heating costs. Pellet stove purchasers will receive a $250 rebate provided the stove is EPA-approved and makeup air is ducted into the unit. Homeowners installing heat pumps or efficient new gas, propane, or oil furnaces will receive $500 rebates. The first 50 homeowners to install pellet boilers meeting HUD Energy Saver standards—or geothermal heat—will receive a $5,000 rebate, which is approximately the incentive amount that has proved most effective in selling pellet boilers.
Our industry up here obviously hopes that this incentive, sales force enthusiasm, the media advertising being done by one boiler firm—Maine Energy Systems—promoting pellet heat in general, and word-of-mouth recognition of our product quality will get us into a sharply upward flight path.
Posted in Lignetics on September 16, 2013 by Administrator
According to recently released U.S. Census statistics, 63,566 more families used wood or pellets as a primary heating fuel in 2012 compared to 2011, which amounts to an increase of 2.6%, making wood again the fastest growing heating fuel in America.
From 2000 to 2010, wood and pellet home heating grew by 34%, faster than any of the other heating fuels, including solar and natural gas. Oil and propane use declined between 2000 and 2010, and the decline continued in 2012.
Today, 2.1% of Americans use wood or pellets as their primary heating fuel, up from 1.6% in 2000. An additional 7.7 % of U.S. households use wood as a secondary heating fuel, according to the 2009 EIA Renewable Energy Consumption Survey.
Nearly 2.5 million households use wood as a primary heating fuel, making it, by far, the dominant residential source of renewable energy in the United States. In comparison, only about 500,000 of U.S. homes have solar panels and less than 50,000 use solar thermal heating. Solar thermal heating dropped by 2% in 2012 from 2011, according to the new Census numbers.
The states with the biggest growth in wood heat from 2011 - 2012 are Delaware (35.1%), Rhode Island (29.6%), Nebraska (24.6%), New Hampshire (18.5%) and New Jersey (17.7%). However, other states experienced declines. Among the important wood heating states of Washington, Oregon and California, the decline was very small, but there were more significant declines in Illinois (5.2%), Idaho (5%) and Colorado (4.8%). Over a 12-year period, the prevalence of wood heating has increased, often very significantly, in every state except Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida and Hawaii.
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Posted in Lignetics on August 27, 2013 by Administrator
By Wood Resources International LLC | August 21, 2013
North American wood pellet exports reached a new record of over 1 million tons in the first quarter of 2013, according to the North American Wood Fiber Review. There has been a steady growth in shipments from both the U.S. and Canada the past few years, mainly as a result of the continued increase in demand for pellets in the United Kingdom.
Pellet exports from the two primary pellet-producing regions on the North American continent – the U.S. South and British Columbia – showed no signs of slowing in early 2013, with the rate of growth likely to accelerate in the second half of the year. In the U.S. South, pellet export volumes to Europe resumed their double-digit growth after a brief pause in the fourth quarter of 2012. Export volumes, based on information from industry sources as well as trade data in Europe and North America, showed exports in excess of 1.7 million tons in 2012, as reported in the North American Wood Fiber Review.
Canadian exports also rose in 2012 to 1.5 million tons, but this increase was less than that seen in the U.S. During the first quarter of 2013, total pellet exports from North America reached a new record of over one million tons for the quarter. This can be compared to the annual shipments of 750,000 tons just four years ago.
The United Kingdom continues to strengthen its claim as the primary destination for North American pellets with over two-thirds of the export volume from the U.S. and Canada going to the U.K. in the first quarter of 2013.
The story of Drax’s plans for its large power plant conversion from coal to biomass in Selby, England, continues to make news across North America. Earlier in the spring, Drax Biomass International Inc., a U.S.-based subsidiary to Drax Power, announced that it will develop, construct and manage two pellet plants, a port storage and a loading facility in the US South, which will be sending pellets to fuel the company’s U.K. facility. Also, in Eastern Canada, pellet producer Rentech announced an off-take agreement with Drax Biomass, which will result in new investment in ports to increase pellet-loading capacity, and in rail transportation, along with the construction and operation of two pellet facilities themselves.
The increase in pellet production in Western Canada has pushed sawdust prices upward the past few years, with 2013 prices being about 15 percent higher than they were in 2010, as reported in the NAWFR. In the US South, where smaller logs from thinnings and treetops are commonly used for pellet manufacturing, there has not yet been any region-wide upward price pressure as a result of the new wood-consuming sector in the region.
This news brief is from the market report North American Wood Fiber Review, which has tracked wood fiber markets in the US and Canada for over 20 years. It is the only publication that includes prices for sawlogs, pulpwood, wood chips and biomass in North America. The 36-page quarterly report includes wood market updates for 15 regions on the continent in addition to the latest export statistics for sawlogs, wood pellets and wood chips.
Wood Resources International LLC, an internationally recognized forest industry-consulting firm established in 1987, publishes two quarterly timber price reports and have subscribers in over 30 countries. The Wood Resource Quarterly, established in 1988, is a 52-page market report and includes sawlog prices, pulpwood and wood chip price and market commentary to developments in global timber, biomass and forest industry. The other report, the North America Wood Fiber Review, tracks prices of sawlogs, pulpwood, wood chips and biomass in most regions of Canada and the U.S.
Posted in Lignetics on August 13, 2013 by Administrator
EU subsidies for biomass will generate more investments in the US wood industry and intensify the search for favorable wood pellet plant sites.
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Posted in Lignetics on July 30, 2013 by Administrator
By Anna Simet | July 12, 2013
This week, Maryland became the first state in the nation to provide rebates for both wood and pellet stoves, without requiring homeowners to turn in an old, uncertified stove.
On top of that, the state upped the rebate amount to $500 for wood and $700 for pellet stoves, and also made the program permanent.
A summary of the rebate that I was sent from Maryland Delegate Heather Mizeur says the rebates are only being offered to homes that currently oil, propane or electricity, in order to target families that are facing the highest winter heating costs. I was a little confused by that, because in an a program Q&A on the Alliance for Green Heat’s website I had read this:
Q) If my primary heat already comes from wood or pellets, am I eligible?
A. Yes. MEA now offers the same incentives to households who have old wood stoves, as newer stoves are more efficient, cost effective and environmentally friendly. All other requirements still apply to applications.
Wanting to clear this up, I checked in with John Acklery, president of AFGH, and he told me that as long as a homeowner’s backup fuel source is propane, oil or electric (note: natural gas is ineligible), he/she will be eligible for the rebate.
John pointed out that there are a few states that give tax credits or deductions for wood stoves, but Maryland is the first to have a statewide incentive. “That’s money in your pocket, so it’ll help some people out,” he said, opposed to a tax credit, which some people aren’t as interested in.
Anyway, initial data—Maryland launched a pilot version of the rebate in September 2012—showed that Marylanders used the rebates for pellet stoves twice as often as for wood stoves, which I guess is a deviation from national trends. Certainly good news for the region’s fuel pellet industry.
to learn more about the program.