An Expired Farm Bill, New Pellet Plants and Rebate Incentives

By Erin Voegele | October 01, 2012

It is now Oct. 1. That means the Farm Bill has officially expired. Not a surprise, but a disappointment nonetheless.

Whether our federal lawmakers take up the legislation during the upcoming lame duck session, or hold off until after the new crop of elected officials takes office, I hope our congressional representatives realize the benefit that a strong energy title brings to the U.S. manufacturing sector. Programs like the Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels, in particular, can provide valuable support to the expansion of the U.S. pellet industry.

Although the fate of Farm Bill energy title programs is currently uncertain, the U.S. pellet industry is marching forward. In the past few weeks, several new pellet plants have been announced. Enova Energy Group is constructing three new pellet plants, all located within Georgia and South Carolina. In addition, General Biofuels Georgia LLC has plans to construct a pellet plant in Sandersville, Ga.

It seems that the wood pellets produced at all four plants will be exported to Europe. While these projects are an exciting addition to the U.S. biomass industry no matter where the pellets are utilized, I do hope that U.S. demand for wood pellets will continue to grow. Hopefully it won’t be too long before projects like these pop up with the primary goal of meeting domestic demand for pellet fuels.

In the meantime, a couple of local rebate programs could help build some regional demand for wood pellets in the near term. The Maryland Energy Administration recently launched a pilot rebate program for pellet and wood stoves. Eligible applicants can receive up to $600 to support the installation of U.S. EPA certified pellet stoves that emit no more than 2 grams of particulates per hour. Meanwhile, in California, a program developed by the County of Marin and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District is offering eligible residents of the San Geronimo Valley region up to $750 rebate to remove a non-certified wood stove with certified wood stoves, pellet stoves or propane appliances.

If these rebate programs prove successful in incentivizing the installation of certified pellet stoves, hopefully more states, counties and municipalities will consider enacting their own rebate incentives.