Maryland program invests in market's cleanest pellet, wood stoves

By John Ackerly, Alliance for Green Heat | April 04, 2017

A Maryland renewable energy rebate program established in 2012 has provided assistance to nearly 3,000 residences to purchase and install cleaner, modern wood and pellet stoves.  The program was designed to help rural families, who were least likely to benefit from solar and other renewable energy programs.

 The state has invested $1.88 million dollars, or an average of $664 per home.  The average purchase and installation costs of a stove is often around $3,800, so the state would be providing less than 20 percent of the price tag for a significant reduction in a home's annual fossil fuel footprint.

The Maryland Energy Administration, which manages a suite of renewable energy incentives, runs the program.  With this program, the MEA cannot exactly track the amount of fossil fuel that the program has reduced, which hinders the ability of regulators to track data as they can with the solar and other rebate programs.

 Of the 2,845 stoves purchased through the program, 2,425 or 85 percent were pellet stoves. To be eligible, pellet stoves have to emit 2 grams an hour or less, and wood stoves 3 grams an hour or less, well below the federal EPA limit of 4.5 grams an hour.  Pellet stoves are eligible for a $700 grant and wood stoves $500. “We are pleased that this program steers so many people towards pellet stoves and ensures that the installation is done professionally,” said John Ackerly, President of the Alliance for Green Heat, a Maryland-based group that worked with MEA to establish the program.

Only residents who do not have access to natural gas are eligible for the grant, which as a result helps families in rural areas who rely on more expensive fossil heating fuels.  New York also adopted this innovative approach, and only provides incentives to homes that are not on the natural gas grid.  A 2013 analysis of the program by the Alliance for Green Heat found that it was helping less affluent families to reduce fossil fuel use.

The program does not require residents to turn in an old, uncertified wood stove to participate in the program.  However, some retailers report that nearly half of their customers who use this program turn in an old stove that is recycled.

During 2015, the program experienced its highest participation rates, providing grants for 1,036 stoves, 904 of which were pellet stoves.

“A $3,000 pellet stove installation can reduce fossil fuel usage by as much as a $15,000 array of solar panels,” said Ackerly.  “And increasingly, we see families who have solar panels also installing pellet stoves so that they can use renewable energy for both their electric and heating needs,” he added.