New Hampshire expands pellet heat incentive

By Anna Austin | January 25, 2011

The New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission has made improvements to its biomass boiler rebate program, which should encourage more system installations from now until February 2012.

The Residential Bulk-Fed Wood-Pellet Central Boiler and Furnace Rebate Program offers a 30 percent tax credit, or up to $6,000, to those who install high-efficiency, bulk-fed biomass central heating systems.

The PUC lowered the efficiency standard from 85 percent to 80 percent, and will now allow for systems that require routine cleaning for each ton of premium pellets used to qualify for the credit, besides systems that automatically clean the burn chamber and the heat exchanger.

Charlie Niebling, general manager of New Hampshire-based New England Wood Pellet, said while the changes won’t result in a huge influx of pellet sales, they will lead to more consumer interest in the rebate and the number of systems that will qualify for the rebate. 

“The amount of funds dedicated to the rebate is $500,000 less administrative costs, so realistically that amount of funding will only cover perhaps 80 to 100 rebates,” he said.  “At 5 to10 tons annual pellet consumption for a typical residential central heating system, it really is not going to make a difference in total pellet sales, but that’s not the point [of the rebate].” 

The point is to try to jump-start the residential market in high-efficiency pellet central heating systems, according to Niebling. “The more of these systems we get deployed, the more consumer awareness,” he added. “Hopefully in time, consumers will come to see this as a viable alternative to conventional fossil fuel heating.”

Niebling is chairman of the Biomass Thermal Energy Council, which is leading a movement to encourage six New England states and New York to achieve 25 percent of all thermal energy requirements from renewable energy resources by 2025, and 75 percent of all thermal energy requirements from biomass by the same year.

Overall, that would reduce the amount of heating oil used in Northeast residences by 1.14 billion gallons annually.