On October 6, the US government agency responsible for tracking energy supply and usage released its annual winter fuels outlook. The report predicted that next winter will be warmer than average but energy prices will be lower. Consequently, consumers are expected to pay 10 – 20% less on their household heating than last winter.
The report notes that the use of cord wood and wood pellets as the primary residential space heating fuel has increased by 33% since 2005 and estimates that about 2.6 million households mainly used this fuel source in 2014. About 8% of households use wood as a secondary source of heat, making wood second only to electricity as a supplemental heating fuel.
The report, produced by the Energy Information Agency (EIA), projects primary wood and pellet heating to grow by 1.4% during the 2015-2016 winter. Electric heating is projected to rise even faster, by 2.5%.
Natural gas is projected to remain basically flat, and oil and propane heating are projected to decline by 4.4% and 3.4%, respectively.
The overall national residential wood heat rise of 1.4% includes quicker projected growth in the Northeast and a slight decline in the West.
Wood and pellet heating is projected to rise fastest in the Northeast at 2.8% and the South at 2.6%. It’s only projected to rise 0.8% in the Midwest and decline by 0.3% in Western states.
In 2014, the Pellet Fuels Institute reported that shipments of pellet stoves grew by 41%. On average, 2 out of every 5 new stoves sold is a pellet stove and 3 are wood stoves. This ratio does not include the popular, though polluting, uncertified wood stoves that are still on the market until the end of this year.
“The trend towards more pellet heating is crucial as wood heat expands in America,” said John Ackerly, President of the Alliance for Green Heat. “The growth in pellet heating, even as oil and gas prices fall, show a demand for a cleaner, local fuel that still can be greatly scaled up,” Ackerly said.
Wood heating was increasing faster than electric heating for many years, but since 2008, wood has increased by nearly 10% and electricity increased by nearly 15%.
In terms of the amount of energy generated by residential renewables, wood continues to be the dominant player, generating 66% of all residential renewable energy in 2014. Solar produced less than half the energy as wood and pellet stoves, making up 29% of residential renewable energy in 2014. Geothermal produced nearly 5%.
However, solar will soon be catching up to wood according to EIA projections, thanks to extensive state and federal subsidies.
In 2016, the EIA projects that wood and pellet stoves will only produce 54% of residential renewable energy and solar will produce 40%.
Geothermal is projected to rise to nearly 6%.
The EIA did not include data or projections on wood and pellet hearing until their 2012 report
. Senator Shaheen (D-NH), the Alliance for Green Heat, and other groups pressed the agency to be more inclusive of the technology that was used by more households than oil or propane. Since then, the EIA has gone much further and is about to start surveying wood pellet producers to provide accurate and timely data about pellet production and usage.
The 2014 Winter Fuel Outlook released by the US Energy Information Agency on Oct. 7, predicted that wood and pellet heating would continue the trend of being the nation’s fasting growing heat source. Overall, wood and pellet heating grew 38% from 2004 to 2013, and now accounts for 2.5% of all home primary heating.
The EIA predicts wood and pellet heating will grow again in the 2014/15 winter by 4.7%. Electricity is predicted to grow second fastest at 3.1%. Natural gas is at .07% growth and oil and propane are each predicted to drop by about 3.2%. Regional data shows wood and pellet heating growing more than 7% in the northeast and Midwest, and only 2.5% in the south and 1.8% in the west. It was only two years ago that the EIA started to include wood and pellets in the 2012 Winter Fuel Outlook, even though far more homes have wood and pellet stoves than have oil furnaces.
Nationally, solar and geothermal dominate headlines and media imagery, but wood and pellet heating remain the dominant players in reducing fossil fuel usage at the residential level. In 2014, the EIA says wood and pellet heat will produce .58 quadrillion Btu, or 67% of the nation’s total, while residential solar will produce .25 quadrillion Btu, or 29%. Meanwhile, geothermal produces only .04, or 4%, and is not showing steady increases like solar.
While wood and pellets are the fastest growing heating fuel in America, residential solar is growing even faster in the electricity marketplace. At current rates, residential solar could produce more energy than residential wood and pellet stoves by 2020. Solar has enjoyed generous taxpayer subsidies with a 30% federal tax credit in addition to state incentives. The federal solar credit is set to expire at the end of 2016, but by then the cost of solar panels may have decreased enough for continued growth without federal subsidies.
Wood and pellet heating and solar are not competing technologies in that one produces electricity and the other heat. They are often combined to make a home virtually carbon neutral, a process which is moving far faster in Europe than in the US due to higher fossil fuel prices and favorable government policies.
In Europe, many countries are aggressively incentivizing higher efficiency pellet stoves and pellet boilers. In the US, the Bush and Obama Administrations did not push for incentives for cleaner and more efficient pellet equipment but rather has let Congress and industry shape a tax credit without any effective efficiency or emission criteria. As a result, the 38% growth of wood and pellet heating since 2004 documented by the EIA is not predominantly an expansion of cleaner and more efficient equipment, as it is in Europe. Sales of cleaner pellet stoves are rising in the US, but the growth of wood heating in America includes some very polluting equipment such as outdoor wood boilers, also knows as outdoor hydronic heaters and new unregulated wood stoves, neither of which have emissions standards. After many years of delays, the EPA is finally regulating these technologies and requiring them to meet emission standards by summer of 2015.
Without effective federal regulations from the EPA, some states have been guiding the market toward cleaner and more efficient wood and pellet heating equipment, with Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon and Washington taking the lead.
Posted by Earth Stove on October 10, 2014 with No Comments
The 2014 Winter season Fuel Outlook launched by the US Power Info Agency on Oct. seven, predicted that wooden and pellet heating would carry on the pattern of becoming the nation’s fasting expanding warmth supply.  Overall, wooden and pellet heating grew 38% from 2004 to 2013, and now accounts for 2.five% of all house principal […]