Marylanders: Renewable Home Heating Rebate Program

By Melissa Bollman (Cross-Posted from Alliance for Green Heat)

On September 7, 2012 the Maryland Energy Administration (MEA) launched a pilot rebate program for some of the cleanest wood and pellet stoves available, marking the first time that a state has integrated wood and pellet stoves into a renewable energy rebate program.

The pilot program offers a $400 rebate for wood stoves and $600 for pellet stoves. Wood stoves must emit less than half the particulates that are allowed by the EPA to be eligible.

“We are thrilled that Governor O’Malley and Malcolm Wolff, the Director of the Maryland Energy Administration, extended the renewable energy grant program to appliances that low and middle-income families can afford,” said John Ackerly, the President of the Alliance for Green Heat.

 

The Maryland program is designed help families who do not have access to relatively cheap natural gas. The rebates are only offered to homes that heat with the most expensive fuels – oil, propane or electricity and who are typically in less affluent, rural areas.

Delegate Heather Mizeur, who first introduced a bill in the Maryland House of Delegates to establish such a program last year, said “modern wood and pellet stoves offer rural families a way to participate in our clean energy future.”

For most Americans living in the northern United States, heating produces more household carbon emissions than any other activity. Out of the 20 tons of carbon that the average American emits each year, 3 – 5 tons can come from space heating. Since a large wood or pellet stove can provide nearly 100% of heat to an average sized Maryland home, the carbon impacts are significant.  When you burn firewood or wood pellets, it releases little or no more CO2 than it absorbed while it was growing. In the US, there is extremely little issue with firewood and wood pellets being sustainably harvested and represents an excellent low carbon fuel.  Mike Tidwell recognized this before founding CCAN by starting a local corn heating co-op, Save Our Sky, that is now managed by Sat Jiwan Ikle-Khalsa.

Full details of the new Marland pilot program and the application can be found here: http://energy.maryland.gov/Residential/woodstoves/index.html. Wood stoves that are EPA certified and emit no more than 3 grams of particulates an hour and pellet stoves that emit no more than 2 grams an hour are eligible to receive a grant. Program funds are limited to $50,000 and available on a first come, first serve basis.

The original bill was introduced in the Maryland legislature in 2011, and drafted with assistance of the Alliance for Green Heat. The legislature did not approve the bill because of the cost involved but it had broad support and the only voices against it came from the oil and propane dealer associations. Despite the legislature’s inaction, the MEA working together with Delegate Heather Mizeur, decided to implement it with their existing budget.

As discussed in the October issue of Consumer Reports, there is no federal tax credit for wood or pellet stoves as there is for solar, geothermal and wind. And, the DOE and EPA have not developed a Energy Star program for wood and pellet stoves to help consumers identify the cleanest and most efficient units. “Wood and pellet stoves are the people’s renewable energy device, and rural families have always been leaders of the renewable energy movement,” explained Ackerly. “But little has been done to invest in cleaner stove R&D or to incentivize the cleanest and most efficient stoves. This rebate program is a step towards smartly deploying the cleanest stoves and makes Maryland a national leader in helping ordinary families affordably heat their homes.”

The Alliance created a Q & A about the program that addresses some questions consumers may have.