Renewable Heating, Cooling, and CHP:
The Opportunity of Modern Wood Heating
Thermal energy represents roughly one-third of total U.S. energy consumption. It is used daily by homes, businesses and industrial facilities across the country, most frequently for space heating, water heating or industrial processes. Using wood for heating, cooling and combined heat and power (CHP) in the U.S. would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, decrease our dependence on foreign fossil fuels, and create jobs in rural communities.
Highly Efficient, Yet Largely Forgotten in Public Policy
Energy efficiency measures the ratio of useful output compared to fuel input, acting like an energy return on investment. Modern and commercially viable wood heating, cooling, and cogeneration technologies can reach efficiency levels of up to 80-90%. Biomass thermal technologies can generate more usable energy per unit of fuel than better known—and better funded—renewable biomass pathways:
However, nearly all government grants and incentives for renewable energy support the electricity and transportation sectors. Renewable sources of thermal energy have largely been forgotten in public policy.
Helping Build a Market for Renewable Thermal Energy with Government Incentives
Incentives are necessary to make modern wood heating and cooling more competitive in the marketplace with non-renewable sources of thermal energy. Policy tools such as thermal Renewable Energy Credits, production and investment tax credits, community grant programs, and biomass supply programs can grow the market and overcome initial adoption costs. In time, with increasing market penetration, these incentives can be scaled down or eliminated.
Federal support must be directed towards projects with the greatest commercial viability and technical merit, no matter their industry. Tax and incentive programs that level the playing field by recognizing the most efficient technologies will guide the U.S. towards energy independence more quickly, cleanly, and affordably. Instead of being the forgotten renewable, biomass thermal must be a key element in America’s energy future.
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