Monday, December 17, 2012

Wood Stoves and the New EPA Soot Rule


Alliance for Green Heat, December 17, 2012 - The new soot rules announced by the EPA on December 14 require a 20% reduction in allowed particulate matter to 12 micrograms per cubic meter annually, which may make it tougher for counties with excess wood stove smoke to comply with federal air quality standards.  However, the current 24 hour standard of 35 micrograms per cubic meter remains unchanged, which is more likely the standard implicated by wood smoke.

Along with vehicles and power plants, wood stoves are one of the contributors to poor air quality in some of the counties facing non-attainment of federal standards. “Wood stoves continue to produce too much smoke partially because the EPA has failed to comply with the Clean Air Act and has not updated emission standards for a quarter of a century. The Clean Air Act says the EPA should review standards every eight years,” said John Ackerly, President of the Alliance for Green Heat. In addition, incentives for renewable energy technologies have not focused on the cleanest wood devices, like pellet stoves, as they have in Europe.

The Alliance for Green Heat reported earlier in July that the EPA projected this standard could push six more counties into non-attainment by 2020. The list included counties in California, Arizona, Michigan, and Alabama, as well as Lincoln County in Montana where a famous wood stove change out program took place in the community of Libby between 2005-2008. Epidemiology professor Curtis Noonan, who has studied the Libby change out program extensively, said in July that Libby could be in danger of becoming a non-attainment county in 2012 if the limit was set to 12 micrograms.

As of last Friday, December 14, 2012, the EPA has since changed its projections of what counties are likely to not meet the new standard by 2020. Lincoln County, Montana and several others listed in July appear to have fallen off the potential non-attainment list while more have been added. The total now stands at seven counties, all of which are located in Southern California.


States will be required to make area designation recommendations by December 2013 with final designations from EPA due out in December 2014.  Implementation plans are scheduled for 2018 with the goal of attainment by 2020. 


The EPA has multiple air quality standards for fine particulate matter pollution (PM2.5), which is sometimes referred to as soot.  In addition to the recently updated annual standard of 12 micrograms per year, the EPA also has a 24 hour PM2.5 standard of 35 micrograms per cubic meter, last updated in 2006. Wood smoke is likely to have a much greater impact on the 24 hour standard violations than the annual one, and there are over 100 counties that are in non-attainment of the 24 hour standard as of December 14, 2012.

To view the sources of annual PM2.5 emissions in your state or county, visit: http://www.epa.gov/cgi-bin/broker?_service=data&_debug=0&_program=dataprog.national_1.sas&polchoice=PM

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

ACEEE says Wood Stoves Should Have Higher Efficiency for Tax Credits;

Group finds the biggest “bang” for the tax credit “buck” includes heating appliances such as wood stoves

 





Alliance for Green Heat, 12/12/12 - Well-targeted energy efficiency tax incentives will result in significant energy savings and more energy-efficient products being released into the market faster, according to Steven Nadel, executive director of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), who testified before the U.S. Senate Finance Committee today. The Senate hearing focused on appropriate uses of the federal tax code for promoting investments in energy efficiency, particularly in the context of emerging discussions on tax reform.

Nadel said ACEEE found incentives for residential heating and cooling equipment were also successful in encouraging purchases of the most energy-efficient products. One of ACEEE’s recommendations for future tax credits was to promote higher efficiency levels and practices for residential boilers and stoves. ACEEE said that provisions from the recently expired section 25C should be updated for high efficiency residential furnaces, boilers, stoves, heat pumps and water heaters.

“The ACEEE has been very supportive of including wood and pellet stoves and boilers among appliances that receive tax credits, but have been frustrated that the 75% efficiency threshold for stoves is not third party verified or measured in a consistent manner,” said John Ackerly, President of the Alliance for Green Heat.

“High efficient wood and pellet stoves have a low market share in America and federal support could give advanced stoves the momentum to catch on in the marketplace,” said Ackerly.

The ACEEE report found that “in the case of appliances, tax credits have permanently transformed the market, which is the ideal outcome. For example, for refrigerators, clothes washers, and dishwashers, the tax credits spurred manufacturers to develop, introduce, and broadly market new high-efficiency products.”

To read Nadel’s complete testimony, click here.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

National Forum Debates Options for the NSPS


Alliance for Green Heat, December 4, 2012 -Six months ago, the EPA’s new proposed standards for wood heating appliances seemed almost complete. Today they may be more up in the air than ever. After a 3 to 4 year process, how could this have happened?

The main driver behind major new proposed changes to the NSPS are state and regional air quality agencies that felt the EPA’s proposed NSPS was too weak and merely codified the status quo. In the face of growing discontent amongst states, HPBA mobilized a “road show” to personally visit key states and make the case for a more cautious NSPS. Many of the states who saw this presentation did not feel the data that they had seen supported the HPBA position. And on November 8 and 9, the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM) and the Western States Air Resources Council (WESTAR) organized a stakeholders meeting in Minneapolis with LADCO, CENSARA and MARAMA. The regional organizations and key states had come up with new options for EPA to consider in its proposal and had conveyed them to the EPA and HPBA prior to the meeting. While HPBA agreed with some of them, they appeared to taken aback by others, and were maybe for the first time in the NSPS process, put on the defensive.

The Alliance for Green Heat had not been privy to the meetings and proposals of the air agencies prior to Minneapolis, but agreed with much of it. The Alliance believes wood appliances need to be cleaner and more efficient to position them to play a major role as a residential renewable energy technology. Unlike in Europe, in America wood stoves tend to be dealt with by air agencies just as something to be regulated, not promoted. Absent from the discussion in Minneapolis was any of the urgency that is common in Europe to aggressively promote the cleanest appliances as a way to fight global climate change.

In Minneapolis, states proposed establishing 3 bins, with the strictest one as an alternative compliance standard that the cleanest and most efficient stoves would be in. That category of stoves could be used by incentive or change-out programs if the implementing agency wanted to only make the cleanest and most efficient stoves eligible. The Alliances strongly supports this part of the proposals from the air quality agencies and urges the EPA to include this in their proposed regulation. (For a related story about a similar programin France, click here.)

Attending the meeting from the EPA: Greg Green, Gil Wood, John Dupree and several others. From HPBA: Jack Goldman, David Menotti, John Crouch and Bob Ferguson. From industry, representatives from Blaze King, Intertek Test Lab, Woodstock Soapstone, Central Boiler and a number of others. From non-profits: the Alliance for Green Heat, the American Lung Association, the Environmental Defense Fund and others.

Gil Wood of the EPA said they expected to send the proposed NSPS to the OMB by the end of January and expected the 90-day public comment period to come in the spring.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Consumer Reports on Reliability of Gas Furnaces & Pellet Stoves


Alliance for Green Heat, December 1, 2012 - Wood and pellet stoves are a secondary fuel of choice for many of us who primarily heat with oil, propane or electricity. But when it comes to cost savings, gas furnaces provide the cheapest form of fossil fuel heat. Choosing a reliable brand of furnace is still important, and the December 2012 issue of Consumer Reports advised consumers to think twice about York furnaces which broke down about twice as often as other brands.

Bryant, Trane and American Standard furnaces needed repairs the least often, according to the Consumer Report survey of 32,251 appliances bought by subscribers of the magazine. Many other brands, including Carrier, Rheen, Ruud and Lennox, held up nearly as well. Consumer Reports also has excellent general advice about purchasing a gas furnace.

Consumer Reports has never done a large survey of wood or pellet stove reliability, although they did test and review 6 pellet stoves in February 2011. The magazine gave highest rating to the Harman P68, which, at $3,900, was also the most expensive of all the pellet stoves they reviewed. A close second to the Harman was the Napoleon NPS40 which cost only $2,350, and rated higher than 3 other more expensive models from Lopi, Enviro and Quadrafire. At the bottom of the list was Summers Heat 55-SHP10L, made by Englander, but that model only cost $1,300 and is often considered a good value.

Consumers Reports has never tested wood stoves, so don't subscribe thinking you will find any ratings or recommendations for wood stoves. Both wood and pellet stoves deserve far more attention from consumer organizations as there is little reliable third party testing and reliability surveys. The testing that Consumer Reports did of pellet stoves in 2010 did not include efficiency, reliability, noise levels for pellet stoves or how much electricity the stove drew.  The Alliance for Green Heat will be testing popular pellet stoves in the fall of 2015.  See here for more details.  The Alliance is also pursuing actual efficiency data of pellet stoves from the EPA, who initially declined to release the actual efficiencies of popular pellet stoves.  The Alliance asked the EPA for a final determination on this matter and still hopes that the EPA will release this data.

Wood stoves are inherently more reliable and often need little repair, other than cleaning the chimney annually and replacing the gaskets every few years. However, the durability of many wood stoves, while a selling point, can also be a drawback because many people keep their old, inefficient and polluting stoves for too long, not realizing that newer ones can save them up to 50% on fuel cost and be far better for their health.

Uncertified Imported Stoves Openly Sold on Craigslist


Alliance for Green Heat, December 3, 2012 - New Masport wood stoves, made in New Zealand but neither certified by the EPA nor exempted, have been advertised in the Washington DC area on Craigslist for several years. A recent photo on Craigslist shows a room with multiple new, boxed Masport wood stoves for sale:



The Craigslist ads were recently removed, likely as a result of EPA enforcement action. However, the stoves are still being sold according to the person answering the phone number in the ad. The Masport stoves are advertised for sale at “$1,500 or best offer.”

The full description of the ad read: “New Masport Panorama Wood Burning Stove, still in box, minimal assembly required. ... This wood burning stove is a high efficient low carbon emission. This quality stove costs for over $3,000. 3500 sq. ft. heating capability!!!!!!!!!! ... If you have any questions or interest in purchasing, please call 703-XXX-XXXX. Delivery available for an additional charge!”

If you are aware of someone selling uncertified stoves that have not been approved as exempt, send it to EPA enforcement at sanchez.rafael@epa.gov.

Update: Dave Wenham, the New Zealand manufacturer of Masport stoves, said the company was "surprised to see one of our products for sale in North America." He also told the Alliance for Green Heat that the stoves appeared to have been manufactured prior to 1993, but could not confirm whether Masport stoves were sold in the U.S. prior to the 1988 NSPS regulations.   

How a Green Label Transformed Sales of Wood Stoves in France


Alliance for Green Heat, December 3, 2012 - By the year 2000, the French wood stove industry knew it had to change. Wood smoke from older wood stoves was becoming a greater problem and the R&D needed to make much cleaner appliances was lagging. Industry also needed to work better with the French government to show their technology deserved tax credits. The result was Flamme Verte, a green label recognizing the cleanest stoves.

France set a goal to have 9 million homes heated with wood by 2020, a 50% increase over the 6 million homes that used wood at the time, using the same amount of fuel because the new appliances were so much more efficient than the older ones.

Today, the French wood stove industry is one of the most robust in Europe, selling more than 450,000 units per year. Germany follows with around 400,000. As of 2010, the French industry had created 21,130 jobs and was estimated to hit 38,000 by 2012. The industry estimates that the sector represents a potential source of more than 100,000 jobs by 2020 if the goals are reached.

To read the complete French stove industry report, click here.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Experts Discuss Stove Programs for Low-Income Families


Alliance for Green Heat, November 29, 2012 - The Alliance for Green Heat and Pam Porter of P Squared Group have begun an informal network of groups and state agencies exploring stove programs aimed at low-income families. The first call of the Network included state officials from Wisconsin and Maryland, the EPA, and Innovative Natural Resource Solutions, a consulting firm working on a stove program in Massachusetts.

Wisconsin is developing a pellet stove program for LIHEAP recipients while the Massachusetts project involves cordwood appliances and firewood dealers. The Maryland rebate program is not confined to low-income homes and is seeking ways to better reach low-income families. The Alliance for Green Heat has been consulting with numerous state programs and also urging states to include wood stoves in energy audits, weatherization programs and treat stoves more fairly in energy assistance programs. For more information, please contact Melissa Bollman at melissa@forgreenheat.org.

Maryland Expands Eligibility in Stove Rebate Program


In an effort to make more low and middle-income families eligible for its clean burning wood stove rebate program, the Maryland Energy Administration (MEA) is waiving the professional installation requirement under certain circumstances. The MEA is also allowing families who heat with wood or pellets to use the rebate to buy a new, replacement stove. Previously, the MEA only wanted to serve homes that did not have an existing wood or pellet stove. As of November 28, the MEA has received around 40 applications for the rebate and has funding for 100. MEA says that it hopes to extend the program next year.

Here are changes, as described by MEA:

MEA is now accepting qualified self-installed wood burning stoves with documentation of inspection. To accommodate those who are qualified to install stoves at their own home, MEA is now accepting self-installations. The agency wants to ensure that the stoves are safely installed and running efficiently, therefore they are requiring that those self-installed stoves are accompanied by documentation that the stove has been inspected post-install by either a county inspector or an insurance adjuster. In the case of an insurance adjuster’s inspection, a typed letter on the company’s letterhead stating that the installation has been inspected and meets all codes/safety requirements of that jurisdiction will suffice as documentation. In the case of a county building inspector, a “passed” photo or copy of the inspection sticker will suffice.

MEA is now awarding grants for the upgrade of older/less efficient woodstoves. With technology upgrades, MEA now offers the same incentives to households with less efficient stoves, as newer stoves are more efficient, cost effective and environmentally friendly. All other requirements still apply to applications.

For more information see http://energy.maryland.gov/Residential/woodstoves/index.html.

Questions? Contact Kyle Haas at khaas@energy.state.md.us.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Forty Teams to Compete for Spots in Wood Stove Decathlon


October 31, 2012 - With only one day left before the registration deadline, more than 40 teams have registered for the Next Generation Wood Stove Design Challenge.

“We are thrilled by the amount of interest we received and are pleased that the judges will have a diverse pool from which to select finalists,” said Melissa Bollman, Program Manager for the Design Challenge. In January, the judges will convene at the Brookhaven National Laboratory to select up to 16 finalists to be tested and judged at the Wood Stove Decathlon in November 2013. Finalists will be announced on January 31, 2013.

The 40 registered teams come from 14 countries, representing all continents except Antarctica. Most are based in the U.S., Canada, and Europe, but several are from less-developed countries like Mexico, Columbia, India and the Philippines. The five student teams include the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Purdue University and University of Maryland, winner of the 2011 Department of Energy Solar Decathlon.

The Wood Stove Design Challenge pits well-known American stove brands with garage inventors and college students for the $25,000 prize and title of best next generation wood stove. Finalists will be tested next November by EPA accredited labs onsite at the National Mall in DC. A panel of recognized wood stove experts serving as judges will select the finalists, oversee testing and choose the winners.

Competitors represent a range of wood stove technologies

The competition is designed to be as inclusive as possible, giving all cordwood stove developers the chance to demonstrate why their particular technology is the cleanest and most efficient in the world. Although teams are not required to disclose technical details at this early stage, it appears that several will be using oxygen sensors to regulate combustion, 4 are masonry heaters, 2 are catalytic hybrids, 5 use high-tech European technology, and 8 are smaller, less high-tech designs for use in smaller homes or in the developing world.

“We are excited to see some of the new R&D from the international cook stove movement being applied to heating stoves,” said John Ackerly, President of the Alliance. “One of our goals is simply to bring together innovators, manufacturers, regulators, testers and funders to learn from each other and see what innovation works the best in different applications.”

Earlier this month, the Alliance decided to remove one of its minimum eligibility criteria that barred stoves with less than 1.5 cubic foot fireboxes from entering. “We hoped that dropping the minimum firebox size would open the competition to more teams from colder regions of the developing world who need very affordable heaters,” explained Ackerly. The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, a public-private partnership that focuses on the universal adoption of clean cookstoves and fuels, is a partner of the competition. Other partners include Popular Mechanics, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and the Washington State Department of Ecology.

Sponsorship opportunities are available to help underwrite the competition, contact Melissa Bollman (melissa@forgreenheat.org) to learn more.

Minimum Wood Stove Efficiency Standards Will Save Consumers Millions


Efficiency standards will benefit both consumers and industry

Alliance for Green Heat, October 29, 2012 - Efficiency standards being proposed by Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) are requirements placing limits on the energy consumption of appliances and equipment, and they have become benchmark standards for a range of appliances and devices, including office equipment, heat pumps, and air conditioning equipment.

MEPS have stimulated the economy by saving consumers and businesses billions of dollars in utility costs, money they can now spend in other areas. The Department of Energy estimates that efficiency standards have saved an average of $15 billion a year, a figure expected to double by 2025. And federal investments in these standards are paying off: every federal dollar has net an average of $650 in energy savings.

Efficiency standards for wood and pellet stoves and boilers are a good investment. A large portion of the savings in the residential sector come from efficient space-heating equipment, as space heating accounts for 30% of US energy bills and is often the greatest expense for low-income families. Efficiency standards for gas furnaces are estimated to save 46 trillion BTUs of natural gas annually by 2020 and 108 trillion BTUs annually in 2010, enough to heat more than 2 million homes for a year. Similar regulations for wood stoves would reduce our nation’s wood and pellet consumption and give homeowners extra capital to put back into the economy.

Standards in the wood and pellet industry are direly needed. Currently wood and pellet stove efficiencies range from the mid-80s to as low as the 30s for new stoves, based on high heating values (HHV). Pellet stoves, which are widely believed to be more efficient than wood stoves, are often less efficient because of excess air to keep the glass clean. Low-efficiency stoves consume excessive amounts of wood, increasing the running cost and wasting natural resources. Stoves that are low efficiency due to incomplete combustion also release higher amounts of noxious gases and particulates, pollutants that pose health risks to households and their surrounding communities.

Some opponents of efficiency standards make the case that mandatory standards are unnecessary and if left unregulated, consumer demand for more efficient products will naturally drive manufacturing of increasingly more efficient technology.

However the lack of standards may actually limit the ability of demand to drive advancement in the industry for all price points. Without MEPS, high-efficiency is often treated as a “special feature” by manufacturers, coupled with deluxe options on high-end stoves; these more expensive models may not be regularly in-stock and available to most consumers or in their price range. As suggested by one study[1], in an imperfect market manufacturers prefer this sequestration of high-efficiency products because it maximizes profits: they can charge high-income consumers more for appliances with this “special feature,” giving them as much efficiency as they are willing to pay for, while offering low-income consumers less efficiency than what they pay for. Furthermore, as customers take a number of features into account when purchasing an appliance (e.g. color, size, sticker price, and manufacturer) and because of the lack of variety in available and affordable high-efficiency models, many consumers are resigned to settle for mediocre models that will cost them much more in the long run.

It also should be considered that in many wood-heated households the residents have little choice in the stove installed in their homes. According to a 2009 survey by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), 1.7 million rented households in the U.S., a good number falling in the low-moderate income bracket, heat primarily with wood. Landlords are more likely to have low-efficiency equipment that is cheap upfront but saddles tenants with expensive energy bills each month.

There is concern that mandatory standards will significantly increase the purchase price of stoves, making them out of reach of the low-income communities that rely on them the most. However, this has not been proven. DOE efficiency standards for both refrigerators and central air conditioners did not lead to any significant price increase, as some had feared.

the EPA have the potential to save consumers millions in fuel costs and help bring biomass stoves and boilers into the mainstream of heating equipment in the U.S. All major consumer appliances have or will soon have minimum efficiency standards, particularly in the HVAC sector. Success of minimum efficiency standards for other appliances provides compelling evidence that efficiency standards can help drive technology forward, leading to benefits for health, industry, consumer finances, and the environment.

MEPS are gaining traction in developing countries that have larger low-income populations that can benefit from lower fuel costs. In Latin American, mandatory MEPS now exist Mexico, Brazil and Uruguay on a product-by-product basis. The growth of MEPS is expected to continue as more and more countries work to reduce energy use and reduce reliance on fossil fuels, and as MEPS become more widely recognized as a very cost effective measure.
 
AGH’s has previously published a blog article on this topic:  http://forgreenheat.blogspot.com/2012/08/the-efficiency-debate-required-or.html


[1] Fisher, Carolyn. “Who Pays for Energy Efficiency Standards?” Resources for the Future Discussion Paper 4-11. Feb. 2004.