Report documents economic benefit of New Hampshire wood heating

By NH Wood Energy Council | October 20, 2016

The NH Wood Energy Council, a not-for-profit public education and outreach organization, recently released a report documenting the economic and environmental benefits of heating community, commercial and institutional buildings with modern wood chip and pellet technology.

NHWEC analyzed the use of wood fuels in calendar year 2015 in hospitals, schools, municipal buildings and private businesses across the state. In the last 10 years, over 120 new installations have been made, nearly always replacing imported heating oil.

Key findings of the 2015 analysis include:

- Savings in annual heating costs (versus average fossil fuel cost) - $11.8 million

- Direct spending on local fuels (wood pellets and chips instead of exporting fuel dollars for oil) - $5.8 million

- Total value of economic impact generated - $35.9 million

-  Net reduction in CO2 emissions (by switching to wood fuels) – 69,091 tons

“It’s clear that advanced wood heating technology is generating significant benefits for New Hampshire, said Rick DeMark, coordinator of the NH Wood Energy Council. “Modern, clean wood chip and pellet boilers are now heating a wide array of bigger buildings in our state. By switching to wood fuels, we keep our fuel dollars here, support our local economy and improve our forest resource base.”

The study documented wood fuel use in these buildings at 7,500 tons of pellets and 94,000 tons of wood chips during 2015. These fuels are nearly entirely produced within New Hampshire, supporting hundreds of jobs.

The study did not evaluate residential use of wood and wood pellets, which has also grown dramatically in NH. A study of U.S. Census Bureau data by the Alliance for Green Heat found that wood use as a primary heating fuel grew over 90 percent from 2000 to 2010 in New Hampshire, to over 8 percent of households, or about 36,000 households.

“NH exports over $600 million for fossil heating fuels annually,” said Charlie Niebling, a consultant with Innovative Natural Resource Solutions and author of the study. “We can sustainably displace about 25% of this with modern wood heating from New Hampshire forests. This transition can create jobs and economic opportunity at a time when other low-grade forest product markets like pulp and paper are declining, and support good forest management.”

Niebling added: “Policies that can help support modern wood heating of bigger buildings include the thermal incentives in the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, the PUC’s rebate programs for pellet boilers, and the use of Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative funds to support municipal projects. These support very important economic contributions to the state, and help us meet overall greenhouse gas emission reduction goals.”

The NH Wood Energy Council maintains an interactive map feature where people can learn more about modern wood heating installations all over the state. The map feature can be accessed here. All data and assumptions of the analysis are available upon request by contacting Richard DeMark, coordinator of the NH Wood Energy Council, at (603) 279-5340.

The NH Wood Energy Council is a public-private education and technical assistance initiative to promote advanced wood heating, and supported by the USDA Forest Service. It is coordinated by North Country Resource Conservation & Development Council.