EIA: 2 million households to heat with wood this winter

By Erin Voegele | October 09, 2019

The U.S. Energy Information Administration predicts that nearly 2 million, or approximately 2 percent, U.S. households will use cord wood or wood pellets as a primary residential space heating fuel for the 2019-’20 winter.

Another 8 percent of U.S. households are expected to use wood as a secondary source of heat, making wood second only to electricity as a supplemental heating fuel.

As of 2015, an estimated one in hour rural households used wood as a primary or secondary heating fuel, compared to just 6 percent of urban households. Wood use was most common in New England, where 21 percent of households use wood.

The EIA’s forecast for 2019-’20 wood heating was included in the EIA’s Winter Fuels Outlook and Short-Term Energy Outlook, released Oct. 8.

Overall, the EIA predicts that the average expenditures for major home heating energy sources will decline for most households this winter when compared with last winter due to warmer forecast temperatures across most of the country. For the average U.S. household, the EIA predicts natural gas and electricity bills will decline by 1 percent, home heating oil by 4 percent and propane by 15 percent. The EIA also cautioned that a colder-than-average winter could lead to increases in expenditures when compared to last winter.

Even with warner forecast temperatures, expenditures are expected to increase for homes in the Midwest and South that heat with natural gas due to higher retail natural gas prices.

Regarding wood heat, the EIA currently predicts that nearly 1.96 million U.S. households will use wood as a primary space heating fuel this winter, down 6 percent when compared to last winter. This includes 303,000 households in the Northeast, down 24.7 percent; 482,000 households in the Midwest, down 5.7 percent; 480,000 households in the South, up 0.2 percent; and 692,000 households in the West, up 0.5 percent.

The EIA’s October STEO also includes updated bioenergy forecasts.

U.S. electricity generation from biomass is expected to fall to 26.7 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) in 2020, down from an estimated 27.7 billion kWh in 2019.

In the electric power sector, generation from biomass is expected to reach 27.7 billion kWh this year, including 16.7 billion kWh from waste biomass and 11 billion kWh from wood biomass. Generation is expected to fall to 26.7 billion kWh in 2020, including 16.3 billion kWh from waste biomass and 10.4 billion kWh from wood biomass.

Across other sectors, biomass generation is expected to reach 30.2 billion kWh in 2019, including 3.1 billion kWh from waste biomass and 27.1 billion kWh from wood biomass. Generation is expected to increase to 30.3 billion kWh in 2020, including 3.1 billion kWh from waste biomass and 27.2 billion kWh from wood biomass.

The U.S. electric power sector is expected to consume 0.257 quadrillion Btu (quad) of waste biomass this year, falling to 0.25 quad next year. The sector is also expected to consume 0.181 quad of wood biomass in 2019, falling to 0.17 quad in 2020.

The industrial sector is expected to consume 0.165 quad of waste biomass this year, falling slightly to 0.164 quad in 2020. The sector is also expected to consume 1.46 quad of wood biomass in 2019, falling to 1.38 quad in 2020.

The commercial sector is expected to consume 0.041 quad of waste biomass and 0.084 quad of wood biomass in both 2019 and 20020.

The residential sector is expected to consume 0.525 quad of wood biomass this year and next year.

In the electric power sector, total biomass capacity is expected to reach 6,978 MW by the end of this year, including 4,131 MW of waste biomass capacity and 2,847 MW of wood biomass capacity. Total biomass capacity in the sector is expected to fall to 6,956 MW in 2020, including 4,067 MW of waste biomass capacity and 2,889 MW of wood biomass capacity.

Across other sectors, total biomass capacity is expected to reach 6,537 MW by tend of 2019, including 862 MW of waste biomass capacity and 5,675 MW of wood biomass capacity. Biomass capacity is expected to increase to 6,567 MW by the end of 2020, including 862 MW of waste biomass capacity and 5,705 MW of wood biomass capacity.