Thanks to Charlie Niebling of New England Wood Pellets and his intrepid band of organizers at BTEC, Maine Pellet Fuels Association, Pellet Fuels Institute, New York Biomass Energy Alliance, and Alliance for Green Heat, among others, the second annual Heating the Northeast Conference held last week in Manchester, NH, was an energizing event to a sold-out house.
Business representatives from all corners of the “biomass thermal” world were present to show their wares, share information, and plan for the future of the fuel and paradigm switching that must come as petroleum products become increasingly scarce and quests for them carry ever higher environmental risks.
During the event NH Senator Jeanne Shaheen made a virtual appearance throwing her support behind the important transition and behind bills that are working their ways through the Senate to incentivize the installation of renewable resource technologies for space and water heating. In addition, the State of New Hampshire made an announcement that it would provide incentives to home owners of 30% of the cost of newly installed qualifying biomass central heating systems up to $6,000. Oh, that all State governments were as forward-looking.
I left this year’s event with a couple of very strong feelings. First, in two ways, this conference felt a bit like preaching to the choir. There were few in the room who weren’t fully subscribed to the importance of a switch away from fossil fuels and toward renewable biomass alternatives. Several who weren’t fully subscribed stood up to worry out loud about over-harvesting of regional forests demonstrating both their philosophical perspectives and their need for understanding of actual harvest patterns and fiber availability in the northeastern U.S.
Unfortunately, several of those who had various podiums used their time for infomercials we all could have been spared. This was a small problem to be sure but one which should be addressed as next year’s speaking forces are recruited.
Second, the vendor display area represented a remarkable opportunity for the general public to begin to understand this technology which is commonplace in Europe but new to us. The organizers would do well next year to schedule one day for the general public to see the vast array of products, to talk with knowledgeable vendors about them, and to hear a session or two on the benefits of biomass used as a thermal energy.
The culminating experience for the Conference was the distribution of “A Bold Vision for 2025,” the work of the five organizing groups listed above. The glossy summary and the more developed white paper are both available on the Maine Pellet Fuels Association website.
In the interest of full disclosure, the author is the Managing Director of Maine Energy Systems, in Bethel, Maine. The sole regional distributor of OkoFEN boilers.