Catch up with PFI in this issue of the Pellet Wire!

May 19, 2023

From the Director’s Desk: Vermont Includes Modern Wood Heat in Affordable Heat Act, Room Block EXTENDED

Vermont Includes Modern Wood Heat in Affordable Heat Act

The news that Vermont had passed its Affordable Heat Act caught me completely flat footed, being unaware that such an act was even being pursued there. For those of you that reached out to me to bring this to my attention, thank you. Our organization works because we’ve got members across the country who can keep an eye on the local and state policies that may impact our business. 

I’ve included the bill’s language in the Industry News section and I’d recommend having a look. While the bill is a manageable 32 pages, I recommend using the CTRL-F function to quickly find mentions of “wood”, of which there are just two. The bill proves that the long-term viability of our industry is being shaped bill by bill and code by code, with the inclusion or exclusion of our favorite space heating technology, wood pellets. 

A few excerpts for your consideration:

1. “It is the intent of the General Assembly that the Clean Heat Standard be designed and implemented in a manner that achieves Vermont’s thermal sector greenhouse gas emissions reductions necessary to meet the requirements of 11 10 V.S.A. § 578(a), minimizes costs to customers, and recognizes that affordable heating is essential for Vermonters”.

Thoughts: The opening stanza of the bill says it all. The goal of the policy is to drive down the carbon intensity of the space heating in the state. This has been and will continue to be a refrain for the next decade in state and federal policy. Energy policy decisions will all hinge on reducing carbon intensity. If a technology can’t demonstrably do that, it will face stiff policy headwinds. 

2. “The Commission shall establish the number of clean heat credits that each obligated party is required to retire each calendar year. The size of the annual requirement shall be set at a pace sufficient for Vermont’s thermal sector to achieve lifecycle carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emission reductions consistent with the requirements of V.S.A. § 578(a) expressed as lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions pursuant to subsection 8125(f) of this title.”

Thoughts: It sounds like Vermont is borrowing a concept from the Renewable Fuel Standard, the policy that provided the momentum for the rise of the biofuels sector here. Anyone who sells heating fuel is an obligated party and will have to either sell a certain percentage of qualifying heating fuels or buy clean heating credits on the open market. HEARTH RETAILERS TAKE NOTE, this may present an opportunity to generate and sell credits in the open market if you are predominantly selling wood pellets. Mark this as something to watch. 

3. “(c) List of eligible measures. Eligible clean heat measures delivered to or installed in Vermont shall include: (1) thermal energy efficiency improvements and weatherization; (2) cold-climate air, ground source, and other heat pumps, including 12 district, network, grid, microgrid, and building geothermal systems; (3) heat pump water heaters; (4) controlled electric water heaters; (5) solar hot water systems; (6) electric appliances providing thermal end uses; (7) renewable electricity systems paired with heat pumps or electric appliances providing thermal end uses, including on-site and community-scale renewable electricity systems; (8) advanced wood heating; (9) non-combustion or renewable energy-based district heating services; (10) the supply of sustainably sourced biofuels; and (11) the supply of green hydrogen.”

Thoughts: As we’ve thought and warned, policymakers are beginning to get more prescriptive regarding which technologies may be used to satisfy energy needs in the future. Our aim is to ensure that wood pellets are included. While not named specifically, we are confident that item #8, modern wood heating, includes pellets. I fully expect this will require further definition and debate. Is a pellet insert considered “modern wood heat”? How about a wood stove? If I am in the firewood business, can I generate clean heat credits? What about pellet retailers?

4. “Review of consequences. The Commission shall periodically assess harmful consequences that may arise in Vermont or elsewhere from the implementation of clean heat measures and shall set standards or limits to prevent those consequences. Such consequences may include deforestation, conversion of grasslands, or the creation of new methane to meet fuel demand."

Thoughts: This is a nod to our detractors. We all know that fiber demand from wood pellet producers is not financially significant enough to catalyze a timber harvest. However, anyone who has followed our recent advocacy efforts with the International Code Council knows that the fallacy of pellets causing deforestation is a rallying cry of our opponents. While Vermont policymakers didn’t completely take the bait and eliminate wood from its list of eligible sources, the inclusion of this language makes it clear that this assertion, however baseless it may be, is being heard and included in policies. 

There is lots more in the language of the bill to chew on and our organization and membership would be wise to heed what it foretells for the state policy environment in the future. 

PFI 2023 Annual Meeting 

Room Block EXTENDED. Book by SUNDAY, May 21

The Pellet Fuels Institute Annual Conference will begin in just 3 weeks. Have you made plans to attend? While registrations for the conference can be completed up to and including the opening day of the event, it is vital that you book your room no later than Sunday, May 21

You can make your reservations at the Hyatt here

It is worth noting that the conference venue provides a front row seat to the country’s largest urban bat population. If you are a music fan, there is also a statue of the great Stevie Ray Vaughan nearby as well. 

Booking a conference hotel room sounds like a great Friday afternoon task as you clean up from your week. We hope to see in Austin. 

—Tim Portz
 Executive Director

PFI 2023 Annual Conference
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Photo of the Week:

Come Golf with this Guy: Bruce Lisle and the Energex story showed up in our Industry News section this week. Anna Simet from Biomass Magazine wrote a comprehensive origin story about Bruce and his work to build Energex. Bruce is an annual fixture at the PFI Golf Tournament and if you are really lucky, you might end up in his foursome whereby you can pick this industry veteran’s brain about all things wood pellets, aviation or grandchildren. 

Photo Credit: Tim Portz


Send Us Your Photos! Help us build a collection of photos of our members, their pellet mills, and products! Send images to Tim Portz at [email protected].

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Industry News

EIA Monthly Densified Biomass Report (now with February data)

As of February 2023, the monthly data collection included 78 operating manufacturers of densified biomass fuel. These manufacturers had a total production capacity of 13.02 million tons per year and collectively had an equivalent of 2,537 full-time employees.

View Data


Heating Degree Days Data

Heating Degree Day Data Weekly Summary
Climate Prediction Center-NCEP-NWS-NOAA
Accumulations are from July 1, 2022 to May 13, 2023

View Data


From the History Books

In an article dated May 11, 1982, United Press Canada reported that BioShell Inc.—a wholly owned subsidiary of Shell Canada Ltd.—was planning to build a “wood densification plant” in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, to produce fuel pellets from wood waste. The plant was to be the first of its kind in the province, but similar to others the company had in Hearst and Iroquois Falls, Ontario, including BioShell’s initial densification operation—a sawmill residue-to-brick plant that was built in 1980. 

Read Article


Vermont Affordable Heat Act Becomes Law

The Vermont House, on May 11, voted 107 to 42 to override Gov. Phil Scott’s veto of the Affordable Heat Act, which is designed to affordably reduce greenhouse gas (GHGs) in the state’s thermal sector through efficiency, weatherization measures, electrification and decarbonization.

Read Article


Affordable Heat Act Bill 

Introduced by Senators Bray, Baruth, Campion, Clarkson, Cummings, Gulick, Hardy, MacDonald, McCormack, Perchlik, Ram Hinsdale, Watson and White.

Read Article

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