May 4, 2018

In This Week's Pellet Wire:

 Tim Portz: Message and Messenger

On Wednesday of this week, I represented the Pellet Fuels Institute at Heating the Midwest, a regional conference seeking to expand the opportunities for biomass fuel opportunities in the Upper Midwest. I appeared on a panel titled Message and Messenger: Rethinking How Biomass Thermal Takes Itself to Market with longtime wood heat proponent Adam Sherman of the Biomass Energy Resource Center and T.J. Morice, a founding board member at the Biomass Thermal Energy Council.

I had a hand in developing the panel concept and very much looked forward to participating in the conversation. As I think answering that question of how we take the value proposition of wood pellet heat to the marketplace is an integral part of achieving our goal of reestablishing 100,000 units as the annual floor for pellet appliance sales. Additionally, it is hard to imagine a pathway to 100,000 that doesn't include strong growth for pellet appliance sales in the region. 

The Heating the Midwest website's homepage does a nice job of articulating the opportunity in the region and one table, in particular, caught my attention. The table features data from the Energy Information Administration and the Census Bureau analyzed by FutureMetrics and articulates the number of homes not connected to natural gas in every state in the region. In just Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin alone the number tops 4.5 million households. That's 4.5 million households that rely on fuel products subject to highly variable prices to satisfy their home heating needs. Without a doubt, the region has to figure into our strategic plan, but is price stability our only offering to consumers? Moreover, in periods of depressed fossil fuel prices, does our focus on home heat savings resonate with consumers enough to move them to action? 

With that in mind, I found myself thinking about the importance of expanding our value proposition to consumers. Throughout the day, in panel after panel, the importance of the broader forest products segment to rural communities across the Upper Midwest was made abundantly clear as was the importance of bioenergy to the forest products sector. Knowing all of this, I think we need to think carefully about how we take our story of adding value to the forest products sector to those people living in rural communities who depend upon the sector for jobs and economic vitality. Those 4.5 million homes in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan not connected to natural gas are largely found in those rural communities. 

The panel closed by asking each of us if we had an opportunity to take one argument for wood heat to one type of person only, what would we say and to whom. Considering these numbers I'd argue that we take our "Heat Local" message to homeowners living in the rural parts of this country for whom the forest products sector is so vital.

- Tim Portz, Executive Director

Senators Collins, Shaheen Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Incentivize Installation of Wood Heating and CHP Systems for State and Local Governments

The Community Wood Energy Innovation Act of 2018 will encourage the deployment of biomass-fueled energy systems and spur markets for low-grade, low-value wood 

Washington, D.C. - Last week, U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) introduced the Community Wood Energy Innovation Act of 2018. This bipartisan legislation promotes energy security and supports rural economies by helping to incentivize the removal and repurposing of low-grade and low-value wood. The bill would reauthorize the Community Wood Energy Program, a competitive grant program that aims to assist state and local governments with the costs of installing high-efficiency, biomass-fueled energy systems, such as combined heat and power (CHP). The Community Wood Energy Program expires at the end of 2018. 

The bill would also expand eligibility for the Community Wood Energy Program to private entities and create markets for low-grade wood by providing $25 million in annual funding to support capital investment, through matching grants, in facilities and systems that use these materials. This legislation would prioritize projects in areas with the greatest impact on local forests and those with limited access to natural gas, where this low-grade wood can be used for advanced wood heating.

 Please visit Senator Collins' website to view the full press release. 

Only 7 Weeks Till the PFI Annual Conference in Myrtle Beach! Register by MONDAY to Get the Early Bird Rate!

Have you registered yet to attend the PFI Annual Conference in Myrtle Beach next month (June 24-26)? Hotel rooms are filling up quickly so be sure to book soon! 

The PFI Annual Conference highlights the various applications of densified biomass, as well as trends and best practices within the densified biomass industry. It attracts a broad range of individuals from the public and private sectors; academia; and local, state, and national governments from North America and beyond. The conference features two days of educational sessions as well as industry exhibits, extensive networking opportunities, and a golf tournament. The golf tournament is a great way to experience some friendly competition with your friends and colleagues in the industry while playing on a top-notch course. 

The agenda, previewed by Tim Portz in Nashville and here in Pellet Wire, is shaping up nicely. See the panels and information sessions we have in store on the PFI website

Send Us Photos

We're building a collection of photos of our members, their pellet mills, and product. Send them to Carrie Annand at [email protected]. This week's featured photo is from Troy Jamieson with Somerset Wood Pellets. 

Become a 2018 PFI Sponsor in May

Don't miss the opportunity to sponsor PFI early in 2018! Sponsorship at all levels brings many perks, along with exposure for your company to the pellet fuels industry. By signing up to sponsor the association early in 2018, you will reap the benefits throughout the coming year.

The 2018 sponsorship packages include benefits such as:

  • PFI Annual Conference registrations
  • Company logo listed on the PFI website
  • 10x10 booth at the PFI Annual Conference
  • Weekly newsletter advertising
  • Website advertising
  • And more!

PFI's membership list includes more than 100 companies, and the Pellet Wire, our electronic newsletter, is sent to close to 2,000 subscribers every week. Now is the time to become a sponsor of this organization. Visit our website to explore how you can become involved.

Follow PFI on Twitter, Friend Us on Facebook, and Connect with Us on LinkedIn 

We'd like to connect and interact with PFI members and anyone else involved in pellet fuels production! 

Here's how you can help us build our online community:

  1. Follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook!
  2. Encourage your colleagues and other business associates to follow us.
  3. Send Carrie Annand news or other ideas to post on LinkedIn.

Have News to Share on Pellet Wire?

We'd love to feature your company's news in a future Pellet Wire! We want to be the first to know your company's recent developments to share them with the wider pellet fuels industry.

Please be in touch with Carrie Annand with information on your company's growth, job openings, promotions, or other news. 

Join a PFI Committee

We welcome and encourage all interested PFI members to get involved in our committees. There are many opportunities to help steer the association. No matter where your expertise and interests lie, we have a committee that will suit you. Help us plan our next conference, shape our policy agenda, lead communications outreach, or grow the PFI Standards Program. Visit PFI's website for more information. 

Upcoming Industry Events

June 24 - 26, 2018: PFI Annual Conference 

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Fuel Availability

Are you a PFI member, pellet manufacturer, or distributor that has fuel available? Email [email protected] to have your listing updated or added to the PFI website.

Industry News

Affordable Housing Embraces Automated Wood Heat 
Vermont Digger

Not that long ago, the Hollister Hill Apartments on Austin Road in Plainfield were a rather bleak example of 1970's architecture that had seen better days. The Housing Foundation, Inc. had a vision to rebuild them, rendering them into comfortable, affordable, and functional units for their tenants to call home. They did so in part by embracing renewable energy in the form of a central wood pellet boiler.

This is the third location where The Housing Foundation has installed a pellet boiler for their units, the others being Colonial Manor Apartments in Morristown and Fairground Apartments in Moretown, with hopes for future projects. Krister Adams, Development Specialist with the Vermont State Housing Authority, said, "Wood pellet boilers are a relatively simple heating system. We have found them to be cost effective and reliable. Plus, using wood as a heat source is environmentally sound and helps our local economy."

The organization feels it is important to do their part to help Vermont reach its goal of 90% renewable energy by 2050, but also, the bottom line just makes sense. "Renewable fuels are cheaper and less volatile than fossil fuels. That's essential when your residents rely on affordable rent for the long term. We can't ask them to absorb a spike in oil prices," said Adams. They also considered air source heat pumps for this property, but the economics of a pellet system made more sense.

Read Full Article

Why Pruitt's Policy Change Matters 
Energy News Network

If you have ever seen a field after a tree harvest, you know how messy it looks with forest residuals scattered everywhere. Either a bulldozer piles all the debris up and burns it in the field, or a chipping crew comes in, chips it, and takes it to a boiler at a paper mill or similar facility and makes electricity and steam. Cities like Burlington, Vermont have taken advantage of biomass resources in a big way. Pruitt's recent policy change will allow others to do the same.

Using biomass to generate electricity is part of a plan created by our Georgia Public Service Commission and Georgia Power to keep a diversified renewable energy policy alive and well in Georgia. The energy value was tied to our avoided cost projections at the time of the "request for proposals." Since then, the avoided cost and capacity costs have declined due to lower natural gas and solar prices and the amount of capacity available in our state and region.

Read Full Article


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