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Bram_ClaeysBram Claeys

Renewable Energy Policy Director, Department of Energy Resources

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Winter is here – maybe even a real New England winter this time. We’ll huddle around to watch the bowl games and maybe even turn up the heat. But before you touch your thermostat, consider how your heat is generated. In all probability, you use either a boiler or furnace fired by natural gas or heating oil. Perhaps you use propane or even (let’s hope not) electricity.

The latter options especially can turn out to be pricey. But there’s good news: alternatives are available. Efficient renewable heating is coming, and if the Mass. Department of Energy Resources' (DOER) recommendations are followed, it’s here to stay.

One renewable path opened up with the launch of DOER and MassCEC’s $100,000 pilot incentive Woodstove changeout program to assist residents to trade in their inefficient wood, wood pellet, or coal-burning stoves for safer, more efficient, and cleaner models.

Qualifying residents can get a voucher of either $1000 or $2000 (depending on income) to replace older, non-EPA certified stove models with high efficiency stoves that use less wood and release fewer particulates into the air.

Efficient renewable heating is an attractive alternative to warming your home with fossil fuels; it can save you money, does not have the same supply constraints, and is cleaner. The efficient wood stoves in the change out program use less wood and produce fewer airborne particulates. Your family will appreciate the better air quality – so will your neighbors.

Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell notes that “this program is a great example of how state agencies work together to support our clean air goals, as well as clean energy goals. Because new wood stoves emit approximately 70 percent less pollution than older, conventional stoves, MassDEP worked with our partner agencies to ensure that the change-out program targets the less-efficient stoves and significantly reduces local particulate emissions.”

The woodstoves pilot program is just part of a broader program to support renewable heating and cooling. The MassCEC Commonwealth Solar Hot Water program is already stimulating an important approach to renewable heating in the residential, commercial and public sectors. There is more on the way.

Watch for additional pilot initiatives from a DOER / MassCEC / MassDEP partnership:

  • Outdoor hydronic heater change out
  • Residential wood pellet boilers (more sophisticated systems than wood stoves)
  • Industrial/commercial wood boilers
  • Residential and commercial air source and ground source heat pump programs
  • Community district energy financing
  • Renewable thermal business investment financing programs

These projects can help us gain experience with and build the marketplace for exciting, cost-effective and environmentally friendly new systems for our northeast climate.

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