U.S. Senator Angus S. King, Jr. (I-ME) today introduced legislation, cosponsored by Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), that would recognize and promote the economic and environmental benefits of biomass thermal energy. TheBiomass Thermal Utilization Act of 2013, or BTU Act, would amend the federal tax code to incentivize biomass energy, as it already does for several other forms of renewable energy. Currently, a host of renewable energy technologies qualify for investment tax credits for capital costs incurred in residential and commercial installations. This legislation seeks to achieve parity between those renewable systems and thermal biomass systems.
"At a time when steep energy prices drain the pockets of families across Maine and America, thermal biomass systems, like wood pellet boilers, offer a responsible and efficient way to generate clean energy, save money, and invest in our local economies," said Senator King. "When Mainers purchase wood pellets, they're not only buying a home grown and home harvested product, but they're also directly contributing to the creation of jobs and the economic health of our state. My legislation supports that effort by placing thermal biomass systems on a level playing field with other renewable energy technologies so that Mainers and Americans can better access a more affordable, sustainable, and environmentally-friendly source of energy."
"From ensuring that federal housing and energy programs recognize wood pellet technology to helping ensure that biomass systems are included among the incentives for renewable energy, I strongly support efforts to promote biomass, which directly benefits Maine's economy," said Senator Collins.
"We welcome Senator King's leadership in this ongoing battle to get Maine's home-grown renewable fuel accorded the same tax incentives as virtually all other forms of renewable energy," said William Bell, Executive Director of the Maine Pellet Fuels Association. "This is not just about heating homes. More than anything, it's about jobs; the jobs that can be created by spending our fuel dollars here in Maine. We commend Senator King for making this one of his first legislative initiatives."
"Senator King's bill would provide highly efficient biomass thermal equipment the same incentive that exists for nearly every other renewable energy technology, including solar thermal and electric, wind, and geothermal," said Joseph Seymour, Executive Director of the national non-profit Biomass Thermal Energy Council. "Thermal energy is typically the forgotten pathway in our national energy discussion, so the Senator should be commended for recognizing biomass thermal technologies as a base-load, local, and affordable option within our tax code."
"We applaud Senator King for his leadership in introducing this critical piece of legislation," said Jennifer Hedrick, Executive Director of the Pellet Fuels Institute. "Our current energy policy largely overlooks thermal energy produced from biomass. Simply stated -- the BTU Act bill is good for job creation and the environment, and is a huge step forward in putting biomass thermal energy on a level playing field with competing renewable energy technologies."
The BTU Act would:
Underscore that heat from biomass is an underutilized energy source in the United States
Add biomass fuel property to the list of existing technologies that qualify for the residential renewable energy investment tax credit. To qualify, the biomass fuel property must operate at a thermal efficiency rate of at least 75 percent and be used to either heat space within the dwelling or heat water
Add open-loop biomass heating property to the list of existing technologies that qualify for the commercial renewable energy investment tax credit in the federal tax code. Qualifying biomass heating property must operate at thermal output efficiencies of at least 65 percent and be used to generate heat, hot water, steam, or industrial process heat. The credit would be two tiered: for technologies that operate at thermal output efficiencies between 65 and 80 percent, the investment tax credit is limited to 15 percent of installed capital cost. Technologies operating at thermal output efficiencies greater than 80 percent would be eligible for the full 30 percent investment tax credit.
BACKGROUND: According to industry advocates, thermal biomass systems reduce heating bills by an average of 40 percent. With respect to wood pellet boilers, pellets cost roughly the equivalent of $1.70 to $2.00 per gallon of heating fuel. Additionally, nearly every cent of biomass heating investments is returned to the local economy whereas 80 percent of every heating oil dollar is sent out of the state. In New York State and New England, it has been estimated that for every 100,000 tons of pellets manufactured, 342 direct jobs are manufactured.
Several organizations and 36 schools in Maine, including Kingfield Elementary Schooland Strong Elementary and Middle School, operate on thermal biomass systems.