May 27, 2013

New Massachusetts Coalition Presses for Thermal Energy in State Renewable Energy Policy

A coalition of organizations focused on renewable heating technologies has formed to press for support from the Massachusetts Legislature in 2013.

“The Massachusetts Renewable Thermal Coalition (MRTC) is led by national and regional trade organizations involved in technologies and fuels that can reduce dependence on fossil heating fuels and boost job growth in new clean energy sectors,” says Charlie Niebling, a principal at Innovative Natural Resource Solutions, LLC, and co-founder of the coalition. “The lead organizations include the Solar Energy Industries Association, the New England Geothermal Professionals Association, The Renewable Natural Gas Coalition, GEO Exchange, the Massachusetts Forest Alliance, and the Biomass Thermal Energy Council.”
The MRTC is urging support for Senate Bill 1593, which will add renewable thermal energy technologies and fuels to the Massachusetts Alternative Portfolio Standard. Enacted in 2008, the APS currently provides support for a range of renewable electricity technologies, but not thermal energy (heat). According to State Senator Barry Finegold of Andover, the prime sponsor of S. 1593, “For the last decade, the Commonwealth has been a leader in promoting technologies that generate renewable electricity. But until now, our renewable energy strategy has lacked similar incentives for renewable heating fuels. This bill closes that gap and brings us one step closer to achieving the goals set forth in our Global Warming Solutions Act of 2008.”

Similar legislation is under consideration in Maine, Connecticut, Maryland, New Mexico, New York and Colorado, and in 2012 New Hampshire passed a bill to include renewable heating fuels in their Renewable Energy Portfolio.

“Thermal energy represents more than one-third of all energy consumed in Massachusetts,” says David O’Connor, former Commissioner of the MA Dept. of Energy Resources. “Despite this, support for renewable heat through state policy has been very limited, while promotion of renewable electricity generation gets significant attention.”

MRTC has launched a website to promote the coalition’s objectives and to generate support for passage of S. 1593. The address is

Examples of renewable thermal technologies include solar hot water for heating buildings and water; geothermal (ground and air source heat pumps) for heating buildings; advanced wood pellet and wood chip boilers for heating buildings and hot water; renewable natural gas from landfills for heating buildings and hot water; and liquid biofuels such as bio-oil made from wood waste or biodiesel made from waste vegetable oil – also for heating buildings and water.

Massachusetts has a burgeoning industry of mostly small businesses that are actively promoting these alternatives to heating oil, propane and natural gas – all non-renewable fuels that must be imported into the state. But renewable heating systems, as is typical of many clean-energy technologies, have a high capital cost to install. Adding thermal energy to the MA APS will provide incentives to overcome both high capital cost as well as operating costs.

According to Niebling, “All renewable thermal technologies have widespread application in residential, commercial, institutional and industrial space heating. Passing this legislation is a great opportunity to capitalize on that potential.”

MRTC welcomes support and involvement from anyone interested in promoting renewable heating technologies and fuels. Those interested are encouraged to visit the website to learn more.

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