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February 28, 2019

King, Collins, Welch, Kelly Reintroduce Biomass Thermal Utilization Act to Bolster Home-Grown, Renewable Efficient Energy

Bipartisan, bicameral legislation incentivizes the use of energy efficiency biomass heaters for residential and commercial installations

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Angus King (I-Maine) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), and U.S. Representatives Peter Welch (D-Vt.) and Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) today reintroduced bipartisan, bicameral companion legislation that would incentivize the use of energy efficiency biomass heaters in homes and businesses instead of relying on fossil fuel energy. The Biomass Thermal Utilization (BTU) Act would amend the federal tax code to incentivize the use of energy efficient wood boilers, stoves and heaters through tax credits for capital costs incurred in residential and commercial installations. Tax incentives already exist for many other forms of renewable or efficient energy, and this bill seeks to achieve parity between those systems and thermal biomass systems. By offering these incentives, the legislation would encourage people and businesses to upgrade away from oil boilers to efficient wood-pellet boilers.

“Biomass is an affordable, environmentally-friendly renewable energy that helps people heat their homes and businesses and ensures Maine’s forest products can be used efficiently from stump to stem,” Senator King said. “By incentivizing biomass options, we can lower energy costs, further our independence from fossil fuels, leverage the use of Maine’s natural resources, and strengthen our economy.”

“Wood biomass is a cost-effective, renewable, and environmentally friendly source of energy that helps individuals heat their homes in the winter months and creates jobs here in Maine,” said Senator Collins.  “By providing biomass thermal energy technologies the same tax treatment as other forms of renewable energy, this legislation would encourage the use of highly efficient biomass heating systems.”

“Biomass heating systems are a great way to reduce heating bills while improving the environment,” said Representative Welch.  “Using a regionally sourced fuel like wood will reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and spur Vermont’s local wood fuel industry. This bipartisan legislation will make it more affordable for Vermonters to energy costs and increase our energy independence.”

“By leveling the playing field for the biomass industry we are supporting the creation of jobs, reducing energy costs, and benefiting the environment,” said Representative Kelly. “It is especially crucial to our rural communities that we make modern wood heating more affordable, and the BTU Act will do that and grow the market for this renewable fuel.

Specifically, 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 biomass heating property to the list of existing technologies that qualify for the commercial renewable energy investment tax credit in the federal tax code.

According to industry advocates, thermal biomass systems can reduce heating costs by 20 to 50 percent. Wood pellets, a common biomass fuel, cost roughly the equivalent of $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. 

U.S. Senate co-sponsors of the bill include Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.). U.S. Representatives Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) and Ann Mclane Kuster (D-N.H.) are also co-sponsors of the bill in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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