The Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS), which requires energy providers to meet a certain percentage of their energy needs from renewable sources, has been adopted in 29 states, but New Hampshire is the first state to include thermal energy on the same terms as electricity.
Renewable energy certificates (RECs) will be worth up to $29/MWh of energy produced by qualified thermal projects until 2025. The RPS will now offer the same incentives to biomass thermal projects that biomass-to-electricity plants currently have in many states.
The move was welcomed by the Biomass Thermal Energy Council (BTEC). "This is an important step forward in efforts to gain equal consideration for thermal energy," said BTEC executive director Joseph Seymour. "With little happening on energy policy in Washington, efforts must focus on state policy to achieve a more fuel and technology neutral incentive structure for renewable energy. New Hampshire has led the way in showing the nation that it is possible to enhance state RPS programs by adding thermal energy."
Some eight states have limited thermal provisions in their RPS programmes, but they are generally “narrowly restricted”, said BTEC. Several states, notably are considering expanding their RPS programs to include thermal.
"Now is the time for other states to consider New Hampshire's leadership," said Seymour. "Thermal energy represents over one-third of all energy consumed in America. Energy policy that only focuses on electricity or transportation fuels ignores the tremendous economic and environmental benefits of displacing our dependence on fossil heating fuels with renewable energy."
The move comes as three senators introduced a bill that would enable a tiered corporate tax credit for 15% or 30% of the installed cost of biomass-fuelled heating or cooling system for commercial or industrial applications before 2016.
"This bipartisan bill will provide highly efficient biomass thermal equipment the same incentive that exists for every other renewable energy technology, including solar thermal and electric, wind, and geothermal," said Seymour. "The bill's aggressive two-tiered structure will promote the most advanced and cleanest biomass thermal technologies, and will help the commercial and industrial sectors-two of the nation's biggest consumers of thermal energy-switch to renewable biomass fuels that we produce here in America."
The U.S. Energy Information Agency has estimated that approximately one-third of US energy consumption is for thermal energy used in heating, cooling, and processing.