Maine report touts economic benefit from modern wood heating

Maine Forest Service
October 30, 2018
Written by Maine Forest Service
The website www.woodheatmaine.org identifies the locations of commercial/institutional facilities in Maine using modern wood heat (wood chips or pellets).
The website www.woodheatmaine.org identifies the locations of commercial/institutional facilities in Maine using modern wood heat (wood chips or pellets). Photo source: www.woodheatmaine.org
Oct. 30, 2018 - The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry's Maine Forest Service released a report documenting the economic and environmental benefits of heating community, commercial and institutional buildings with modern wood chip and wood pellet technology and fuels produced in Maine.

The Maine Forest Service analyzed the use of wood fuels in calendar year 2017 in hospitals, campuses, schools, municipal buildings and private businesses across the state. In the last 10 years, over 100 new installations have been made, nearly always replacing imported heating oil.

Key findings of the analysis include:
  • Savings in annual heating costs (versus average heating oil cost) - $5.5 million
  • Direct spending on local fuels (wood pellets and wood chips instead of exporting fuel dollars for oil) - $6.3 million
  • Total value of economic impact generated - $20.6 million
"It's clear that advanced wood heating technology is generating significant benefits for Maine, said Doug Denico, director of the Maine Forest Service. "Modern, clean wood chip and pellet boilers are now heating a wide array of bigger buildings in our state. By switching to wood fuels, we keep our fuel dollars here, support our local economy and improve our forest resource base by strengthening markets for low grade wood."

The study documented wood fuel use in these buildings at 19,000 tons of pellets and 45,000 tons of wood chips during 2017. These fuels are nearly entirely produced within Maine, supporting hundreds of jobs.

The study did not evaluate residential use of wood and wood pellets, which has also grown dramatically in Maine. It also did not document industrial use of wood as a heating fuel, such as in wood manufacturing industries. These sectors have also grown significantly in the last decade and make substantial contributions to the state's economy by displacing the need for imported oil, propane or natural gas.

"Maine remains among the most dependent states in the country on imported fossil heating fuels," said Charlie Niebling, a consultant with Innovative Natural Resource Solutions and author of the study. "We can sustainably displace a meaningful percentage of this with modern wood heating fuels from Maine forests. This transition can create jobs and economic opportunity at a time when other low-grade forest product markets are declining, and support good forest management."

The Maine Forest Service, Maine Statewide Wood Energy Assistance Team maintains an interactive map feature where people can learn more about modern wood heating installations all over the state. The map feature can be accessed here. On October 25, the 1st Maine Modern Wood Heat Symposium will be held at Northern Maine Community College in Presque Isle. The public is welcome to attend. More information can be found at www.woodheatmaine.org

All data and assumptions of the analysis are available upon request by contacting Charlie Niebling, at (603) 965-5434.

The Maine Statewide Wood Energy Assistance Team, a project of the Maine Forest Service, is an education and technical assistance initiative to promote advanced wood heating, supported by the USDA Forest Service.

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