C. Clean Stove Research
The advances in reducing emissions from biomass stoves and furnaces in the US have been largely the result of engineering innovation in the private sector with virtually no government support for research and development. The Department of Energy has funded extensive research on many other renewables, but advances in residential biomass heat have not been as fast or as complex as those in the solar PV industry. The government’s interest (as well as funding) towards biomass as a renewable energy source has been almost exclusively focused on its conversion to ethanol fuel for use in the transportation sector (Fig 7).
Figure 7: Government subsidies by biomass use (DSIRE)
For produces that may sell only 10,000 units or less in a year, the cost of testing is a significant barrier in bringing a product to market. Unlike the “white” appliances (refrigerators, dishwashers, dryers, etc.) that sell hundreds of thousands of units, wood and pellet stove makers have a harder time absorbing regulatory costs. Alleviating this with federal or state funding may spur a wave of new technological advances, making stoves even cleaner burning.
Figure 8: Comparison of biomass appliance emission rates (Alliance for Green Heat, EPA, NSCAUM, WA State) * EPA and WA State Figures are maximum allowable, all other figures are typical emissions as reported by the EPA
Technological advances made in Europe with wood and pellet boilers and furnaces have generally outstripped most American companies, partly because there is a much greater demand for cleaner burning furnaces in Europe, which is driven by strong incentives and renewable energy policies. Currently many European boiler designs and companies are being imported to America. In order for the American market to compete internationally in producing the cleanest and most efficient stove models, the prices of the American models need to be reduced to make them more available to low and middle-income families.