By Maura Adams
“Oil prices are low.”
“There’s more interest in heat pumps.”
“We’ve seen a lot of misinformation in the press.”
We hear statements like these all the time in the Northeast to explain why Automated Wood Heating systems haven’t taken off like they should. But this time I wasn’t in Montpelier, VT, or Augusta, Maine, I was in Upper Austria: the birthplace of wood pellet boilers, where everyone knew about Automated Wood Heat, everyone celebrated it, and sales were stable and seamless—or so we thought. After all, 35% of dwellings in Upper Austria are heated with wood (including district heating) and wood pellet boilers are common in other parts of Europe as well.
Learning that the Europeans have experienced problems similar to ours was disappointing. On one hand, if they’re so far ahead of us and still facing these challenges, how can we expect to overcome them? On the other, it affirmed that our Automated Wood Heat market can still develop, even in the face of challenges.
I was invited to Upper Austria to speak at the European Pellet Conference, part of World Sustainable Energy Days, about the brand-new “Feel Good Heat” campaign for Automated Wood Heat, which I first wrote about in my last blog. I admit that I was a little nervous about the prospect of telling the expert Europeans about our newbie strategies for selling Austrian-made boilers in the US. But I had a great time and believe that adding the Northeastern US perspective to the conversation was indeed valuable and helped show that the US market, though small and growing slowly, is active and worth paying attention to.
Europe, especially Upper Austria, will remain the center of wood pellet boiler technology for the foreseeable future—and this renewable heating choice is well-established enough that even without significant growth it will keep providing meaningful benefits to their communities, forests, and carbon calculations. In contrast, low oil prices, competitive technologies and misinformation have the potential to thwart this sector in the Northeast before it even really gains traction. That’s why it’s especially important that we use strong, consistent messages to show consumers that Automated Wood Heat is worth their investment, and why the Center remains committed to helping people switch from oil and propane to Automated Wood Heat.
I’m so grateful to the Upper Austria Energiesparverband for the invitation to share our experiences at World Sustainable Energy Days and the opportunity to meet people from around the world who are committed to wood pellet heating. Whatever challenges emerge, we’ll be better prepared to face them if we know what others are doing, learn from their experiences…and have the pleasure of sharing some lagers together now and then!