One notable session featured UVM Professor Cecilia Danks, PhD candidate Laura Edling, and recent UVM graduates Rachel Bowanko and Adam Wechsler presenting results from surveys and interviews they conducted to learn about the factors that affect decisions to purchase automated wood pellet heating systems. Among other findings, the survey showed that wanting an alternative to fossil fuels was the number-one reason for a majority of respondents who purchased pellet boilers.
The research team also found that financial incentives and rebates—which vary widely for wood heat systems throughout the New England and New York—also influenced buying decisions. Of the people who installed a pellet boiler, 61% cited the financial rebates as being very influential in their decision-making process, and 70% of them were very satisfied with their purchase. Conversely, 80% of people who did not purchase an automated wood heat system indicated that a higher state or federal incentive would have made them more likely to make the purchase. Information about current rebates and subsidies is available at www.feelgoodheat.org.
During a marketing-focused session, Emma Hanson, the State of Vermont’s Wood Energy Coordinator, stressed the importance of preparing a 30-second sound bite for reporters. Kelly Curran Ramsey of Curran Renewable Energy in northern New York said that the Feel Good Heat campaign’s two-page fact sheet has been helpful in converting clients to wood heat. Scott Nichols of Tarm Biomass in Orford, New Hampshire affirmed the importance of brand-neutral, independent voices in helping consumers understand this heating option.
The enthusiasm throughout the Summit for growing the wood heat market, keeping forests as forests, and deepening community connections set an exciting tone for the beginning of 2019. Participants discussed the possibility of establishing a regional working group to continue timely and relevant conversations throughout the year.
Members of the planning team for the Summit included: Maura Adams, Northern Forest Center; Bill Bell, Maine Pellet Fuels Association; Ansley Bloomer, Renewable Energy Vermont; Cecilia Danks, University of Vermont; Emma Hanson, State of Vermont Agency of Natural Resources; Scott Nichols, Tarm Biomass; Charlie Niebling, Innovative Natural Resource Solutions; Adam Sherman, Biomass Energy Resource Center; and Joe Short, Northern Forest Center.
Complete findings from the UVM research will be available later this year.