New Hampshire is the first state to fully add thermal renewable energy to its Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), going beyond electricity to also include heating.
That's important because in New Hampshire and many other states, most fuel use is for heating, not electricity.
The state's RPS requires renewable energy to supply 23.8% of electricity by 2025. Starting January 1, 2013, a portion of that must be from thermal sources, such as solar hot water, geothermal heating and cooling or wood pellet boilers.
In fact, incentives are the same for solar, geothermal and biomass project developers as for renewable electricity projects like solar PV and wind.
The law sets annual targets for thermal and ramps up slowly, and applies to residential, commercial and industrial projects, from solar hot water for homes or businesses to geothermal for hospitals or nursing homes.
Projects receive up to $29 per megawatt-hour of thermal energy in the form of Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs), which are sold to utilities to finance capital costs associated with installation.
"This is an important step forward in efforts to gain equal consideration for thermal energy," says Joseph Seymour, Executive Director of the Biomass Thermal Energy Council. "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."
"Now is the time for other states to consider New Hampshire's leadership," he continues. "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."
30 states and Washington DC have a mandatory RPS. Eight of those states include very limited provisions for thermal (AZ, IA, MA, MD, NC, OH, VA and WI) and several are considering expanding their program to include thermal (MA, MD and VT).
The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates the northeast US states export more than $20 billion in consumer wealth each year because of its dependence on imported heating oil.
New Hampshire Governor John Lynch supports a national RPS, which would help the US reach 25% renewables by 2025.
State RPS are the key policy behind the growth of renewable energy in the US: