New Hampshire has the stated goal of expanding its renewable energy portfolio. An option for New Hampshire to achieve that goal is through the use of biomass fuel. The state’s vast reserves of potential biomass fuel make it particularly well suited to this source of renewable energy.
New Hampshire is considering a proposal that would allow European boilers that are approved by the European Committee of Standardization (CEN), EN 303-5, “Heating boilers for solid fuels, hand and automatically stoked, normal heat output up to 300 kW”. This report will refer to this code as the “European” code. Currently, New Hampshire only allows boilers that are approved by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code (ASME) Section IV, “Rules for Construction of Heating Boilers”. This document will refer to this code as the “American” code. Boilers built to one code are not compatible with the other code. The safety record for boilers built to each of the codes is comparable. Boilers built to the European standard generally have superior efficiency ratings and lower emissions, although some boilers built to the current American standard have comparable efficiency and emissions. Allowing the European boilers in New Hampshire would substantially increase consumer choice for high efficiency, low emission boilers.
There are important obstacles to allowing European biomass boilers into New Hampshire. It is unclear if insurance companies will be willing to cover the European boilers. Boiler inspectors in New Hampshire will be unfamiliar with the boilers, their manuals, and maintenance. The building and fire codes must also be updated across the state.
The State of Oregon decided in 2009 to allow European biomass boilers. However, as of February 2010, no European boilers had been installed in the state and the impact of the change is unknown. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts considered adopting the European code, but decided against it, because Massachusetts did not see the codes as comparable.
It is likely that the reason for the superior efficiency of European boilers is not from their safety code, but from more stringent emissions standards for boilers across most European countries. New Hampshire could seek to emulate these countries, which would encourage innovation in boiler market and might give consumers more choice in the boiler market without adopting a new safety code.
The United States Environment Protection Agency (EPA) is considering changes to its emissions standards for smaller commercial and institutional boilers. These new standards are currently slated to be unveiled in December of 2010. The new rule is likely to have a significant impact on the biomass boiler market across the country.