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Recent news coverage has detailed how our forestry sector is struggling due to a collapsing market for low-grade wood. Maintaining a working forestry economy should be a concern to all Vermonters, whether or not you or a family member works directly in the woods. Forestry and logging are a part of Vermont's rich heritage and culture which is reason enough to preserve it, but it is also a necessary cornerstone for Vermont's renewable energy economy. The Clean Energy Development Fund (CEDF) is supporting the forest products sector by promoting renewable energy that uses low-grade wood. Heating with local wood is a great way to not only grow clean energy jobs and related economic activity, but also to increase our use of renewable energy while decreasing carbon emissions. The CEDF was created by the state legislature in 2006 to increase use of local renewable energy. In its latest strategic plan, the CEDF established investing in Vermont's advanced wood heating sector as a top priority. Advanced wood heating utilizes highly efficient combustion technology, produce low levels of emissions, supports healthy forest ecosystems, and consumes local low-grade wood. A vibrant forest products economic sector needs a healthy market for low-grade wood. The CEDF cannot improve the sagging paper markets causing the low-grade wood market problems, but the CEDF is optimistic that a campaign to heat with local wood will grow a sustainable and sufficient market for low-grade wood as a renewable heating fuel for our homes, businesses, and institutions. This market in turn will support our essential forest products economy and culture. In this effort the CEDF has provided $474,000 in grants to develop the supply side of the bulk wood pellet delivery market and just under $300,000 for new pellet heating systems in schools and affordable housing to build demand for local pellets. The CEDF has also allocated close to $1 million dollars for additional grants in 2017 and has a $1.6 million program to support advanced wood heating in Windham County. Some forestry professionals are calling for State support of wood based power plants as a way to increase demand for low-grade wood. While efficient combined heat and power plants would be welcome, the limited efficiency of wood-fired electric only generation plants is a concern and they are not recommended in the State's Comprehensive Energy Plan. Vermont's electricity portfolio is already getting more renewable. Therefore, Vermont can get the biggest economic and environmental bang for the buck by using sustainably harvested low-grade wood to meet our heating needs instead of heating with imported fossil fuels that drain dollars out of our state and do not grow our own clean energy economy. - Andrew Perchlik, manager of Clean Energy Development Fund at Vermont Public Service Department.


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