Concord Steam, which burns wood chips to provide steam heat for 96 buildings in downtown Concord, including much of the state government office complex, has been struggling with financial and technical issues for years – and today it threw in the towel.

If the state PUC approves the plan, Liberty Utilities will buy Concord Steam for $1.9 and switch its customers to conventional natural gas heat.  Here’s the story in the Monitor.

Concord Steam appears to be New Hampshire’s only steam-heat system that serves multiple buildings, what is known as a “district heating” arrangement. Such systems are more common in big cities – movie-makers just love moody shots of steam coming out of street grates – and offer some hope for energy efficiency through co-generation (as in Boston, for example).

Not in Concord, though. We’re still reading all the documents, but it appears that Liberty is basically buying access to customers; it has no plans to use the downtown power plant or any of the underground pipes. And it includes a no-compete clause that would apparently keep anybody else from using them in the future, either.

The switch away from wood will be a small but non-trivial blow to the region’s biomass-energy market, which is already struggling to make headway in the face of cheap gas.


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