Woodfuel is a renewable, low carbon fuel that can be produced from low-grade timber, which may not currently find a market. A functioning woodfuel market can make conventional woodland management more economically viable for farmers and land managers. In the UK trees, woods and forests account for 12% of the land area with over 1,000,000 hectares in England.
The forestry sector in the UK produces 9.5 million green tonnes of wood each year (primarily softwood) that goes to existing markets such as sawmills, panel industry and fence posts and employs thousands of people.
Foresters have a saying: "The woodland that pays is the woodland that stays". This means that the prospect of earning an income from woodfuel can give land owners an incentive to keep their woods in good condition and protect them, for example, keeping out grazing animals, such as deer.
Producing Wood Fuel
Biomass fuel standards have been introduced to ensure fuel entering the market meets consistent quality standards for use in heating systems.
The CEN (European Committee for Standardization) Technical Committee (CEN/TC 335) is developing a common methodology for specifying the key characteristics (size, moisture content and calorific value etc.) of all forms of solid biofuels within the EU . The draft standards are available from the Biomass Energy Centre’s website and a beginners guide to the standards is under development. HETAS is developing a scheme to certify the fuel specification of biomass.
Woodlands have developed through long-term, sustainable management. The Government's UK Forestry Standard (UKFS) sets some of the strictest standards in the world. This includes the minimum levels of environmental and wildlife protection that woodland management must achieve to comply with legal requirements and qualify for government grants and Forestry Commission felling licences.
Central Point of Expertise on Timber (CPET)
The Forestry Commission is working with Defra and other stakeholders on a protocol for providing evidence of legality and sustainability other than formal certification that would be more appropriate for owners of smaller woodlands.
How much potential wood fuel is in the country?
Woodfuel is one of a mix of renewable energies to meet our targets for reducing carbon emissions.
Forestry Commission England is focusing attention on bringing under managed woods back into production. The target is to bring an additional 2 m green tonnes of wood to market by 2020 saving 400,000 tonnes of carbon emissions a year. This volume of wood is significant, as it represents a 60% increase in harvesting in England, but is only half the annual growth of our trees, woods and forests. The England Woodfuel Strategy is targeting this resource for market development because it will bring more woodfuel to the market and benefit woodlands.
For more information on the available woodfuel resource and existing woodland areas view:
Sustainable management of wood for woodfuel production is good for wildlife, biodiversity and woodland health. Thinning, harvesting and coppicing trees for woodfuel opens up the woodland floor to the sunlight. This encourages a greater range of plants, animals and insects to flourish than if the woodland were left to become overgrown - a state that foresters call "over-mature"
Bringing more of England’s woodlands into active management could help support wildlife in one of our richest habitats. Research published in 2008 showed how flora and woodland birds were suffering from lack of management in many of our native woods. Woodland butterflies numbers are also in steep decline.
Wildlife and Countryside Link, a body that brings together voluntary wildlife organisations such as Plant Life, Butterfly Conservation, Friends of the Earth and the Wildlife Trusts, has created a position statement that fully supports the Forestry Commissions Woodfuel Strategy.