Woodfuel - background and UK government policy


Pile of woodchips awaiting transportWoodfuel is not new and comes in many forms. For many centuries, man has been using it in one form or another to heat his dwelling places.

Over time as new technologies have developed, interest in wood in particular has been rekindled, but all too often this resurgence of interest has been misplaced and we have seen many opportunities for progress come to nothing.

However, today under the banner of reducing the use of fossil fuels and to help mitigate the effects of climate change, we see a very real social and economic opportunity for woodfuel, woods, and forests, to make a difference.

In relation to generating heat and electricity, the UK forest industry is being inundated with requests for information on woodfuel supply and in order to support this new and developing market sector we must not let our current lack of knowledge and understanding become a barrier to progress.

UK Government policy

Power station cooling towers. Port TalbotThe UK Government is committed to increasing the use of renewable energy to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The recent energy white paper outlined four objectives for energy policy:

  • To work towards a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of some 60% by 2050, with real progress by 2020.
  • To maintain reliability of energy supplies
  • To promote competitive markets in the UK and beyond
  • To ensure that every home is adequately and affordably heated.

The aims for the UK Government's policy on new and renewable energy are:

  • Assisting the UK to meet national and international targets for the reduction of emissions including greenhouse gases
  • Helping to provide secure, diverse, sustainable and competitive energy supplies
  • Stimulating the development of new technologies necessary to provide the basis for continuing growth of the contribution from renewables into the longer term
  • Assisting a UK renewables industry to become competitive for home and export markets and in doing so provide employment in a rapidly expanding sector
  • Contributing to rural development.

The Government proposes an initial 10 year strategy in collaboration with industry to help meet the above aims. The strategy will comprise a number of key elements including:

  • Stimulation of various market sectors through:
    • A new renewable energy obligation
    • Exemption from the climate change levy
    • Demonstrations of new technologies.
  • The establishing of a regional planning and development control infrastructure
  • A collaborative research, development, demonstration and dissemination programme
  • Removal of legal and administrative barriers.

The Government's target is that by 2010, 10% of the UK's electricity sales will come from sources eligible for the Renewables Obligation. The Obligation is itself underpinned by capital grants for emerging technologies, and the New & Renewable Energy R&D programme.