Sustainability & environment
Wood fuel is a renewable, low carbon alternative to fossil fuels. Just like the cost savings, the greenhouse gas savings depend on which type of heating it is replacing, and are highest when it is replacing oil or electric heating (up to 90%).
Burning wood that is sensibly sourced is low carbon as the wood is from trees that grow by absorbing carbon from the atmosphere. This carbon is released back into the atmosphere either by the wood decaying or being combusted. Using biomass as a fuel allows the carbon that would be released anyway to replace fossil fuels. Sustainable forest management allows for a stable supply of wood for fuel.
Foresters replant as they harvest to ensure that the forest remains healthy and serves its important role as a carbon sink, while not affecting wildlife and biodiversity. The forestry sector in the UK produces over 9 million tonnes of green wood each year. The Forestry Commission England aims to produce an additional 2 million tonnes of green wood for fuel by 2020.
However, it is important that wood fuel is sourced responsibly, using sustainable forestry techniques. For example, foresters must replant as they harvest to ensure that the forest remains healthy and serves its important role as a carbon sink. Foresters must also avoid causing damage to communities and wildlife that depend on woodland.
The Government has developed the biomass suppliers list (BSL) to ensure that only the use of sustainable wood fuel will be supported under the RHI. These were introduced in February 2015 and are mandatory as of October 2015. The regulations are there to ensure that biomass fuel supported under the RHI provides at least a 60% greenhouse gas saving against the EU fossil fuel average.
Installations 1MWth or over, for which some or all of the fuel does not come from the list, will need an independent auditor to provide a report on their sustainability. Take a look at the Biomass Sustainability Auditors who are available to offer this service. Please note that this is provided purely for information. The REA does not endorse or recommend any of the providers on this list.