The misconception that all energy equals electricity

Often people confuse the terms electricity with energy and think that they are one and the same. This is easy to understand as the media often considers a possible shortfall in future energy supply capacity by asking “how will we keep the lights on?” . In fact, the electricity required to keep our lights on is only one part of the energy pie. The other segments are heat and transport fuels. Electricity consumption is only around 21% of the total .

By contrast, heating requires a far larger slice of the UK energy pie – around 37% . The failure to adequately heat the UK’s poorly insulated housing stock is already having a tangible effect. It is estimated that in the winter of 2014/15, 15,000 people died due to living in homes that they could not afford to heat.

A possible reason for people’s lack of understanding of the significance of heat compared to electricity is that the former is around 25% of the cost of the latter. A typical house in the UK will use around 12,500 kilowatt hours (kWh) of heating and 3,100 of electricity but because of the cost differential per unit they will pay around about the same total amount for both. As a result, they probably don’t realise they are using so much more energy to heat their homes.

Woodfuel (and other forms of biomass fuels such as straw) can provide a reasonably priced alternative heating fuel, particularly for rural properties which are otherwise reliant on oil, LPG or coal. Using biomass has the additional benefits of reducing carbon emissions and creating rural employment. Furthermore, both domestic and non-domestic buildings can benefit from the Government’s Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) – a financial scheme which is designed to increase the amount of heat energy delivered from renewable sources.