We all want a greener future and there is no doubt that we must act to lessen the impact we have on the planet. There is after all no plan B. The choices we have to heat our homes are numerous, but are limited to some individuals due to cost. In the past the UK has relied on the use of fossil fuels which are finite, and the burning of these fuels has an costly impact on the environment. The UK along with other European countries are looking to the future, and have collaborated to commit to targets to lessen the impact we have. They have also focused on the sustainability of fuels and resources when considering our future. Certainly lots of investment has been made in renewable sources, but these do not match the need for energy the consumer has.
Recently there has been some focus in the press on the impact of burning solid fuels in the home has on the environment and health. Indeed the burning of solid fuels in a domestic setting has risen in the past decade. The reason for this are numerous ranging from aesthetics, control and reliability of fuel, cost etc. Pollutants are produced whenever any fuels are burnt, they produce gases and particles. Electricity is seen as a clean fuel but the source of its production will vary. In the UK we have 78 wood fired power stations, and 3 coal fired plants. These produce pollutants to produce electricity.
Pollutants can however be controlled, and Hetas and Defra are working to improve air quality within the UK. It is true that solid fuel stoves will not be banned in the future, but within the industry there is a campaign to burn cleaner. This is driven by a number of initiatives.
The shift away from using open fires and older models is one. The latest models of wood burning and multifuel stoves are Ecodesign ready, Defra exempt, and many have the clearSkies award. These tests look at the gases a stove emits plus the particle matter. Modern appliances often meet all the energy and efficiency criteria, and go far beyond Ecodesign criteria in terms of reducing emissions and increasing efficiency.
Focus on the quality of the fuel being burnt. Woodsure have been running a 'ready to burn ' campaign. This aims to educate homeowners on their choices of fuel, and the importance of operating your appliances efficiently so a clean burn is achieved. The use of 'virgin' wood and treated wood contributes significantly to the production of pollution and particles. These type of fuels should never be used within a domestic setting. However wood fired power plants are allowed to use these sources and one plant alone can produce 2.307 tonnes of small particles per year.
Finally we do need to move towards having a carbon neutral footprint and wood is carbon neutral if sourced from a quality local supplier. Recently due to shortages the energy industry have been importing biofuel from Canada and other far flung sources which obviously adds the carbon footprint of the electricity produced. Also in the UK the Conservative government have given the OK to re-opening a deep coal mine which will have devastating impacts on the environment.
It is clear that investment in the future relies on the development of greener appliances to heat our homes and the more these can be developed, and the cost of installation reduced so it is affordable to all is key. The production of electricity also needs investment away from atomic, fossil, and solid fuels. So, we can all look forward to a greener sustainable future.