THE UK Government's recent publication of draft regulations for safer and cleaner solid fuels has been welcomed by woodfuel quality assurance scheme, Woodsure.

Woodsure, which aims to raise the quality of woodfuel in the industry, has welcomed the government’s publication of draft regulations for the Air Quality Domestic Solid Fuels Standards in England.

The draft legislation, which now passes to the Houses of Parliament for debate and amendment, will phase out the supply of smaller volumes of wet wood, in measures designed to reduce the environmental impact of domestic burning associated with the use of wood burning stoves.

Bruce Allen, chief executive of Woodsure, said: “This legislation marks a really significant step in supporting cleaner and safer choices for the use of biomass and other solid fuels.

“By phasing out wet wood which is known to emit high levels of particulates damaging to health and the environment, in favour of safer and cleaner woodfuel with no more than 20 per cent moisture content, the industry can help customers to reduce pollution and maximise heat efficiency. This is something that Woodsure has been working towards for many years.”

Once approved, the new legislation – which sets out measures to prevent harmful pollution from the domestic burning of all solid fuels – will come into force from 1 May 2021.

The full remit of the regulations will phase out the supply of traditional house coal for domestic combustion, and wet wood sold in units of up to 2 cubic metres. Sulphur and smoke emission limits for manufactured solid fuels will also be introduced.

It is proposed that these changes will be phased in between 2021 and 2023, with all sales of small volumes of wet wood being phased out by 2022 and sales of traditional house coal by 2023.

“The government is clear that it is not banning wood burning stoves. Instead, these new regulations mean that customers purchasing smaller quantities of wood – whether for their stoves as supplementary heating in winter, or for outdoor cooking and dining in summer – will only be sold dry wood with no more than than 20 per cent moisture content, clearly labelled as ‘Ready to Burn’. Those purchasing woodfuel in larger volumes will receive guidance on how to dry the wood before burning,” Mr Allen explained.

For the past four years, the Woodsure certification scheme has aimed to help people find less polluting dry wood from retailers. Labelled Woodsure Ready to Burn, the wood is verified by the non-profit organisation’s independent inspectors as having a moisture content of up to 20 per cent, which means it burns with less smoke than wetter wood.

Helen Bentley-Fox, director of Woodsure, said: “Since starting Woodsure 10 years ago, my colleagues and I have been campaigning for the right fuel for the right appliance to reduce pollution and to maximise heat efficiency. Wood burning stoves are designed to work on wood with a moisture content between 12 and 20 per cent, which means they maximise the heat at these moisture contents. Burning dry wood can reduce the particulates emitted by up to 80 per cent making a significant contribution to clean air. I am so pleased that next year burning dry wood can be enforceable.  

“Part of our role in certifying dry wood under the Woodsure Ready to Burn scheme has always been to support and guide suppliers as a critical part of the industry’s supply chain. Over the last decade I have seen many ways that suppliers can consistently meet less than 20 per cent moisture content with and without a kiln. There are ways and means that can speed up natural drying to attain that 20 per cent.

“The long lead-in time for this legislation allows producers to prepare for winter 21/22 and the smaller suppliers will have an extra year, which allows for the areas where longer seasoning is required, and for them to adapt their processes and experiment with new and different ways to improve their product. Our team remains committed to helping all suppliers of firewood, whether large or small producers, supplier, kiln drier or seasoner, to feel supported over the next 18 months as we prepare for these changes.”

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