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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 March 2007, 09:05 GMT 10:05 UK
Push to exploit English woodfuel
wood chips
Energy-efficient boilers would burn wood chips
A plan has been launched in England to boost the supply of woodfuel.

Ministers say using more wood for energy could provide new rural jobs and help Britain meet its climate targets.

The new strategy, developed by the Forestry Commission, aims to source an extra two million tonnes of wood a year by 2020 for burning in boilers.

Environment minister Barry Gardiner says if this is taken from properly managed woodlands it should save 400,000 tonnes of carbon annually.

"It also has huge benefits in terms of biodiversity and improvement of habitats for all the species we want to preserve within the countryside," he told the BBC.

Burning wood is considered broadly carbon neutral because the CO2 released in combustion matches that absorbed by the trees as they grew - provided the woodland it is taken from is restocked, and that harvesting and processing does not itself use too much fossil fuel.

Biomass, such as woodfuel, currently supplies 3% of total UK energy.

'Waste' resource

The Forestry Commission strategy recommends provision of capital investment and technical advice and support for the supply chain, and highlights the need for new ways of engaging with the estimated 50-80,000 owners of woodland in England.

"Over half of England's woodlands are currently under-managed. This is a significant and sustainable resource that we want to tap into," said FC Chairman Lord Clark of Windermere.

Paul Barker of Bristol City Council with Biodiversity Minister Barry Gardiner (Forestry Commission)
Barry Gardiner (R) is shown the boiler at the Bristol nursery
"Using wood to substitute for fossil fuels means that well managed woodland can help to combat climate change."

If its targets are met, the Commission claims the amount of carbon saved annually would be equivalent to taking 550,000 cars off the road.

The plan was launched in Bristol, at the Blaise Plant Nursery. Its boiler uses clean recovered wood from the city's parks to heat greenhouses, saving 19,000 a year on fuel bills.

"We've got resources of wood - trimmings from parks and from trees in streets," Paul Isbell, energy manager for Bristol City Council, told BBC News.

"In the past we've treated this as waste, but now we're using it to heat a nursery. Before, we were using oil or bottled gas, which was not only expensive but also added a lot of carbon to the atmosphere."

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