South Yorkshire Woodfuel

Economic Context

Why heating with woodfuel makes economic sense

Modern technology means that wood, the oldest of fuels, can now be burnt efficiently cleanly and with the minimum of fuss. If you are about to invest in a replacement boiler for your building, or are involved in developing a new building project, it pays to take the long-term view. By considering woodfuel as an option you will be helping the environment, helping the local economy and saving money on the 'whole life' heating costs for your building. Recent research, and local experience has shown that woodfuel.

  • is a lot cheaper fuel than many fossil fuels and can compete on price with gas because of the raising costs of fossil fuels on the world market and taxation such as Climate Change Levy (CCL)
  • when 'whole life' costs are taken into account, biomass works out as the most economic option
  • is pound for pound the most cost effect renewable option at reducing carbon emissions.
Technology Capital Cost (£/kW) Payback after costs (Years)
Solar Thermal 800 32
Solar PV 5500 92
Wind Small 3500 19
Wind Large 800 3
Woodchip Fuel 350 7
Wood Pellet 400 27
GSHP 800 30

Based on heating fuel @ 3p/kWh, electricity @ 8p/kWh
Courtesy National Energy Foundation June 2005

  • avoids the burden of landfill charges for 'clean' reusable wood/timber residues
  • where woodfuel comes from local sources it promotes a 'closed economic cycle' whereby the financial benefits are retained within an area or region. Within South Yorkshire the activity is already sustaining and creating new jobs which contribute to economically sustainable rural communities and land based employment.
  • provides a market for low value timber which would otherwise have no use or economic value.
  • creates a local market for trained installers and service engineers as well as delivery infrastructures. As woodfuel clusters develop, a whole industry will emerge which will need supporting locally, generating further employment and business opportunities
  • in certain cases grants may be available to help with new installations thus spreading the financial & economic risk of the development (link to grant funding funding page)

How does the cost of woodfuel compare with other fuels and systems?

The capital costs of installing wood fuel boilers currently tends to be higher than a gas equivalent, but when assessing a project on a "whole life cost" (see below) basis, biomass tends to work out cheaper than hydro-carbon based fuels like gas.

The cheaper cost of woodfuel over time, pays back the initial higher out lay for the capital equipment. Annual running costs such as servicing are similar to that of a gas installation.

Whole Life Cost (WLC) calculator available via BRE from this site.

Costs Comparisons with other Renewable energy systems

The table provides an illustration of comparable costs for the various technologies listed (GSHP = Ground Source Heat Pump) with fuel prices as at June 2005

Global and National context - find out more about global and national steps being taken to reduce carbon emissions.

Economic advantages - as fossil fuel costs rise woodfuel is becoming a realistic alternative - How does the cost of woodfuel compare with other systems?

Environmental benefits - woodfuel is the renewable fuel which cuts down on carbon emissions and benefits the local environment

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