Off the back burner

Rick Gould looks at the effects of wood-burning stoves on air quality 

Last September, London’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan, called for strong restrictions on wood-fuelled stoves, following reports that burning wood makes a big contribution to particulate air pollution. His proposals included a ban on solid fuels in low emissions zones. A report published in 2017 jointly by King’s College London (KCL) and the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and released in early 2018 confirmed the link between wood-burning and poor air quality.

But this research also showed how complex the situation is; for example, the team found a downward trend in emissions, while the levels of particulate emitted strongly depends on the type of wood-burning appliance. 


The rise of the stove

According to the Stove Industry Alliance (SIA), the sector’s trade body, UK suppliers sell about 175,000 stoves annually, with around a million stoves sold over the past decade and a greater proportion in London. This growth has been catalysed by schemes such as the Renewable Heat Incentive, the Merton Rule, and the perception that wood is a cleaner, greener, low-carbon source of energy. 

Indeed, the SIA adds that “modern wood-burning stoves are virtually carbon neutral when using current burn technology”. 

However, wood-burning can also emit considerable amounts of ...

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