The market for non RHI biomass appliances

Robert Burke, HETAS, makes the case for the inclusion of more wood burning stove appliances under the RHI

Although the domestic RHI has been a great success for the biomass industry, there is one area which can’t get support from the RHI schemes. This is namely the wood burning stove industry. In terms of renewables, they use wood and biomass, but are excluded from the RHI. The only appliances in this sector which are eligible for RHI support are pellet fired stoves with boilers if they have MCS approval.

This leaves all the other types of stoves on the market. These range from quite simple dry stoves through to modern highly efficient and clean burn stoves and stove/boilers. Some can be used on sealed systems and the range of options, sizes, and control choices has been developed to the stage where many of the modern appliances offer exceptionally high efficiencies. The range available will satisfy everything from the casual user to those with serious intent to save carbon and gain some real fuel independence from their gas, LPG and oil suppliers.

The stove market has been incredibly buoyant over the past four or five years with a 50 percent increase over the last five years and sales are still strong. It’s estimated that around 180,000 stoves are sold in the UK every year. The strong stove market is driven by consumers looking to save money on their fuel bills, coupled with the introduction of more modern and efficient designs. The Stove Industry Alliance estimates that wood burning stoves could account for 10 percent of the government’s carbon reduction targets by 2020, and there is a strong argument for including them in the domestic RHI.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that consumers are now using wood burning stoves rather than switching on the full central heating system which in rural areas may be running on expensive oil or LPG. Modern wood burning stoves use clean burn technology, resulting in low CO emissions when using high quality wood with a low moisture content.

Many of the stoves currently being installed are replacing older, less clean burning and efficient models so there are real benefits to air quality and to the efficient use of fuels as a resource. There are also great benefits in using stoves listed on the DEFRA smoke control website as these have been tested with the fuels they use and are proven to have reduced emissions. Most towns and cities are smoke control areas, and any stoves installed in those areas must be a DEFRA exempt one, and because these are now widely available it’s possible that more people are installing stoves in urban areas as well as in traditional rural homes.