Calls for Clarity on Diseased Timber use as Renewable Fuel

With large amounts of British woodland being felled in an attempt to counter the increasing threat posed by diseases such as Phytophthora ramorum and Chalara fraxinia (Ash Dieback), one of the Midland’s leading producers of renewable wood chip fuel for use in biomass heating systems has called for greater clarity on any restrictions that may be in place for use of infected timber.

As areas of infected woodland are identified and quarantine measures taken by the Forestry Commission such as issuing woodland owners with statutory Plant Health Notices that require infected trees to be felled, an increasing amount of timber is becoming available for potential commercial use.

Simon Lloyd-Jones, director of Edge Renewables Ltd, said: “Spurred on by a combination of high energy prices and the Government’s Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) that pays non-domestic consumers to generate heat from renewable sources,  biomass heating is becoming ever-more popular and is set to help the UK reach its legally-binding targets for lowering greenhouse gas emissions.”

“As a producer of renewable wood-chip fuel that uses timber from sustainably-managed sources, it’s unclear within our sector as to the level of restrictions that are, or may be put into place to avoid the further spread of the diseases by transportation and processing of the timber into wood chip.

“I appreciate that there’s obvious biosecurity measures that need to be made whilst leaving an infected area of woodland – such as disinfecting footwear, tools and vehicles, but if we’re transporting infected timber and processing it alongside normal, healthy wood, then are we leaving ourselves open to restrictive quarantine measures?”

Lloyd-Jones continued; “ The growing wood fuel sector needs a lot more clarity from government and its agencies in order to  ensure that it can help prevent the further spread of disease, whilst putting the timber to use in helping lower carbon emissions from the heating sector.”

Phytophthora ramorum is of particular danger to species of larch, but can also affect beech, horse chestnut, sweet chestnut, red oak and sessile oak. As it’s common name suggest, Ash Dieback – or Chalara fraxinia - is of greatest threat to ash trees and it’s estimated that the disease has been responsible for the loss of between 60 and 90 percent of Denmark’s ash trees – so it is a significant threat to the UK’s woodland.

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