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Firewood prices

Wood on lorryWhat is happening to firewood prices and what is the likely trend over the next few years?

For some, firewood can be a free commodity, collecting windfall from the roadside or wood from the garden or smallholding when a tree falls or needs pruning, but for most firewood needs to be bought.

It doesn't seem that long ago that one could buy a 'load of logs' for £50-£60, perhaps some still can, but for most these days are long gone. So, what's happened, why have prices for raw material doubled in price over the last five years and actually risen by 15% in the last 12 months? In some cases, prices have risen to over £65 per tonne delivered as cordwood. (circa 2m lengths of round timber)

Quite simply its demand. Not only has demand for firewood risen as more people install wood burning stoves, but also more and more people seem to be returning to the wonders of a real log fire and modern day stoves are incredibly efficient making it easy to reduce home heating costs.

There is also significant demand for timber (normally softwood) to be made into woodchip and wood pellets. This fuel is more often used in wood fuel boilers for whole heating systems in larger houses, or for much larger commercial ventures such as schools and hospitals and increasingly so in agriculture where poultry farmers are moving away from gas and heating the chicken houses using biomass boilers.  You may, or may not know that Heathrow Terminal 2 has supposedly the largest biomass boiler in the UK using woodchip from within a 100 mile radius.

The government with its obligations for CO2 reductions is providing incentives for people to produce heat from renewable energy and this scheme is called the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). This appears to be working well, judging by the number of new biomass boiler installations.  However, all this is inevitably increasing the cost of raw material.

Whilst this is not good news for the consumer as prices rise, spare a thought for the bigger picture of sustainable fuel. Prices of wood five years ago was desperately low and not even high enough to cover the cost of harvest, but now prices are enabling a small return for landowners and foresters who have grown the trees for over 50 years or more. With prices so poor, woodland has not been managed properly and in a Government report in 2006 entitled A Woodfuel Strategy for England it was found that over 50% of woodland was not being managed and the target was set to get a further 2 million tonnes per year available for the wood fuel market by 2020. Better prices will now encourage more thinning of woodland and hopefully more planting.

There needs to be a balance between a fair price for the grower enabling good woodland management, and a cost of fuel to the consumer that is affordable. The correct balance will enable a long term truly renewable source of wood fuel from an everlasting sustainable supply and in doing so the nations CO2 emissions will be greatly reduced and we will all be able to enjoy the wonders of a real log fire for generations to come.


6 thoughts on “Firewood prices”

  • Paul Newton

    Surely one of the problems in buying wood is that often it is: of poor quality
    has been stored outside
    Is poor value for money by its size or weight.
    And if is heat logs have expanded and returned to
    a sawdust mush
    I think all of us who have bought wood over a period of time have been "rooked off" by unscrupulous and/or ignorant suppliers but nothing seems to be done to ensure weight/ size and quality.

  • Pete

    For people who have to buy there logs it won't be a possible way to save money on fuel bills if the prices keep rising as they have been.

  • Janice

    We are finding that imported wood is much better quality and cheaper than the locally sourced rubbish. I don't buy the carbon argument because a lot of the baltic wood is produced with modern gas-powered kilns which have a lower CO2 output than the smoky wood-fuelled ones here in England.

    • nicsnell

      You make a fair point in thinking that kiln dried imported wood is better quality than a lot of standard 'air dried' logs from the UK, but you miss the point that there is also British kiln dried logs which is what Certainly Wood specialises in and in deed we were actually the inventors of kiln dried logs about 10 years ago. All our wood is dried to an average below 20% moisture content in kilns which are wood fired using waste wood from the processing operation and we even have solar panels to produce about 8% of our electricity. We like to think this is far more eco-friendly than bringing in kiln dried logs from eastern Europe.

  • Roger

    We are also finding the imported wood better quality and cheaper. I use my old Certainly Wood bags to store our wood outside because they offer resistance to rain. One of those large crates will fill two of the CW 1.6 bags. We used to get two 1.6 bags for the whole winter, now we just get one crate. Surely it is better for the environment to pack wood more efficiently like this? One delivery produces less CO2 that two deliveries, no?

    • Nic Snell

      Yes, one delivery produces less CO2 emissions than two, but even though the imported logs are stacked in crates to come from Eastern Europe, there is only 24 crates per lorry. That's not a lot of wood per lorry all that way.