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This is a new piece of legislation that we have been aware of for a couple of years now and it has finally come to fruition. The Air Quality Regulations have now been approved and the regulations will come into force in May 2021.

These are proposals by Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) to encourage the cleaner burning of domestic fuels. They introduce measures that will tackle harmful emissions from using wood burning stoves and open fires in homes.

The regulations will phase out the supply of:

  • Traditional house coal for domestic combustion
  • Wet wood sold in units of up to 2m3 and
  • Introduce sulphur and smoke emission limits for manufactured solid fuels

The changes will be phased in between 2021 and 2023, with all sales of small volumes of wet wood being phased out by 2022 and sales of house coal by 2023.

It is important to note in this legislation Defra make it very clear that they are not banning stoves or open fireplaces or to prevent their use or installation. The aim is to encourage people to move from burning more polluting to less polluting fuels. They are encouraging a move away from burning wet wood to burning dry wood and from traditional house coal to low sulphur solid fuels and smokeless coal.

It is recognised that there are still some people who use coal as their primary heat source and have coal delivered by their local coal merchant and these people will need longer to switch to alternative fuels. For this reason, the traditional bagged house coal will be phased out by May 2021 and loose coal direct to consumers by May 2023.

The requirement for firewood sold in volumes under 2m3 to be dried to below 20% moisture content will apply from May 2021. It is however recognised that smaller firewood producers (less than 600m3 per annum) will struggle to meet this target date so these suppliers will have an additional year to comply – so, by May 2022.

So, from summer 2021 retailers will only be able to sell logs that are from an authorised supplier who has achieved the necessary standards as set out by the present Woodsure/Ready to Burn certification scheme, although it is possible other certification bodies my pop up. It will also mean that you will only be able to buy logs delivered to your home, from an approved supplier, unless you are buying in volumes greater than 2m3 in which case you can store and dry your own stock.

It will of course be a difficult one to police but presently the Woodsure scheme randomly check its 150 or so approved fuel suppliers to ensure their logs are supplied within the correct moisture content. This is a pretty rigid system presently and is the only way to ensure compliance. After all, this system needs to be robust and needs to work in order to help reduce harmful particulate emissions from domestic wood burning at home.

We welcome the new legislation and something we have been pushing for since we started our business in 2005 and became the first firewood supplier to be approved under the initial HETAS Solid Biomass Assurance Scheme. Indeed, we helped with the layout of the scheme.


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