The key issue that has been constraining woodfuel market developing in this country is confidence: users lack confidence in existing supply chains, but these will not expand or proliferate until there is further evidence of demand. Northern WoodHeat has been able to utilise the experience and strengths of project partners from all three countries to develop sustainable local supply chains by researching and demonstrating woodfuel production techniques that integrate with and complement existing natural resource management goals and methods to meet local needs.
At the same time it has been able to design training programmes and produce and circulate literature to improve woodfuel expertise in addition to raising awareness and understanding of the benefits that woodfuel markets can deliver to users, producers, the wider community and the environment.
The main issues that have been addressed by Northern WoodHeat are:
Economics – The project has trialed trialed different woodfuel harvesting, production and transport techniques to determine which are economically viable at the small/medium scale, and which are most beneficial to long term forest development. Unmerchantable timber can be used for woodfuel and well developed, efficient woodfuel supply chains can greatly improve the financial viability of thinning operations. Woodfuel markets provide an opportunity to recover biomass that would otherwise be lost to competition-based mortality by providing a market for tending and early pre-commercial thinning.
Rural development – Different business models for woodfuel supply have been encouraged including those based on the estate/farm, community and co-operative formats, in order to open up woodfuel markets to as many potential suppliers as possible.
Implementation – The project has helped stimulate active long term support for woodfuel markets amongst key interest groups, such as policy makers, forest resource managers, architects, builders and housing managers, through carefully planned and co-ordinated PR strategies.
Building expertise – The findings from the project trials have been and will continue to be widely disseminated and educational material and training courses, such as the online training course, have been developed through international co-operation. This will help ensure further market development after the end of the project.
Sustainability – Through integrating woodfuel development with natural resource management, local energy markets and local socio-economic structures the project will improve the sustainability of woodfuel.