Bruce Allen’s Insight | January 2024 

Welcome to my insight to the January 2024 HETAS monthly newsletter.

 As I write this first newsletter welcome of 2024, Christmas already feels like a distant memory. It’s been a busy start to the year; the first cold snap of winter has arrived and there has been a great deal of debate surrounding wood burning stoves. 

Just last week we saw the very first Clean Air Night, brought together by Global Action Plan. The night was introduced to “shine a light on the uncomfortable truth on wood burning” and the industry responded to several misleading or incorrect claims purported by the campaign. We utilised our consumer contacts, reaching out to tens of thousands of stove users to provide simple, factual guidance on best stove practices, aiming to educate consumers on the responsible way to burn.  

The Environmental Improvement Plan (2023) confirmed that domestic burning isn’t being banned and we have heard a multitude of passionate cases supporting domestic burning. Many consumers are choosing their stove as their primary heat source – this highlights the industry’s duty to encourage responsible burning through factual education in an effort to minimise its environmental impact. 

In addition to encouraging responsible burning, HETAS is keen to see that relevant legislation is appropriately enforced. We know that during an energy crisis and with costs continuing to rise across all aspects of daily life, people turn to whatever means to keep warm. However, this should not be at the detriment of the environment, air quality, or people’s health. A recent Freedom of Information request highlighted the need for a greater understanding of source apportionment, something the industry has been calling attention to for many years. 

We know that not all wood burning is the same: 

  • Modern Ecodesign compliant stoves produce 90% less particulate emissions than an inefficient open fire. 
  • In London, 70% of wood burnt is on open fires – this is inefficient and an offence in smoke control areas. 
  • There are many other sources of particulate matter (PM) in the home, such as cooking, that release far higher levels of indoor PM compared to modern wood burning stoves. 
  • HETAS Cleaner Choice certified products must demonstrate at least a 50% improvement on clean air particular emissions, with some products achieving as much as a 70% improvement. 

Over the coming weeks we will see the publication of Defra’s Emissions of Air Pollutants in the UK report, containing statistics on annual emissions for the period of 1970-2022. This data comes from the National Atmospheric Emissions Inventory (NAEI) which is compiled using internationally agreed methods and a wide range of survey and administrative data sources (including sources from government departments, agencies, and commercial organisations). We will share the details of this report with you as soon as they are available, ensuring you are kept up to date and informed. Following this, two additional reports are due to be published: Defra’s Air Quality Statistics will be releasing shortly, followed by the National Atmospheric Emissions Inventory (NAEI) report being published in early summer. 

The Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) has also recently published its annual progress report, providing an assessment of government’s progress towards legally binding environmental targets and the goals of its Environmental Improvement Plan (EIP), covering 1 April 2022-31 March 2023. The OEP’s report finds that government remains largely off-track to meet its environmental targets and goals and must considerably increase the current pace and scale of action if it is to achieve them. The OEP’s report makes several recommendations, including an effective implementation of the EIP through a detailed delivery plan and the requirement of developing and implementing an effective monitor, evaluation, and learning framework. Specifically focusing on clean air and domestic combustion, the OEP’s report highlights how technological development alone is not sufficient to tackle air pollution; education and awareness also need to improve. Our industry must play its part here. 

Once again, our Book a Sweep campaign is running this January – March. The campaign focuses on the fact that, on average, approximately 40% of chimney fires in England take place between January and March. We have launched an online campaign, further supported by direct mail shots to educate consumers on their fuel selection and encourage stove users to have their chimneys swept and their appliances serviced. Last January, we saw an over 300% increase in pageviews on the HETAS chimney sweep search in comparison to January 2022. We have also continued our partnership work with fire and rescue services and local authorities. You can get involved in the campaign over the coming months – we have a range of assets available on the HETAS website and through our social media channels, including a short informational video on our YouTube channel. 

We have also seen the publication of the National Audit Office’s (NAO) response to the Biomass Strategy (2023). HETAS will be reviewing the strategy and the NAO’s report. Both documents can be viewed in the links below: 

As always, the HETAS team is here to support you. Contact our technical team to discuss your installation and appliance-related questions, they would be more than happy to support you. Thank you for your ongoing support, professionalism, and passion for our industry. 

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