Bruce Allen’s Insight | March 2023 

Welcome to my insight to the March 2023 HETAS monthly newsletter.

It has been a busy start to 2023 and following a long heating season, some warmer weather is on the horizon. Since August 2022 we have seen a big increase in interest and uptake for wood burning and multi fuel stoves. Overall, we had a near 35% increase in website sessions and during some months our searches for registered installers and sweeps were up by over 300%. 

With a big increase in interest, there is of course increased scrutiny, the recently published Defra emissions of air pollutants report led to some negative press coverage for wood burning. We have worked hard with our PR agency to challenge any of this coverage that is untrue along with our own direct response to consumers through our website, social and direct communications. We all know that domestic, outside, commercial and industrial burning produces particulate emissions and like the motor industry, we have our part to play in reducing the environmental effects. I had some really positive discussions with Harry Wallop of the Daily Mail and the iNews and our Head of Technical Calvin May undertook radio interviews to present the case for how we can reduce emissions from wood burning. We have also updated the guidance in our article about the facts behind the ‘ban on stoves’ headlines and are pleased to see so many of you sharing this on your websites and social channels too. The recently published Environment Improvement Plan clearly states that the government is not considering a ban on domestic burning in England and it recognises that some households are reliant on solid fuel burning for heating, hot water and cooking. This means it’s all about how we can encourage the right fuels to be burnt in the best appliances and for people to employ the best and cleanest burning practices. Additionally, a ban on domestic outdoor burning would be considered disproportionate. We are also starting to see progress from the Welsh government on their plans, also covered in this newsletter and we hope to see developments in Scotland. The plans in Scotland also identify that 79% of households using solid mineral fuel in Scotland as their primary fuel type are in rural areas and that around half of households (46%) using solid mineral fuels in Scotland are fuel poor compared to the national average of 25%. It also identifies that emissions from burning wood depend on the type of appliance and the dryness of the wood and other factors include the way the householder burns the wood and uses any appliance. Maintenance of the appliance and the chimney also have an impact, as do burning practices. HETAS, Woodsure and our registered businesses (manufacturers, retailers, installers, chimney sweeps and servicing technicians) are well placed to support these plans. 

We have also seen growing numbers joining the HETAS Approved Biomass Maintenance scheme in recent weeks as the deadline approaches for Ofgem to start undertaking checks on non-domestic RHI participants records of maintenance on their systems. Thousands of participants now have their evidence available having had their boilers maintained by registered businesses on the HETAS scheme, but there are many more still needing to evidence this. If you do offer a biomass maintenance service, get in touch with the team to find out more about the requirements. 

We are also seeing a great deal of media coverage relating to the government’s ambitions and plans relating to net zero. Ministers say they want the UK to have the cheapest electricity in Europe by 2035, but admit the strategy is unlikely to bring down bills next year. For renewables, we await the governments biomass strategy, which is reported to be published over the coming weeks. The focus on biomass extends to Europe where similar discussions are taking place. Many discussions reference ‘sustainable biomass’, something we fully support. We await further details on these plans as government works towards net zero targets. 

Recent press coverage [1] Department for Energy Security and Net Zero spokesperson said: “The UK only supports biomass which complies with our strict sustainability criteria. The use of biomass has helped to dramatically reduce the use of fossil fuels, reduced our exposure to volatile global gas prices, and provided an additional source of energy to bolster our energy security and independence. 

“Details of how biomass can further contribute towards both our energy security and net zero will be set out in our forthcoming biomass strategy.” 

This month, we also look at the success of the Burn Better campaign, there’s an update on the progress of clean air plans in Wales, the risk of asbestos as Asbestos Awareness Week starts on the 1st April and much more. 

I hope you have an opportunity to take a break from work over the Easter bank holiday. Our office will be closed on Friday 7th and Monday 10th April for the bank holiday break.  

Happy Easter from myself and the HETAS team. 



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