Environmental benefits of wood energy

The production and use of wood as energy has clear benefits for the environment as wood is a renewable resource which is carbon neutral and reduces waste and pollution when used as fuel.

Renewable resource

When managed responsibly, forests are renewable and sustainable. Therefore, wood is a renewable resource and a sustainable form of energy. This is a benefit when compared to other forms of fuel (like fossil fuels) which are non-renewable and will eventually run out if they continue to be used at the current rate. 

Carbon neutral

Wood energy is good for the environment because it is carbon neutral. This means it does not contribute to the greenhouse effect because the carbon released when wood energy is used is offset by the carbon absorbed by trees during growth. Organisations can reduce their greenhouse gas footprint by switching to wood energy.

Reduced waste and pollution

Organic waste (including wood waste) makes up a large proportion of New Zealand’s overall waste (40% in 1997). Large volumes of organic waste are a problem because they cause landfills to fill up faster and release harmful substances (e.g. leachate and methane) when they break down. These substances can contaminate water supplies and contribute to global warming when released into the environment.

However, the use of wood as fuel for energy enables the clean disposal of wood waste and reduces the amount of wood waste sent to landfills. In fact, even the ash left-over from a wood boiler can be spread on the garden as fertiliser. This approach is consistent with New Zealand’s waste management strategy.

All fuel results in some form of pollution when used to create energy. For wood, this includes ash and air pollution. However, wood energy, such as wood pellets, creates far less air pollution than alternatives such as coal. This creates health benefits for those who are working with the fuel (such as school caretakers). Wood also results in far less ash and other remaining material than fuels such as coal (less than 10% of that left by coal) and the little material that does remain can be used as a soil conditioner on gardens.