New Forest households try wood fuel to escape rising fuel costs

Wood fuel households

Published Thursday 4 April 2013

As fuel costs rise, a small but growing band of New Forest residents who want cheaper, cleaner energy are increasingly looking at wood fuel boilers instead of fossil fuels and the national grid.

Although only 0.5% of boiler sales in Britain are biomass, they are widely used in Sweden, Germany and Austria.

Installation costs for wood fuel boilers range from about £5,000 for split log versions to about £13,000 for pellet boilers, with woodchip boilers somewhere in between. Logs are the cheapest fuel but require more work to prepare. Pellets are more expensive but are more automated, and are available in bags from local companies like New Forest Energy.

Running costs for boilers fired by wood pellets compare favourably to other types of fuel. Wood pellets are 4.2p per k/w hour, compared to piped gas at 4.8p per kwh and oil at 6p per kwh. Conventional alternatives, LPG at 8.7 per kwh and electricity at 15.3p per kwh, are even more expensive.

The Government is also expected to expand renewable heat incentives (rhi) to domestic households to promote conversion to wood fuel boilers this summer. As part of this scheme, average sized households with biomass boilers or solar thermal panels could receive tariffs worth about £1,400 a year for up to 20 years for the hot water and heat they generate and use themselves.

Georgie Watson, from the New Forest Land Advice Service, which is promoting the use of biomass boilers, said: ‘As fuel prices continue to rise, wood fuel in the New Forest is a real and sustainable alternative. Biomass boilers are a renewable, low carbon energy source and after the initial installation costs are a cheaper alternative to many other fuels.’

Alison Barnes, chief executive of the New Forest National Park Authority, said: ‘There is a huge opportunity in the Forest for wood fuel. This has been recognised recently by the Government, highlighting National Parks as a place we should be piloting this technology. This is not only good for the local economy but good for nature as well.’

Liz Rolfs and her husband Bill Peach have been living in their newly built green home near Sway since December. They have solar thermal collectors, a heat recovery system and insulation at their four bedroomed detached home. But what’s become an increasingly important heat and hot water source is their biomass boiler.

They paid £13,000 to have a wood pellet boiler and buffer installed in their garage, which was partly paid for by a £1,000 renewable heat premium payment (rhpp) from the Government.

Although the start-up cost is sizeable, Liz has already noticed how much cheaper it is to run. In their last home they paid £3,000 a year for their oil fired boiler. Liz estimates bags of wood pellets for their new boiler will only cost them £600 a year. They’re also expected to benefit from the Government’s proposed renewable heat incentive (rhi), which is due to be expanded to domestic properties later this year.

Liz said: ‘Our main motivation was environmental. We wanted to generate our own power. We didn’t want to depend on the national grid and be at the mercy of price hikes from the power companies.

‘I’d say most houses in the New Forest could benefit from a biomass boiler. It doesn’t have to go into your home or garage. I’ve seen them in out buildings with pipes running into the home.

‘You have to have it installed by experts, especially if you want to take advantage of government incentives which require certification of the product and the installers. You also need storage room for the bags of pellets. But we’re looking at getting a hopper to make it easier. We’re very happy with it.’

Local businesses, community projects and enterprises should be aware that the Sustainable Development Fund (SDF) could assist in funding the purchase of equipment such as briquette maker. If interested please contact Andy Brennan on 01590 646676 or email

If anyone needs advice about installing biomass boilers or producing wood fuel, please contact Georgie Watson on 01590 646698 or email

Picture caption: Bill Peach and Liz Rolfs at their home which is heated by a wood fuel boiler

Background information

To find out more about the Government’s renewable heat incentives scheme go to

To find out more about New Forest Energy go to

About the New Forest Land Advice Service

The New Forest Land Advice Service is available to landowners and occupiers who would like advice and support on a wide range of issues relating to land management. The advisors operate across the National Park, the Avon Valley and the coastal plain. Since the service started in 2010 it has advised more than 300 businesses.

The service offers:

■ A free and independent service for the land managing community in and around the New Forest and Avon Valley

■ Support for landowners, farmers, New Forest Commoners, equine owners, graziers and community groups

■ Advice to anyone who owns or manages a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC) in the area

■ A small grant scheme which can support capital works which benefit the landscape, biodiversity and cultural heritage of the area.

To find out more about the New Forest Land Advice Service, or arrange a visit, please call 01590 646696 or email

About the New Forest National Park Authority

Protect - Enjoy - Prosper

The New Forest National Park Authority’s statutory purposes are to:

■ Conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the Park - Protect

■ Promote opportunities for understanding and enjoyment of its special qualities – Enjoy.

We also have a duty to:

■ Seek to foster the social and economic well-being of local communities within the Park – Prosper.

The New Forest National Park was designated in March 2005. Its unique landscape has been shaped over the centuries by grazing ponies, cattle and pigs which roam free. Majestic woodlands, rare heathland and a spectacular coastline provide fabulous opportunities for quiet recreation, enjoyment and discovery.

Media Contacts:

Sion Donovan, Communications Officer, New Forest National Park Authority

Tel: 01590 646639


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