Recent restrictions show the need for air quality and emissions reduction to go hand in hand

Wednesday 12th May 2021

Restrictions on the sale of coal and wet wood came into force on 1st May in an attempt to improve air quality and tackle pollution. Burning wet wood and coal at home on wood burning stoves and fires has been identified by The World Health Organisation as a major source of the pollutant PM2.5, the most serious air pollutant to human health.

PM2.5 can enter the bloodstream, lungs and other organs and its particles have been linked to a range of health issues in people of all ages. The particles can increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes, and worsen the build-up of fatty materials inside the arteries.

While the restrictions are a positive step towards improving air quality, many homes, particularly those in rural, off-grid areas will rely on coal and wood to provide heat, as well as using other high-carbon fuels such as heating oil. A recent survey by Liquid Gas UK found over ¼ of rural households have a wood burning stove and just over 1 in 10 use coal, with the majority using oil as their main form of heating.

As we move towards Net Zero, we will need to reduce emissions from these homes, but they are harder to retrofit, likely full of historic character, have solid walls and little fabric efficiency. They aren’t practically suited to electrification and can also be faced with high up-front costs.

Another alternative, biomass boilers, while low-carbon they have been shown to create high-levels of air pollution, particularly by releasing PM and in some cases would result in more air quality damage than using oil as shown in recent research by Ecuity.

In this study, bioLPG was found to be the most cost effective solution for transitioning large rural homes away from heating oil, offering the same high temperature that the household is used to. Switching to bioLPG carries very little up-front cost and is a far cheaper option than other solutions.

The Government’s new restrictions are a positive sign of its commitment to improving air quality, but rural communities should be supported and offered sustainable and realistic alternatives for reducing their carbon footprint. We have to take a mixed approached to decarbonising homes and provide a variety of different solutions, including LPG and bioLPG, not just a ‘one size fits all’ heat pump approach.


The trade association for the LPG and bioLPG industry in the UK