A handful of countries across the globe produce a significant proportion of their electricity needs from wood or wood wastes. For example, Sweden produces just under 1,500 megawatts of electricity this way and Austria produces 747 megawatts. The Swedish figure represents circa 5 % of the nation’s total installed production capacity. In Finland, compacted pellets and wood waste is growing as fuel for home and industrial heating.
Due to the high cost of manual labour involved in processeing firewood in Scandinavia, it is common to import firewood from countries with cheaper labour and natural resources. The main exporters to Scandinavia are the Baltic countries (Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia).
Wood, during the Edo period, was used for many purposes, and the consumption of wood led Japan to develop a forest management policy during that era. Demand for timber resources was on the rise not only for fuel, but also for construction of ships and buildings, and consequently deforestation was widespread. As a result, forest fires occurred, along with floods and soil erosion. Around 1666, the shogun made it a policy to reduce logging and increase the planting of trees. This policy decreed that only the shogun, and/or a daimyo, could authorize the use of wood. By the 18th century, Japan had developed detailed scientific knowledge about silviculture and plantation forestry.
About 1.5 million households in Australia use firewood as the main form of domestic heating. As of 1995, approximately 1.85 million cubic metres of firewood (1m ‚â• equals approximately one car trailer load) was used in Victoria annually, with half being consumed in Melbourne. This amount is comparable to the wood consumed by all of Victoria‚ sawlog and pulplog forestry operations (1.9 million.
Species used as sources of firewood include:
- Red Gum, from forests along the Murray River (the Mid-Murray Forest Management Area, including the Barmah and Gunbower forests, provides about 80% of Victoria‚Äö√Ñ√¥s red gum timber).
- Box and Messmate Stringy bark, in southern Australia.
- Sugar gum, a wood with high thermal efficiency that usually comes from small plantations.
The environmental impact of burning wood fossil fuel is debatable. Several cities have moved towards setting standards of use and/or bans of wood burning fireplaces. For example, a city passed a resolution to ban wood fireplace installation in new construction.
The environmental impact is debatable, however, as many wood burning advocates claim that properly harvested wood in carbon-neutral, therefore off-setting the negative impact of by-product particles given off during the burning process.