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Air quality: domestic burning of house coal, smokeless coal, manufactured solid fuels and wet wood

Domestic burning of house coal, smokeless solid fuels and wood is the single largest source of harmful particulate matter emissions in the UK, at around 40% of the total in 2015. This compares with industrial combustion 17% and road transport 13%.

Objectives of the consultation

The Government is considering how to encourage consumers to shift from burning the more polluting fuels such as house coal and wet wood, towards less polluting fuels such as low sulphur smokeless fuels and dry wood. While the long term strategy is to see households move away from these polluting fuels towards cleaner technologies. This can deliver both health and economic benefits for individuals, as well as providing a more pleasant experience for consumers.

This call for evidence was a series of questions which aimed to help Government consider what steps should be taken in the  transition towards this long term goal and to help understand the costs, impacts and benefits associated with any changes.

This call for evidence closed on 27 February 2018. The evidence collected will feed into the Government’s Clean Air Strategy which will be published for consultation later in 2018.

Supporting papers

To download documents that supported this consultation, please follow the links below.

CIBSE response

CIBSE welcomed the attention given by Defra to the issue of domestic burning of solid fuels and its impact on air quality and broadly supports the fact that "the Government’s long term strategy is to see households move away from these polluting fuels towards cleaner technologies".

However, CIBSE recommended that in the case of Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs), this strategy should not be in the long term, but shorter term, with stepped limits being introduced for the most polluting appliances, up to a complete phase-out in AQMAs within, say, 10 years at the latest i.e. the maximum reasonable replacement timeline for existing appliances. This should be coordinated with a review of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), to limit financial incentives from one government department jeopardising the government’s overall air quality objectives. Recommendations from the National Audit Office should also be followed to improve the implementation of RHI conditions on air quality, including better collaboration between Ofgem and Local Authorities, and emissions testing by Ofgem as a condition of RHI payments.

Outside of AQMAs and urban areas, particularly in rural areas with no gas connection, the impact on local air quality may be limited and burning biomass is likely to offer carbon emissions reduction benefits, particularly over oil or coal, as well as other benefits such as lower running costs and reduction of pollution incidents from oil. Longer-term heating options in these areas should be considered as part of the overall national air quality and heat decarbonisation strategy, including for example heat pumps if electricity decarbonisation continues on its current trend.

CIBSE also highlighted that energy efficiency offers significant potential beneficial synergies including health and comfort improvements, fuel poverty reduction and carbon emissions reductions, as well as air pollution reduction. The Institution would therefore strongly recommend a comprehensive programme to improve the energy efficiency of existing buildings. CIBSE is aware this is mentioned in the Clean Growth Strategy, but without yet much detail.

To read the full CIBSE response please follow the link below.