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Wood Energy

Wood is the oldest source of energy, but only recently it has gained new attention and has become increasingly important. So far wood has often been considered a cheap and time consuming type of fuel. Traditional wood energy systems were burning woody biomass in inefficient furnaces or stoves, causing many severe respiratory diseases, as highlighted by the WHO. Recently, standardized wood fuel and modern ventilation technology have improved the quality of furnaces and woody systems and the installation of modern pellet stoves has helped to reduce the emissions of particles and has lowered pollution.

Despite wood’s role as the most important renewable energy in the UNECE region, data is often scattered and incomplete. The Joint Wood Energy Enquiry (JWEE) has made tremendous strides in improving data quality from member States and in assisting correspondents with data collection.
According to the JWEE2013, wood biomass use increased by 5% annually in energy consumption between 2007 and 2013 in the region.  Wood continues to be the leading source of renewable energy and is taking a larger share of total energy supply. This trend is expected to continue as many European governments are setting up policies to promote wood energy as part of their plans to meet the EU ambitious target of 20% of energy consumption from renewable sources by 2020. These policies aim not only at mitigating climate change, but also at increasing energy security by promoting alternatives to imported and costly fossil fuels.

Despite the global economic recession and slow recovery, wood energy production and consumption remains the most important source of renewable heat in the UNECE region and it is expected to continue its growth in the future.

Wood energy plays a significant role in the UNECE region. Potentially, its use can be a benefit (when used properly) or a detriment (when misused) for sustainable development in the region.  Monitoring its use is a crucial part of the work of the UNECE/FAO Forestry and Timber Section.
Capacity building workshops are used to assist member States in collecting, analyzing and sharing this information in the most detailed and disaggregated way. Cross-sectoral cooperation and communication with the energy sector is key at all levels of this process.

Policies encouraging the reduction of carbon emissions lead the growth in wood energy markets and wood pellets lead the dynamic growth of wood-based fuels. The section monitors and reports on these developments regularly in the Forest Products Annual Market Review.

The UNECE/FAO Forestry and Timber Section conducts a number of activities in the area of wood energy:

The Section's work is assisted by the ECE/FAO Team of Specialists on Wood Energy and guided by the Joint ECE/FAO Working Party on Forest Statistics, Economics and Management.

Additional information on wood energy availability in the UNECE region can also be found in other ECE/FAO publications: