Forests – critical for energy supply this winter?
Winter 2005/2006 has been harsh in most of Europe: the Central European States and Countries in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia (EECCA) have suffered more than most, some have seen threats to supplies of conventional energy like gas and petrol. What could local people especially in remote and rural areas do to heat their houses and flats? Wood from the local sources has provided the answer for many people in rural parts of Europe.
The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), have made a rapid assessment in cooperation with the Heads of Forestry and the related Ministries to see if people have really made use of wood energy, and whether this is harming forests. Wood when properly managed, as is the case in most of the UNECE region, is a sustainable and renewable source of energy and raw material.
The result confirms that wood energy use has increased more than any other fuel source during this winter in the region. Of the 20 countries evaluated, 14 countries reported an increased use of wood energy of which 9 considered the increase to be “significant”. In addition, 17 countries confirmed that wood is a significant source of energy in rural areas. Thanks to local distribution systems already in place, wood could easily be provided to the consumer. Only one of the countries observed slightly higher illegal exploitation activities than in other years.
Despite the changes that have been seen this winter, only five countries have adopted measures to improve or regulate wood energy supply and use.
Kit Prins, Chief of the Timber Section, believes on the basis of the survey that
- Wood energy is a significant source of energy, especially in rural areas;
- Wood energy use responds to changes in demand, without the need for policymakers to provide directions;
- Wood can be a useful reserve fuel in times of energy supply problems;
- Few countries have systems in place to monitor or control the use of wood for energy;
- Policymakers should pay more attention to wood’s role in mitigating energy supply problems in rural areas.
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