Woodsure’s £21k Government Contract – And How Much ‘Ready To Burn’ Will Cost Fuel Merchants…

Woodsure Ltd has been handed £21,600 by the government to run the first ever compulsory wood fuel certification scheme.

The details, published by the Government, show the contract will last until March 31, 2024.

However, according to official paperwork, the contract could be extended up by to two years. Woodsure is a not for profit, wholly-owned subsidiary of HETAS.

The contract is part of the overall changes to wood sales which are starting to come into force in England on May 1, 2021.

After this date, many fuel suppliers who sell dry logs in quantities of under two cubic metres – such as nets and bags – will have to be members of Woodsure’s Ready To Burn scheme.

Smaller sellers (defined as those who supplied less than 600 cubic metres of wood between May 1, 2020, and April 30, 2021) won’t have to sign up until May 1, 2022.

Unseasoned wood can still be sold in quantities of over two cubic metres, without certification. However, the seller must provide the customer with the following information:

“This wood is not suitable for burning until it has been dried. You should not burn wood until it has a moisture content of 20% or less.

“Wet wood contains moisture which creates smoke and harmful particulates when burnt. As well as being harmful to your health and the environment, this can damage your stove and chimney and is an inefficient way to heat your home. Dry it in a sunny, well-aired space for at least two years, keeping rain off in the winter.

“Radial cracks and bark that comes off easily suggests wood that is ready for burning. Test the wood when you think it is ready for burning, ideally with a moisture meter. First calibrate the meter and then measure a freshly split surface to get the best reading.”

Clampdown

Councils will enforce the new rules, and have the power to check labelling, how the fuel is stored and even inspect delivery records to check that appropriate fuels are being delivered to homes in Smoke Control Areas.

Those who sell unauthorised fuel could be handed a £300 fine – or even higher if it’s taken to court.

Costs

According to Woodsure’s Ready To Burn application form, costs for new suppliers will be a minimum of £507.60. This includes a ‘one off, new supplier application fee’ of £122.40 plus an annual registration, including ‘routine site audit, listing, fuel test and certification’ fee of just over £385.

Point of sale fees are as follows:

What does this mean for customers?

Like everything, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

In terms of financial impact, it’s hard to see how increased costs created by this won’t filter down to the customer in some way or other.

I’ve made my own feelings about the new rules clear in previous blogposts. I’ve always believed that education, not legislation, is the answer.

And I struggle to see how the rules will be properly enforced.

My best guess is that the government accepts that 100% compliance across the board just isn’t going to happen.

Surely they’re not going to scour Facebook Marketplace and eBay for every avid gardener who wants to pocket a few quid by getting a stove user to buy his felled cherry tree or whatever?

No, what they’re hoping for is more like general compliance at official points of sale, such as supermarkets, petrol stations, fuel merchants and so on. If that happens, then they would consider it a success.

Even that is only the beginning though. As I’ve said time and again, you can have the best wood in the world, on the best appliance in the world, but if you burn it incorrectly, it will cause issues.

That’s exactly what happened in the photo below. A chimney full of flammable tar. And this was with the customer using ‘Ready To Burn’ fuel.

There are still far too many stove owners who don’t have a basic grasp of how to use their appliance correctly. Thankfully, through the Burnright initiative, that is starting to change.

As for fuel, there is nothing more natural and environmentally-responsible than sourcing your own wood, seasoning it and burning it in the correct way for heat.

That is far better for the planet than trucking in tonnes and tonnes of kiln dried wood from Europe.

I just hope that this government move isn’t a victim of the law of unintended consequences, and indirectly promotes the latter at the expense of the former…

Mr Soot Chimney Sweep is a fully qualified sweep and a member of the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps, based in the Manchester and South Lancs area

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