Wood is considered humankind’s very first source of energy. Today it still is the most important single source of renewable energy providing over 9% of the global total primary energy supply. Wood energy is as important as all other renewable energy sources altogether (hydro, geothermal, wastes, biogas, solar and liquid biofuels). 

More than two billion people depend on wood energy for cooking and/or heating, particularly in households in developing countries. It represents the only domestically available and affordable source of energy. Private households’ cooking and heating with woodfuels represents one third of the global renewable energy consumption, making wood the most decentralized energy in the world.

Woodfuels arise from multiple sources including forests, other wooded land and trees outside forests, co-products from wood processing, post-consumer recovered wood and processed wood-based fuels. Wood energy is also an important emergency backup fuel. Societies at any socio-economic level will switch easily back to wood energy when encountering economic difficulties, natural disasters, conflict situations or fossil energy supply shortages.

Woodfuels are a very important forest product. Global production of fuelwood exceeds the production of industrial roundwood in terms of volume. Fuelwood and charcoal production is often the predominant use of woody biomass in developing countries and economies in transition.

Today wood energy has entered into a new phase of high importance and visibility with climate change and energy security concerns. Wood energy is considered as a climate neutral and socially viable source of renewable energy, but only when meeting the following conditions:

  • Wood arising from sustainably managed resources (forests, trees outside forests, etc.).
  • Appropriate fuel parameters (water content, calorific value, shape, etc. ).
  • Efficient incineration or gasification minimizing indoor and outdoor emissions.
  • Cascade use of wood fibres – favouring material use, re-use and recycling before energy use.
last updated:  Tuesday, September 24, 2013