According to a recent study from the French Environment and Energy Management Agency (ADEME), wood burning is being used more and more in the country. Current estimates show that approximately 7.4 million households use this method to heat their homes, compared to 5.9 million in 2009.
This represents an increase of over 100,000 households per year. If this trend continues, by 2020, 9 million households could use this fuel (out of around 27 million households in the country).
An interesting fact reported by Enerzine [Fr] is that despite this important increase, the quantity of burned wood remained stable as the quantity burned by household decreased from 8.6 to 7.5 steres ( cubic meter of wood) per household.
According to Wikipedia [Fr], French forests have been constantly growing in the past century – it grew by six million hectares in the 20th century – and cover now over 29 percent of the Metropolitan area with 16.3 million hectares.
Wood is by far the cheapest energy source on the market, with 3.4 euro cents per kWh, compared to 7 cents for natural gas, 9.9 cents for heating fuel and electricity is the most expensive with 13.3 euro cents.
However, the energy price is not the first reason for choosing wood. The main reason (63 percent of users) is comfort. Price comes second with 52 percent of users and the environment third with 40 percent.
As a result, more and more wood buyers use this energy source as their main or only source. In 1999 only 30 percent of wood burners used it as their main energy source for heating. Nowadays, this share has increased to over 50 percent. Half of these users use solely this to heat their places.
This can be explained by a better efficiency of the stoves and heaters as well as a better insulation of the households. On the former point, the average efficiency have risen from 50 to over 70 percent since the year 2000. Important gains in energy efficiency are still possible.
An important factor in these trends was the Flamme Verte (green flame) label.
Launched by over 60 companies in 2000, this quality label has increased the efficiency of the stoves and heaters and has reduced the pollution induced by wood burning. Particles emissions have been slashed by a factor ten. To date, 70 percent of the sold apparels in France have this label.
To conclude this article, I believe many countries could learn from what takes place in France. Growing forests are used in a sustainable way to heat more and more houses with less and less resources. When renewables meet energy efficiency, everybody wins.