We're considering a biomass boiler for our guesthouse (1820 vintage with corresponding energy issues). The opportunity to reduce gas usage and the economics of the RHI scheme in the UK (a sort-of feed-in tariff for logs) would seem to make this a no-brainer choice.

However, word-of-mouth comments question whether the source of wood pellets for the boiler is itself very sustainable.

Does anyone have any reliable references or pointers where I can learn more about this?

Edit: have found this one from Ethical Consumer. http://www.ethicalconsumer.org/buyersguides/energy/biomassboilers.aspx

PS. We have considered wood chip, and log, variants of biomass boilers which avoids the pellet manufacturing process and would offer better chances of a geographical local source. There are various logistical issues with these in our particular circumstances.

  • Am I right that the site you've edited in is a (partial) answer to your question? If so, perhaps you can post it as an answer?
    – THelper
    Commented Nov 21, 2014 at 8:03
  • @THelper Done. I'd hesitated doing so, hoping to get better answers but I can understand the reasoning for posting answers as answers. Commented Nov 21, 2014 at 19:05

2 Answers 2


I guess the sustainability depends strongly on how the pellets are produced. Often pellets are made from by-product from other forest industry which makes it trickier to calculate emission and carbon footprint.

I took a quick look at IEA (International Energy Agency) and they had a general article about bio-energy: http://www.iea.org/techinitiatives/renewableenergy/bioenergy/

They also refer to a book about pellets "The Pellet Handbook", haven't bought or read it thou: http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9781844076314/

  • Good link, especially if you drill through the main site ieabioenergy.com and the links on the newsletters. That said, I'd be a touch suspicious that they are coming from a solely energy production perspective rather than a broader sustainability one. E.g. it could be that their numbers could be used to argue for chopping down rainforests or other important ecologies, but I'd not consider that 'sustainable' in a wider sense. Neither, probably, would they, but it's not a factor in their evaluations as far as I can see. Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 11:00
  • iea.org/techinitiatives/renewableenergy/bioenergy The content you are looking for does not exist, or has been moved. Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 12:26

This is a partial self-answer. While I'm generally happy with EC's information some of the linked sites are not ones that strike me as 'reliable' sources of facts, so I am am still rather hoping more answers will follow.

From Ethical Consumer: http://www.ethicalconsumer.org/buyersguides/energy/biomassboilers.aspx

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