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Wood has been used by man as an energy source since the earliest times. The wood and charcoal that were once used extensively as fuel for cooking and heating have today largely been replaced by the more convenient energy sources of oil, gas and electricity. Wood, however, continues to be a major source of energy for developing countries but in recent years it is also being increasingly used in Ireland. This increased demand is due to an awareness of the need to use sustainable, renewable energy sources to provide security of supply and also to lessen our dependence on fossil fuels which are contributing to global warming.
Fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas when burned release carbon dioxide (CO2 ) which is one of the main greenhouse gases. The release of large amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere is considered to be one of the main causes of global warming. However, wood from sustainably managed forests, when used as an energy source, does not add extra carbon to the atmosphere as the carbon released through its combustion and/or decay is taken up by replacement trees. The net effect is that wood is carbon neutral if it comes from well managed forests.
Ireland’s Renewable Energy Action Plan has an ambitious target of 16% of energy coming from renewable resources by 2020. Bioenergy, as one of these renewable resources, will play an important part achieving this target. The Bioenergy Action Plan highlights the potential of wood biomass as a prime source of material particularly for the heat sector.
The heat used in our homes, public buildings, business and factories account for nearly 40% of the energy consumed in Ireland. Biomass is ideally suited to provide a controllable and continuous supply of thermal energy, as an alternative to imported fuels such as oil and gas.
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