"If France is deprived of oil, in contrast, it has a lot of wood," says Jean-Christophe Pouët, a coordinator for wood heating at ADEME who explains France's renewed taste for wood with a rural tradition of open fireplaces and rising energy prices.
In 2005, sales of modern wood stoves, fireplace inserts and boilers shot up 23% to reach 430,334 units sold against 348,080 units on the previous year, ADEME says. With 9.3 million tonne oil equivalent (mtoe) per year, France is the first country in Europe for wood heating, ahead of Sweden (8.2 mtoe) and Finland (7.2 mtoe).
The forestry sector is set to benefit from this renewed taste for wood. "The French forest is the third in Europe in terms of area covered after Sweden and Finland," says Pouët. "The potential is huge", he says, adding that consumption could double to reach 19 million tonne oil equivalent (mtoe) per year. However, a French energy law, voted on in July 2005, has an objective to increase heating wood by only 4 mtoe by 2010.
At European level, the Commission is trying to boost bioenergies in the EU's energy mix. A Biomass Action Plan published in December aims to double the share of wood, waste, and agricultural crops by 2010. According to the Commission, the plan should reduce oil imports by 8%, prevent greenhouse gas emissions of 209 million tons CO2-equivalent per year and create up to 300,000 new jobs.