24 August 2023

ACT Government moves to phase out wood heaters by 2045

| Ian Bushnell
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Smoke from woodfire heaters has been found to linger for longer in the Tuggeranong valley. Photo: Clean Air Canberra.

Health hazard: Smoke from woodfire heaters in the Tuggeranong Valley. Photo: Clean Air Canberra.

The installation of new wood heaters may be banned in all suburbs as part of the ACT Government’s plans to phase out the burners by 2045 in line with the transition away from fossil fuel gas.

In response to the Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment’s investigation into wood heater policy, the government has agreed in principle to recommendations for the phase-out and ban on new heaters. However, given what it acknowledges is a polarising issue, it will not rush into immediate regulation.

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The government says it will first look at the options, costs and timeframes to transition households away from using wood heaters and on to electric alternatives, as well as conduct air quality and regulatory impact assessments and community consultation.

It will be part of a second action plan to support the implementation of the Bushfire Smoke and Air Quality Strategy 2021-25.

The government says an extension of the ban on new wood heaters beyond the Molonglo Valley (excluding Wright), Dunlop and East O’Malley to Tuggeranong is timely and appropriate to avoid increasing air quality issues during winter.

It says a ban in other suburbs may also be appropriate but requires further analysis.

Despite the government saying there is no safe level of exposure to wood smoke, Environment Minister Rebecca Vassarotti said the phase-out should be a just transition to electrifying the city and require garnering community support.

“We are aware that high costs of living are placing financial stress on many and the government will incorporate this consideration into our next steps to ensure we can best support the community in the phase-out process,” she said.

This will be on top of the current incentives for households to replace their wood heater.

“Work is already underway to trial ways to better tailor the Wood Heater Replacement Program to more effectively support households on low incomes,” Ms Vassarotti said.

Of the commissioner’s eight recommendations, the government has agreed or agreed in principle with four and noted one.

It says a recommendation to mandate the removal of wood heaters before a property in any ACT suburb (excluding rural areas) can be sold will require careful analysis and consultation with the community to understand the impacts.

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The government did not agree to recommendations including a heater register and mandatory health labelling, deciding that the costs to implement these recommendations would outweigh the proposed benefits, particularly given the decision to move to phase out wood fire heaters.

“I appreciate many Canberrans grew up with woodfired heaters and they offer nostalgic charm and comfort,” Ms Vassarotti said.

“However, we need to confront the reality that the smoke they emit is a direct source of pollution in our homes, a clear and present danger to the well-being of our community in urban and suburban areas, and a looming threat to our natural environment.”

ACT Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment Dr Sophie Lewis welcomed the government’s commitment to phase out wood heaters by 2045.

“My investigation showed that there is no safe level of air pollution for human health. Wood heaters have no place in Canberra’s all-electric, 100 per cent renewable energy future,” she said.

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Simple, change the industry to only sourcing deadfall.

Because we have to backburn all of it anyway, lest we get firestorms, the carbon goes up anyway and one way nobody gets any use of the thermal energy produced.

Still an air quality issue to address maybe, but smell of woodsmoke isn’t that unpleasant- and the higher concentrations, our lives have already been reduced by the black summer that much already.

Regulate, tax, and reduce fire overburden. Pretty simple.

Can’t do the basics, let attack every other aspect of society.

Its time ACT gov focused on reading and writing, and taking out the trash.

CaresAboutHealth8:32 am 09 Sep 23

The ACT panel survey found that 28% of Canberrans – over 2.5 times the 11% of respondents owning wood heaters – were frequently or sometimes impacted by smoke from a neighbour’s wood heater.

Complaints about the problem often remained unresolved, despite the fact that the investigation by Dr Sophie Lewis, ACT Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment, showed that there is no safe level of air pollution for human health.

A Canberra Times Panel survey on 2 September found that 68% supported the decision to phase out wood heaters, with 30% saying that it should be sooner than 2045.

Given the majority support, the sooner this policy is implemented the better, so that everyone, including the 28% of Canberrans affected by other people’s wood heater pollution, will be able to look forward to a cleaner, healthier future.

I understand the nostalgia and romanticism of wood heaters but I stayed in a house that only had a wood heater in the living room. In by no way does it warm the house or even the living room. To get warm you had to be sitting close to it. Where as air pollution is concerned….I’m not sure.

Karl Herzog, Some wrong statements.
“nostalgia and romanticism” I have a wood heater, a double burner, so it puts out very little smoke. I couldn’t care less about the “nostalgia and romanticism”. It’s to use up waste wood (mainly hardwood) that I have had a source of, and to get free heating. Also to be independent if there is a blackout. I can heat, cook and heat water. I don’t buy wood, so not stripping out forests. The wood I use would otherwise go to waste, and rot down, likely producing methane. Once the heaters are banned this waste wood will do that.

“In by no way does it warm the house or even the living room.” My heater heats my whole living area well (lounge, dining and kitchen) and I don’t need to sit near the heater to be warm. My house is insulated, and that’s why it can heat the large space. I suggest you need more insulation. The heat is going straight through the walls, as it used to do with my last house. Insulation makes a huge difference.

CaresAboutHealth8:05 am 09 Sep 23

Slow combustion wood heaters work by limiting the air supply and that produces methane, black carbon and carbon monoxide. Together these emissions cause a lot more global warming than heating 20 to 1,000 similar houses with an efficient reverse cycle split system.

If the wood rots down in the open air it shouldn’t produce a lot of methane and most of the carbon will end up in the soil and lead to considerable climate benefits compared to burning it.

I had to check the calendar – no it’s not 1 April, but the ACT Govt is a bunch of fools. With only one source of power in the future, what’s to stop electricity companies from continually raising prices?

As for the Minister stating that wood-fired heaters are “a clear and present danger to the well-being of our community”, please stop with the Americanisms and stop being overly dramatic.

If such moves are made, the ACT Govt needs to be fully transparent and provide links to studies which outline the issues they claim. Oh that’s right, this Govt isn’t transparent about anything. It’s all smoke and mirrors with this Govt.

CaresAboutHealth9:10 am 03 Sep 23

The article clearly states that the move to phase out wood heaters is in response to the Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment’s investigation into wood heater policy.

That investigation provides multiple links to studies outlining the issues and the harms from wood heater pollution.

Sadly, the “smoke and mirrors” comes from people who incorrectly claim that the ACT Government hasn’t provided the evidence when it obviously has!

Equally importantly, the ACT’s foresight in negotiating low-cost power for all ACT residents means that residents now enjoy some of the cheapest, most reliable power in the country. There’s no reason whatsoever to believe that will change.

The Commissioner for Sustainability and The Environments report is biased, ideological, poorly written, intentionally omits data that doesn’t align with her views and notes that there is no way of knowing whether the PM2.5 levels in Canberra come from wood fires, cars or dust. If the Government wants to use that tripe to impact thousands of Canberran families they should at least have the courage to say they are banning wood fires because of their green ideology and not use some nonsensical ‘independent’ investigation as the justification for doing so.

Re power price changes – surely you are joking? You think prices will come down as completion is reduced and demand soars?

“residents now enjoy some of the cheapest, most reliable power in the country.”

Well that’s scary then. We live in a well insulated passive solar house and rarely use artificial heating. But this year, a niece came from Queensland to work, and is staying in the cold south facing bedroom (still well insulated, but no sun). Winter electricity bill came in, she’d used $500 of leccy on a blow heater. I know that’s peanuts for our top of town, morally advanced Teal types, but certainly shocked me.

So I don’t know how this thing of forcing people onto electric heating will go down for people on low incomes in cold houses. But these days, nobody seems to care about things like that.

A good way to improve the air quality and health of the public.
In the meantime, it would be great to mandate annual chimney cleans such that current fire places burn clean and optimally and don’t create blankets of smelling smoke due to bad combustion

How is wood smoke a looming threat to the natural environment. The minister is just making it up.

It’s a threat to human health. Particulate matter and NOx’s. Not a potential threat, an actual threat.

The so called investigation made no attempt to link wood heaters with perverse health outcomes for Canberrans – because if the Commissioner tried she would have failed.
Dont use nonsensical health arguments as a veil for forcing green ideology on other Canberrans.

What a disgrace. What this government doesn’t tax, it bans. It doesn’t care about electoral mandates. It is drunk with power.

You cannot throw wood heaters in the same category as fossil fuels and gas.
Timber that is harvested and used in wood heaters is 100% renewable and sustainable in Australia.
To throw it in the fossile fuel category is just is being ignorant and blatantly Dishonest in an attempt to push the green electric agenda.
Many countries all around the world especially in the USA are mass planting Australian eucalpt trees as it is recognised timber is completely renewable and sustainable.

Dishonest green movement!

Riotact gas lighters!

Those same eucalyptus are the cause of the ridiculous wildfires.

This concern is not about emissions and global warming. More about the air quality in the local city. The woodfire amoke affecta peoples respiratory systems and asmatics suffer big time on wonter due to smoke

Read the first paragraph of this New Article? The installation of new wood heaters may be banned in all suburbs as part of the ACT Government’s plans to phase out the burners by 2045 in line with the transition away from fossil fuel gas.

That’s not true either Gumtree trees are fire proof and can with stand large bush fires they are not the cause. Those ridiculous wildfires are caused by another (Green Agenda) where the practice of collecting firewood off the ground and yearly burn off’s have been banned) also pine trees. The fuel load increases on the ground increases to unsustainable levels over the years because nothing gets removed, then you get 1 or 2 hot dry years like we seen in 2019 and you have fire’s nothing can put out. If the Green Agenda get its way and destroys Timber Industries in Australia we will see Fires 10x that of 2019 that will burn towns and cities down.

Particulate matter and NOx’s in woodsmoke shorten the lives of everyone exposed – on a statistical level – not just asthmatics.

Asmatics in Canberra suffer during winter because of the cold dry air. Maybe the commissioner should have recommended we install giant humidifers too?

anthony matheson9:19 am 22 Sep 23

🤣 too true. Any cold city must have energy security through various energy sources – that must include wood and gas so the people are not at the mercy of greedy electricity corporations and an a grid that will inevitably become unstable because the green agenda is a religion that doesn’t care about facts.

anthony matheson, Good insulation might solve people’s problem, where they think electric heating is not enough. My house is well insulated and a small electric, plug in, blow heater is all the heating my open plan lounge, kitchen and dining area needs. However, I usually use a double burner wood stove, as the wood I have was free. It came from garden trees chopped down. Even power for a small heater costs. Because of good insulation and large north facing windows, I don’t need to heat every evening in winter, and almost never in the daytime.

Why can’t you keep your grubby fingers out of other peoples lives, this bs

Legalise hard drugs by stealth so the ACT’s already horrendous drug-related crime rate increases while ‘cracking down’ on wood heaters and internal combustion engines? The ACT-Greens cabal is laughably out of touch with working people and the community at large.

So your rant is that this “feels” wrong? Legalizing drugs have been proven to work if done correctly.

How is the decades long “war on drugs” going for us?

Legalizing drugs isn’t to encourage people to take drugs, people who uses will use regardless of legal status. Legalizing dispels unnecessary stigma and encourages people to seek help.

As for this chimney law, I agree. A few people not burning their wood fireplace isn’t going to make a dent when heavy industries, airlines, shipping, cruise ship industry, etc throws out the same amount of carbon in a fraction of a second.

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