Addressing Scottish rural fuel poverty through a regional industrial symbiosis strategy for the Scottish forest industries sector
Tackling fuel poverty is central to the delivery of the Scottish Executive’s commitment to social justice. Many Scottish rural households are not linked into the mains gas network and rely on expensive alternatives, despite being surrounded by plentiful supplies of low-cost renewable wood biomass. A regional study was undertaken to establish the potential market for pelletised wood fuel, available as a low-value by-product from the rapidly expanding Scottish forest industry sector. The wider implications of the research findings are analysed by extending the principles of industrial symbiosis from a site-specific to a regional scale. Promoting an indigenous pellet-based wood fuel market for rural Scotland would fulfil important Scottish Executive economic, social and environmental sustainability objectives. Adding off-site social symbiotic elements increases the potential for on-site technical symbiosis in nascent Scottish forest industry clusters. At present, market failure is preventing the realisation of these benefits, and the paper concludes by identifying ways in which market intermediation, through wood fuel energy service companies, might overcome the current barriers to exploiting such symbiosis.