Strategic tools towards a sustainable use of biomass for low carbon domestic heating


BB-Clean to enable change of practices in the individual use of wood heating with the help of micro-sensors

BB-Clean project aims to enable a massive change of practices on the individual use of wood heating at EU level in order to limit its polluting emissions. To achieve this goal, the project is based on the creation of technological, economic and regulatory tools to improve the knowledge of citizens and public authorities on the challenges of using wood energy in the Alpine valleys. For this purpose BB-Clean project carried out awareness-raising campaigns using air QUALITY PARTICLE MICRO-SENSORS as well as different technical sets of tools to allow citizens to participate in a collaborative process of air quality data collection:

  • Data visualization tools (smartphone application and digital platform) and particle micro-sensors
  • Public workshops with residents and local authorities of the selected pilot areas, including training on the micro-sensors
  • Workshops on the more recent findings to support a smart biomass burning
  • Publication on the websites of local environmental agencies of the real time fraction of PM due to BB in pilot areas


3 different experimentations in 3 different countries

3 different experimentations in 3 different countries took place which enabled experimenters to collect air quality data, to visualize and share them with the community, to discuss its measurements, to question themselves about the atmospheric phenomena observed and to have the tools to start implementing good practices in the use of biomass energy. 

+ FRANCE: Awareness raising experimentation using PM micro-sensors and the Atmo Auvergne-RhôneAlpes Captotheque infrastructure with the citizen of the CCPMB territory but also stakeholders and journalists. More than 25 expert workshops were proposed. In addition, this experimentation was followed by a sociological expert to understand better the leviers in the behaviour changes of citizen concerning BB.

AUSTRIA: Awareness raising experimentation with PM micro-sensors for 6 different groups (Academic Staff, General Public – climate active group & Milestone Thörl, school children, students) benefiting of a 3-level program.

+ ITALY: Awareness raising experimentation with PM micro-sensors, in the pilot area of Saint-Marcel and in the city of Aosta, with stakeholders, students and citizens. In addition, 5 public events were organized for the presentation of the project and the awareness campaigns.

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Micro-sensors to identify pollution by wood heating

The micro-sensors used were chosen with the aim of enabling the identification of pollution related to wood heating, through the discrimination of the different fractions of fine particles (PM10, PM2.5 and PM1). The Airbeam 2,  manufactured by the American NGO Habitat Map, carries out measurements at a very fine time step of one second, which allows very precise identification of immediate variations in particle levels. This both spatial and temporal accuracy of the measurement facilitates the understanding of phenomena related to air pollution but also the identification of sources, which is particularly interesting in the context of a participatory project with citizens.

30 Airbeam 2, funded by Europe and the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Region within the framework of this project, have enriched the experiments in France and Austria. 12 Airbeam 2, funded by Europe within the framework of this project have enriched the experiment in Italy. Before distributing micro-sensors to citizens, Atmo AuRA has set up an evaluation of the equipment, called intercomparison, to detect problems. This evaluation is carried out to test that each device works correctly (battery, LED, fan, connection, etc.) and to check the consistency of the measurements between all the Airbeams so that the results obtained by the experimenters could be comparable between them.


It was the volunteer who went looking for measures

The micro-sensor experimentations were realized in winter 2018-2019 in France and then reproduced in 2019-2020 in Austria and Italy.  This campaigns have proven that the use of personal particle micro-sensors made a great impact for raising public awareness on air quality issue and have caught the attention of public and media. Active experiment made people aware that air pollution, even if invisible, exists and often reaches high levels precisely in situations that are not imagined.

The playful aspect of the experiment allowed to play down the problem of air quality without minimizing it, and to approach it from the angle of scientific knowledge. It was the absence of a predominant discourse on the main sources of pollution, the absence of a moralizing discourse, and the absence of a discourse that wants to impose its own representations, that was the turning point in changing people's behaviours: it was indeed the volunteer who went looking for measures, interpreted them and discussed them with citizens and scientific experts. 

The sociological study in France went further and analyzed into detail the behavioral changes made by the microsensor experimentation coupled with workshops. Those behavior changes were classified into 3 classes:

- Immediate change: use of air recirculation in cars, suppression/reduction of the combustion of fragrances (incense, armenian paper, candles), ventilate more in the kitchen, reducing the use of the stove, no sport activities in pollution peaks, changing the ventilation schedule of the dwelling, ventilating your home more to reduce exposure to stove-related pollutants etc.

- Reflections on a potential change: removal of the wood heating mode - abandoning the wood burning project, modifying the operation of its wood boiler, optimizing electric heating consumption, thinking about healthier cooking methods etc.

- Modifications already envisaged, but not yet fully realized:  Electric car/ Electric bicycle, carpool, public transport 

Video of french experimentation.


A year later

A sociological questionnaire, one year after, to the French participants, shows that the BB-Clean experience made a deep impression on people in their social representations, in their daily practices but also in their thought processes (critical opinion, search for information) around the main subject of air quality, but also more generally around the protection of the environment. It gave a change in their approach to scientific data and almost all of the experimenters have implemented changes in their daily lives since the project. The main results of the questionnaire were:

• 80% would be willing to try again the experimentation.

• 64% took a different view of municipal elections.

• Of the 44 people who responded before the project and one year later, 52% used wood heating as the primary source of particulate pollution. A year later it went up to 86%.

• A highly polluted view of the land has diminished.

Experimentation also showed the role of local territory and wood experts to promote the good practices, the funding help that can be proposed to citizen to renew their systems, the presentation of wood label… it is thus of major importance to maintain the equilibrium between reduction of emission but promotion of a sustainable energy.