In spite of being a process that exploits a renewable source of energy, the combustion of wood-based biomass contributes to deteriorate outdoor and indoor air quality. Critical situations for human exposure may occur in mountainous areas, where wood-based biomass is usually abundant and the complex morphology may favour the stagnation of air pollutants in valleys. Replacing wood/pellet stoves with centralised systems would reduce the impact, but the construction of district heating systems may not be convenient in areas with low density of houses. A possible solution could rely on direct electrical heating (DEH) systems, preferably fed by thermochemical processes that help achieve environmental goals for the local community, like the reduction of waste landfilling and the valorisation of the energy content of waste. This paper aims at presenting a comparison between the impacts expected by household wood/pellet stoves and by a modern waste-to-energy (WtE) plant, in terms of emissions of air pollutants into the atmosphere, when replacing wood stoves with a DEH system fed by the electric energy generated by the WtE plant. The comparison shows that the replacement of household stoves with an equivalent DEH system would be beneficial in terms of impacts on the local air quality. Such an approach could be considered to reduce the health impacts from biomass burning in critical areas like the Alpine region.
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