Ministers unveil biomass action plan

A new Biomass Energy Centre and a five-year grant scheme for biomass boilers are among the Government's plans to promote biomass energy, announced this Thursday.

The action plan is a response to the Biomass Task Force report last October (see related story), and largely follows its advice to concentrate on the use of biomass for heating.

Defra and DTI promised more grants for biomass boilers, with a five-year grant scheme that will deliver £10-15m over the next two years. More support for energy crop farming, market development, and a Biomass Energy Centre to inform and advise industry and the public are also on the cards.

The plan also includes more measures for wider renewables promotion, such as helping local authorities fix minimum requirements for renewables in new developments.

Lord Bach, Defra’s Minister for Sustainable Farming and Food, said: “There is enormous potential in biomass, to generate renewable energy, to help the environment and to provide another possible market for our farmers.”

The action plan met with a mixed reaction from the biomass industry. The Renewable Energy Association said measures to promote stable, long-term market growth were missing, and called for a renewable heating obligation.

The REA’s Graham Meeks said: “The Government has used obligations on suppliers to stimulate demand in the renewable electricity and transport fuels markets. So it seems bizarre that we are still waiting for the same level of incentive for heat.

“The measures outlined today, including a new capital grant programme, will certainly help the biomass industry. But they will have only a limited impact in delivering the sustained, long-term industry growth Government should be looking for.”

South West England’s renewable energy agency Regen South West also called for a “long term mechanism to support renewable heat” that would end a dependence on grants.

The Biomass Task Force had rejected the idea of a renewable heat obligation, but in Thursday’s response the Government said that it would reconsider such a measure.

Biomass could meet 7% of the UK’s demand for heat, according to the REA. It is currently the main source of renewable energy in Britain, producing 84% of renewable energy and 1.4% of total energy generated in the country.

Minister for Energy, Malcolm Wicks, said the biomass promotion plan would supplement other measures to drive up the use of renewables. “We are aiming for 10% of our electricity to come from renewable sources by 2010 and double that by 2020 so biomass will have an increasingly important role to play in the UK’s future energy mix,” he said.

The complete Government response to the Biomass Taskforce recommendations can be seen at the Defra website.

Goska Romanowicz

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