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Biomass Heat Works! calls on UK Chancellor for continued industry support

Leaders from the UK’s biomass heat industry have called on the new Chancellor for urgent support ahead of the Spring Budget to help the Government meet heat decarbonisation targets, address climate change and deliver on its 30 million tree planting initiative. With the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) set to close in March 2021 and no extension tabled, representatives of Biomass Heat Works! have called on Chancellor Rishi Sunak MP, to ask for continued funding as a matter of urgency.

Mark Lebus, Biomass Heat Works! and Chair of the UK Pellet Council which is delivering the campaign, delivering a letter to the Chancellor at HM Treasury in London on behalf of the UK’s biomass heat sector (photo courtesy Biomass Heat Works!).

Biomass heat has been one of the UK’s fastest-growing sectors over recent times. However, with the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) set to close in March 2021 and no extension tabled, representatives of Biomass Heat Works! have now written and delivered a letter to the new Chancellor to ask for continued funding as a matter of urgency.

The biomass heat sector is fully supportive of the UK’s net zero, carbon reduction and renewable energy pledge, and given our success over the last decade in reducing carbon emissions and enabling people to switch to renewable heat, we’re perfectly positioned to carry on and deliver these commitments moving forward. Biomass is the most proven and best ROI renewable technology at the Government’s disposal, especially for rural areas, and also supports the forestry management infrastructure needed to deliver the planting of 30 million trees by 2024. There is a very successful supply chain network and workable circular economy already in existence, but the uncertainty we have currently, looking beyond 2021, is stifling the industry, commented Mark Lebus from Biomass Heat Works! and Chair of the UK Pellet Council which is delivering the campaign.

Biomass heat a success under the RHI

Biomass, as part of the RHI, has been the most successful technology used by homes and businesses switching to renewable energy heat sources, especially in rural and off-gas grid areas. However, the sector, which provides 46 000 jobs, supports 700 supply chain companies and has reduced carbon emissions by approximately 50 million tonnes, is now “at risk of falling off a cliff edge” if continued Government support is not assured.

New renewable heating projects are stalling, job creation is being put on hold, future business investments are being compromised and a highly successful sector is at risk of demise. By funding a new, extended RHI, holding onto its successes and tailoring it accordingly, this could encourage over 850 000 households and 60 000 businesses in rural areas who are currently using oil or LPG for heating, to switch. We’re therefore asking the Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP to get behind our industry and allocate the funding required to extend the RHI, protect jobs and help the Government achieve net zero targets through effective heat decarbonisation policy, said Mark Lebus.

Significant growth potential with continued RHI

With support, the biomass heat industry has the potential to grow to 80 000 UK jobs by 2026 and 100,000 by 2030, whilst contributing GBP 2 billion annually to the economy. Furthermore, should the Government begin its tree-planting initiative, this, through accredited woodland management schemes, could generate an additional six million tonnes of residue for biomass use, created from thinnings and low-value wood.

The current estimated annual usage is over two million tonnes of residue per annum, therefore by working hand-in-hand with the UK’s forestry sector, the biomass industry would be sustained for years to come. However, the critical mass that has already been built up in biomass supply chains since the RHI was first introduced back in 2011 is vital in helping the UK to start reaching its ambitious carbon reduction targets. For progress and momentum to be maintained, Government support for the decarbonisation of heat should remain at the core of renewable energy policy. Biomass has proved itself time and time again and with a collaborative, joined-up approach, its attendant supply chains would drive sustainable woodland establishment and management, whilst creating jobs and improving landscapes, said Neil Harrison, Chair of the Wood Heat Association (WHA).

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