NFU backs UK Biomass Heat Works! campaign calling out government on rural decarbonisation policy
The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has pledged its support to the Biomass Heat Works! campaign, the UK biomass heat industry’s call for UK Government to act now, protect approximately 46 000 jobs, extend the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme (RHI) and raise fossil fuel duties to help meet carbon emission targets.
“Clear synergies exist between the UK Pellet Council, Wood Heat Association and the NFU, so we are highly supportive of the campaign,” said Dr Jonathan Scurlock, Chief Advisor, NFU.
Following the launch of the NFU’s own blueprint vision to cut carbon emissions to net-zero within farming by 2040, the 55 000 member-strong organisation has extended its support to the campaign given that many of its members use or have diversified into using biomass as a renewable energy heat source.
Biomass in rural areas can create successful, workable circular economies across farming, agriculture and forestry sectors and is often the most viable and lowest carbon option available to businesses and households in off-gas grid areas.
Given the UK Government’s pledge to cut carbon emissions to net-zero by 2050, it is essential that rural households and businesses aren’t left behind their urban counterparts when it comes to future heat decarbonisation strategies, especially given that many of the biomass heat industry’s 700+ supply chain companies operate rurally.
The farming industry is fully committed to realising its net-zero vision and there are clear environmental and economic benefits for farmers by taking action now. The Biomass Heat Works campaign sends a clear message to Government and demonstrates how renewable energy, in particular, biomass, must play an integral role in the UK’s future energy mix, especially in rural areas which sits very well alongside our own net-zero ambitions, said Dr Jonathan Scurlock, Chief Advisor, Renewable Energy and Climate Change) at the NFU.
The Biomass Heat Works! campaign is being delivered by the UK Pellet Council (UKPC), a trade body, hosted by the Renewable Energy Association (REA) and which represents the interests of the UK wood pellet sector and the Wood Heat Association (WHA), a wholly-owned subsidiary of the REA and the UK trade association for the modern wood heating and related biomass heating industry.
The NFU’s backing of the campaign is a huge boost and one which has been welcomed by industry leaders.
We’re delighted that the NFU have pledged its support to the campaign as a vast number of its members up and down the country are advocates of biomass heat. There is a much bigger picture that the Government needs to urgently consider here, and that is by extending the RHI and specifying biomass as the most proven and commercially-ready solution to decarbonising heat in rural areas, we can also create a highly sustainable rural economy, good employment opportunities and business growth in agricultural industries going forward, said Neil Holland of the UK Pellet Council.
Room to increase bioenergy use
According to Holland, the UK’s biomass industry employs almost four times the number of those working within the country’s fishing industry and already, over 30 percent of non-domestic biomass capacity is within the agricultural sector.
Recent evidence suggests that the UK could almost triple its use of bioenergy as a heat source from 6 percent to 16 percent by 2032 and achieve net-zero targets by 2050, with biomass being a major contributor.
As yet, no other measures are tabled by Government for when the RHI closes to new applications in March 2021, and this lack of forward planning is having significant impact on the development of future projects, especially for larger-scale biomass heat schemes, potential new jobs as well as creating increasing uncertainty within the wider biomass supply chain.
Therefore, Government support and investment in the biomass sector, as in other European countries would make a significant contribution to the 2050 carbon reduction targets whilst making rural businesses more resilient and homes more energy-efficient, said Neil Holland.
According to the 2019 Digest of UK Energy Statistics (DUKES), approximately 18 percent of renewable heat was supported by the RHI in 2018 compared with 14 percent in 2017, with non-domestic heat generation supported by the scheme increasing by 32 percent (medium capacity biomass boilers accounting for 50 percent).