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Rural Services Network to partner with UK's Biomass Heat Works! campaign

Another major nationwide body, this time the Rural Services Network (RSN) representing organisations and Councils serving England’s rural areas and communities, is working with the Biomass Heat Works! campaign, which is calling for main political parties to protect approximately 46 000 jobs by extending the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme (RHI) and include biomass heat in future energy policy.

The Westbury White Horse on the escarpment of Salisbury Plain, east of Westbury in Wiltshire, England is thought to be one of the oldest of several white horses carved in Wiltshire though its current rendering is from 1893.

The Rural Services Partnership, part of the Rural Services Network (RSN) which champions rural causes, economic growth, and strategy, and provides a national voice for remote, farming and non-urban communities, is working with the UK’s biomass industry and other key players in the energy sector as part of its own wider agenda on renewable energy, climate change and decarbonisation.

Clear synergies exist between the RSN, the UK Pellet Council and the Wood Heat Association, the latter two organisations delivering Biomass Heat Works!

Rural communities are fully committed to playing their role in reducing carbon emissions. However, homes and businesses cannot be overlooked and left behind urban areas when it comes to heat decarbonisation. The Biomass Heat Works! campaign sits very well with our own policies addressing climate change and supporting net-zero pledges, but it is essential that there is a clear renewable energy strategy in place by Government for rural communities too and at present, there is no indication that this exists, commented Graham Biggs, CEO of the Rural Services Network (RSN).

Representatives from each body have expressed their concern over the lack of commitment by past and current ministers to prioritise rural areas in renewable energy policies.

Biomass usage in rural areas has increased significantly, especially since the RHI was first introduced, and this has created fantastic opportunities for businesses to diversify, create jobs and generate income. These are viable and sustainable circular economies for those living and working in rural communities and in the current economic climate, it is essential that jobs and livelihoods are maintained whilst successfully tackling climate change. We’re delighted to be working with the UK Pellet Council and Wood Heat Association said Graham Biggs,

Many rural communities and businesses use or have diversified into using biomass as a heat source given it is often the most viable or lowest carbon option available in off-gas grid areas.

Many of the biomass heat industry’s 700 plus supply chain companies operate or are based in rural locations, creating thousands of much-needed jobs, therefore the RSN working with us is a huge boost. Green issues have been placed very much at the forefront of political agendas currently, and this is undoubtedly a huge step in the right direction. However, it cannot be just a vote-winning narrative and soundbites, said Neil Holland of the UK Pellet Council (UKPC).

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 current RHI scheme 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.

Unlike other European countries, the contribution towards a zero-carbon future made by biomass is still very much being overlooked here in the UK despite it being the most proven and commercially- ready solution available for heat decarbonisation, especially in rural areas. The Government, whichever party is in power, needs to take urgent action and thereby extend support for the industry beyond 2021 to maintain the switch from fossil fuel to renewable energy heat. This would make a significant contribution to the 2050 carbon reduction targets whilst making rural businesses more resilient and homes more energy efficient, ended Neil Holland.

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