Energy experts in the north west of England believe that farmers in the region have an opportunity to move into the supply of energy from renewable crops, as well as growing and marketing them.
Crewe-based rural consultants CMS UK have been working with DEFRA to focus attention on energy crops among north-west farmers.
Rural Energy Business Groups have been set up in the region to help farmers evaluate the income potential of renewable energy and to provide the expertise to help them grow the crops and secure new markets among commercial users.
Keith Roberts, a director of CMS UK, said:
“We’ve established Rural Energy Business Groups in Lancashire, Cheshire and Cumbria to provide expertise and guidance for farmers interested in energy crops.
“The government is pushing hard for wider use of renewable energy in the commercial and domestic sector.
We’re seeing new developments open for these systems as well as other commercial premises switching away from gas and oil.
“This opens up a huge market but it will be up to farmer-controlled groups – and I stress these will be farmer-controlled – to win new customers for the energy crops they grow.
“The three new groups in the north west will be provided with help in establishing markets for energy crops.”
As well as the opportunities to grow short rotation coppice and miscanthus and secure contacts to supply these energy sources to end-users, CMS UK says entrepreneurial farmer groups could even move into the supply of the actual power.
“Although growing the fuel and supplying it is the primary opportunity there is no reason why farmers could not go a stage further and grow the crop, supply it and actually be responsible for managing the plant that turns it into power on the site of the end-user,” said Mr Roberts.