Farm leaders have said they are disappointed that the Biomass Task Force has rejected the notion of a Renewable Heat Obligation after a year-long study.

An obligation would boost the sector by requiring energy suppliers and large-scale users to demonstrate that they had substituted renewable heat for fossil-powered heat.

Published on Tuesday (25 October), the report said Britain could reduce carbon emissions by about 3mt/year if more biomass was used to generate heat in the UK.

But the taskforce, led by former NFU president Ben Gill, concluded that introducing a Renewable Heat Obligation would be unworkable.

It suggested a better way to stimulate biomass was to provide grants for business and other large-scale energy users to install boilers.

The Country Land and Business Association and the NFU said they were disappointed an obligation had been rejected because it would have helped persuade farmers that there was some long-term security in the provision of biomass.

But the report said that to draw up a framework for the legislation would take too long and that with the high cost of oil, biomass heat generation already compared favourably with conventional systems.

Instead, the report backed a capital grant system that would fund 40% of capital expenditure needed for a boiler and associated infrastructure for five years.

NFU deputy president Peter Kendall said the biomass task force had highlighted the poor uptake and barriers to the current domestic industry.

“However, we would like to have seen more emphasis on longer-term projects like plans to replace coal and nuclear power with renewable energy.”

Harsher criticism came from CLA president Mark Hudson, who said he was astonished the biomass task force had rejected the Renewable Heat Obligation model.

“It is a model which has already successfully increased private investment in the electricity sector and which we are confident would incentivise the further development of renewable heat technologies.”

Junior DEFRA minister Lord Bach welcomed the report and said he was confident that if farmers were presented with the right contracts they would respond positively to this new market.

andrew.watts@rbi.co.uk