The government has announced a package of measures which should boost the biomass sector.

It has announced the introduction of a new five year capital grant scheme for biomass boilers, with funding of £10 – £15 million over the first two years.

The government has also offered “agreement in principle” to support for energy crops under the new Rural Development Programme for England which will be introduced in 2007.

The measures, launched by ministers from DEFRA and the DTI on Thursday (27 April), were included in a report which forms the government’s response to the Biomass Task Force.

The report announced the establishment of a Forestry Commission Biomass Energy Centre to provide expert information and advice.

It also included a commitment to consider using biomass heating in government buildings.

The government also said that the Task Force’s recommendation that the government should not pursue a renewable heat obligation will be considered further and the evidence reviewed.

Junior DEFRA minister Lord Bach said: “There is enormous potential in biomass, to generate renewable energy, to help the environment and to provide another possible market for our farmers.

“We know that biomass is not the answer to every issue facing us but we should be getting much more from this valuable resource.

“This action plan provides us with a clear path forwards. It has been drawn up by a cross-Government team, building on the excellent work done by the Biomass Task Force.”

Other key points included in the report were:

* Further measures to integrate environmental assessment in the planning of energy crop development;

* Government leadership through public procurement, including the commitment to map the potential use of biomass across the main procuring departments of the Government estate;

* Working with Regional Development Agencies and other organisations to ensure effective, coordinated mechanisms for delivery of policy and advice;

* Use of the planning system to stimulate renewables development, including support for planning authorities applying a minimum percentage of renewable energy in new developments;

* Action to address regulatory barriers identified by the Task Force and to develop standards to improve efficacy and confidence in biomass;

* Support for the EU Biomass Action Plan and agreement on UK membership of the Global Bioenergy Partnership from its launch in May 2006.