3 March 2000

Biomass contracts for northWales

£100m fillip for rural buses

FARMERS in north Wales could soon be offered contracts to supply biomass crops to a £200m green energy power station.

Anglesey livestock and arable farmer Edward Jones, who is already involved in a £30m a year turnover company supplying farmer customers with electricity and phone calls at discount prices, says the plant would produce 540 megawatts/hour of electricity.

While gas from beneath the Irish Sea would provide 80% of the fuel used, the rest could come from willow coppices and miscanthus grass crops on farms, forest residues, and even the rhododendrons that infest large areas of Wales. This would make it the first station in the UK to comply with the Kyoto agreement that 10% of energy must come from renewable sources.

His company, Egni Biomass, and joint venture partners Biomass Power Plants and Independent Energy, have outline planning permission to construct the plant at Rhosgoch. Mr Jones believes it could be operating within two years and providing extra income for hundreds of farmers. They also intend to build five smaller environmentally friendly power stations in other parts of Wales.

RURAL bus services have received a £100m boost after the government agreed to double the life of a scheme funding thousands of services across England.

Transport minister Keith Hill announced on Tuesday (Feb 29) that the Rural Bus Subsidy Grant will continue for three years beyond 2000-1.

Funding will at least match its current £32.5m a year budget to provide services for rural populations.

NFU head of environment and land use Brian McLaughlin said: "This announcement is good news and we welcome the recognition that there are real mobility problems in rural areas.

"While it would sound churlish to say its not enough, the question is what is going to happen once this extension ends in 2004.