11 April 1997

Biomass: Not fully exploited

PUSH/PULL attitudes of different government departments are stifling the biomass industry.

Speaking at an Association of Applied Biologists conference in Cirencester, Murray Carter, founding chairman of the British Biogen trade association, acknowledged MAFFs role in funding research and development. But the governments energy policy was a "mish-mash of poorly co-ordinated measures".

The Department of Trade and Industry was stimulating many biomass projects and the private sector had spent heavily. But at the same time MAFF had cut Woodland Grant Scheme grants by about 60%, explained Mr Murray.

"That is silly. It is doing the very thing guaranteed to negate or neutralise their efforts." Many growers had banked on receiving full grants in their biomass plans.

The ECs recent green paper proposed that by 2010 renewable output should double from its current average of 6%.

Labour Party proposals for 2025 were broadly similar, and he estimated that 1m ha (2.5m acres) of land would be needed to meet them.

Mr Murray said the present Non Fossil Fuel Obligation arrangements were inefficient and inflexible. While valuing their pump-priming role, he claimed they encouraged wasted effort for firms whose submissions failed.

"We are not saying we want another round of subsidies. We want to move to a free market. But to get there we need investment." Banks and others would be reluctant to invest further without clear policies, he warned.n

Andrew Blake


&#8226 Renewable demand strong.

&#8226 Mixed government messages.

&#8226 Lack of overall policy.

&#8226 NFFO process inefficient.

&#8226 Further investment in doubt.