THE GOVERNMENT has put up £3.5 million to help stimulate biomass production and has also set up a task force to look into ways to increase the use of biomass as an energy source.

Junior DEFRA minister Lord Whitty announced the opening of a UK-wide Bio-energy Infrastructure Scheme on Friday (Oct 15).

The scheme, which has a total budget of £3.5m, will provide grants to help harvest, store, process and supply biomass for energy production.

Former NFU president Ben Gill will head the taskforce which has been asked to examine the barriers to the development of a biomass industry and develop solutions.

The group has been given a year to make its recommendations, which will be directed at the whole of government and not just DEFRA.

Sir Ben said he was delighted to have the opportunity to review the biomass sector.

“Its potential is clear – it can make a huge contribution to important agendas for renewable energy, a critical issue within the climate change issue. 

“But biomass struggles to make progress. With the team, I intend to define why and then look at what needs to be done. 

“This study is about finding solutions and that‘s what we intend to deliver.”

Lord Whitty said it was important to look to the future in the search for low-carbon energy sources.

“Biomass energy has the potential to be of huge benefit in terms of combating climate change, boosting farm diversification and creating more rural jobs.”

Biomass is an important element in government plans to increase renewable energy sources and cut greenhouse gases.

The government‘s Renewables Obligation requires electricity suppliers to obtain 15% of their electricity from renewable sources, including biomass, by 2015.

Cambridge University has also been commissioned to provide data on the economics of energy crops by April 2005.