Biomass plan is far from perfect

The farming industry has said it is disappointed that a government report setting out measures it will implement to boost Britain’s fledgling biomass sector, did not go further.

The government’s response to recommendations made by its own biomass taskforce was unveiled on Tuesday (2 May).

But industry leaders said the action plan fell short of the commitment required to ensure farmers had a bright future growing energy crops.

Led by former NFU president Sir Ben Gill, the taskforce had called for the introduction of 40% grants to encourage the installation of biomass-heated boilers.

But the government insisted that European rules limited grants to 40% of the extra costs over the price of a comparable fossil-fuelled boiler, rather than the full amount.

The taskforce also recommended that conventional boilers in government buildings should be phased out and replaced by biomass boilers.

But rather than agreeing to implement the policy, the government said only that it would be considered.

And although the taskforce had given the government six months to detail the percentage of energy it expected to be generated from biomass over the next 15 years, ministers responded by saying they were not in a position to do so.

Oliver Harwood, chief surveyor for the Country Land and Business Association, said the government’s response was disappointing, under-ambitious and nowhere near what the industry was hoping for.

“The response is full of further consultation.

We are not being rude about it and we think the government is finally getting round to the idea that biomass is important, but they are still talking about it rather than getting on with it.”

The NFU urged ministers to move quickly to ensure farmers could play their part in biomass production as soon as possible.

The UK had some way to go before it caught up with some of its European neighbours, it added.

NFU president Peter Kendall said:

“This is a positive statement from the government, but we need a firmer commitment to ensure the potential of biomass and the role of farmers is achieved.”

The government’s commitment to increase the use of biomass through public procurement and minimum renewable energy targets for planning authorities would be important so long as sufficiently challenging targets were set, said Mr Kendall.

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