Heat support awaits spending review

Farmers will have to wait until after the coalition government’s spending review before learning the fate of a long-awaited support system for renewable heat.

Speaking at the Renewable Energy Association’s bioenergy conference last week, Greg Barker, Minister for climate change and decentralised energy failed to quell fears that the comprehensive spending review would impact on the proposed Renewable Heat Incentive, due to come into effect in April 2011.

He said he was unable to comment on specific support issues until after the spending review was completed on 20 October, but did promise that his department would seek to make an announcement on the RHI “within weeks, more likely days” of the Chancellor’s speech.

“The waiting is nearly over,” Mr Barker said. “However, while we can only deploy finite resources there is no limit to our ambition.” He added that the limited funding available meant that the government and industry must “focus our minds on projects we know will absolutely deliver.”

Bioenergy has a key role to play in achieving Britain’s 2020 and 2050 greenhouse gas reduction targets, with DECC estimates suggesting that biomass was likely to meet half of the 2020 renewables target, said Mr Barker.

“Biomass can provide a sustainable energy supply and CO2 reduction, but the key is not damaging food supply.”

In answer to a question from the audience, he said that farmers could benefit from the right projects: “Farmers need to find technologies and projects that are right for them. There absolutely are opportunities, but there is no one-size-fits-all solution.”

Speaking afterwards, Gaynor Hartnell, head of the REA, said: “[Greg Barker] understands the industry has undergone a prolonged period of uncertainty. I don’t think he would have spent so long with us if he was setting the industry up for disappointment.”