Are rural areas and farming communities being forgotten about in the heat decarbonisation debate? Neil Holland of the UK Pellet Council discusses…

“New legislation committing the UK to zero carbon emission targets by 2050 now means that the Government needs to find the most proven, sustainable and commercially-viable routes to achieving its objectives. The decarbonisation of heat, in particular, in rural and farming areas, needs a clear, effective strategy so that those living, working and operating businesses in off-gas grid communities aren’t left behind their urban counterparts.

 “With support and investment, biomass could massively uplift the rural economy and create new jobs across all areas including farming, agriculture and forestry. It’s everything from effective woodland management, encouraging sustained year-long work for agricultural contractors; farming through the summer months and increased trade during the winter (heating) season, and farm businesses being able to rival international competition with lower energy costs.

“At the moment, less than half of the UK’s forestry is managed and that’s partly due to a perceived low value. However, by demonstrating a clear need for wood for biomass – only using the low value tree parts – we have a very strong argument that would create a highly sustainable rural economy, good employment opportunities and business growth in sectors like farming, better woodland management and ultimately, contribute to 2050 carbon reduction targets. We can develop a workable circular economy for the UK’s rural sectors which stems from the fact that a boiler needs biomass fuel for approximately 20 years.

“The ‘Biomass Heat Works!’ campaign is asking farming communities as well as residents, businesses and anyone living in rural areas to get on board and support our call to action.More often than not, it is also the lowest carbon option available to rural homes and businesses, particularly farms who have been early adopters of the technology. 

 “We could see consumer demand increase from 5.5% in 2020 to 15% in 2032* and create over 100,000 jobs in predominantly rural areas, so we’re calling for biomass heating to be at the centre of the Government’s rural economic and energy initiatives moving forward.

“Also, in the context of a climate emergency, ministers cannot afford to rely on as yet unproven technologies which are years away from commercialisation. Biomass is a well-established energy resource in the UK and whilst we aren’t clear as to future decarbonisation strategies, now is the time to deliver a positive and targeted campaign and call for biomass to be recognised.”

“Many leading European countries have seen huge success supporting their biomass industries. We, as a fast-growing sector with a well-established supply chain serving rural areas, need the same from our own Government. That’s why the UK Pellet Council and Wood Heat Association are calling on ministers to take heed of recent reports and recognise biomass as the most fit-for-purpose solution to deliver rural heat decarbonisation when the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) ends in 2021.”