24 April 2006

UK: Sustainable Energy – farmers must play their part

Farmers can play a significant part in the solution for UK green energy needs, with secure, assured and sustainable future supplies, says the NFU.

With the Sustainable Energy Manifesto being launched today, Wednesday, the NFU is just one of 35 organisations urging the Government to seize the moment and put in place foundations for a sustainable energy policy fit for the future.

The manifesto calls for more energy saving to reduce consumption, more investment in decentralised energy systems and accelerated growth of renewable energy. The NFU would like to see agriculture at the heart of the UK’s renewable energy industry.

The NFU is championing a holistic approach to energy production – with biomass, biogas and biofuel all options to UK farmers, ensuring secure, sustainable and renewable production.

Biomass crops (miscanthus and willow coppice) together with anaerobic digestion of animal and organic waste (biogas), have proven carbon savings, compared to fossil fuels, and can provide a secure source of electrical power generation and heating for industry, housing and municipal buildings.

The NFU believes the best way forward is a combined approach.

One example is the use of biomass plants to power bio refineries for biofuel production. The heat produced as a by-product from biomass plants could then be harnessed to warm neighbouring homes and industry  – this technology is proven, utilised widely elsewhere (such as Scandinavia) but much under-utilised in the UK.

The Manifesto is urging the Government to put in place supportive policies, namely capital grant schemes to help build bioenergy plants and strategic planning guidelines to ensure the supply of renewable energy is demand-led and logically sited next to new developments such as the planned extensive new housing across England by 2020.

In addition long-term renewable energy targets and longer fiscal incentives are critical to kick-start the production of bioenergy industries. The NFU wants to see a tax regime that favours lower emissions and improved environmental credentials.

Investment is needed to develop the UK’s green energy industry and stimulate demand for these carbon-neutral fuels, so-called as the carbon dioxide released during the generation of energy is balanced by that absorbed by plants during growth. Government long-term targets and incentives need to be put in place to create a viable market demand for bioenergy, which will be met by the UK agricultural industry.

NFU President Peter Kendall said: “Encouraging farmers to produce future supplies of renewable energy will help provide a secure alternative source of energy. This will be good for the environment and good for energy security.”

Source: NFU online April 24, 2006.

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