Natural England is urging farmers and other land managers to apply to the Energy Crops Scheme by Saturday 31st August 2013 for new agreements starting this year.
Energy crops are used as a substitute for fossil fuels in the production of heat and power, and as a result they can contribute to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and help to combat climate change.
The Energy Crops Scheme (ECS) is designed to support the planting of Miscanthus and short rotation coppice energy crops in appropriate locations in England. Similar schemes exist in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Payments under the scheme cover 50 per cent of the costs of establishing the crop. ECS participants can plant in one year, or choose to phase the planting for up to three years. Under the arrangements for the current scheme planting can be undertaken in 2013, 2014 and 2015.
However, the scheme has yet to fulfill its potential according to Lucy Hopwood, Head of Biomass and Biogas at NNFCC: “Currently there are around 12,000 hectares of Miscanthus or short rotation coppice being grown in the UK for energy production but the potential land available in the UK for growing these crops is far greater,”
“There are hundreds of thousands of hectares of land across the UK which could be used to grow energy crops and produce millions of tonnes of home grown biomass for the heat and power sector, but without strong government support we will become more reliant on biomass imports and undermine our ability to meet our target of producing 15 per cent of energy from renewable sources by 2020,” she added.
The ECS was established as part of the Rural Development Programme for England, 2007-2013. With the current RDPE drawing to a close at the end of 2013, no agreements under the current scheme can be entered into after that date.
No decision has been made on how energy crops will be supported after the current scheme comes to an end. However, Natural England said that the Government is currently working on the next Rural Development Programme, which will start in January 2015 with any new agreements likely to be issued from January 2016.
In the meantime, Natural England is assuring Energy Crops Scheme customers that all existing agreements, along with all new agreements (that are finalised before 31st December 2013), will continue until their agreed end date.
If you wish to apply for the scheme, amend an existing agreement, or would like more information then please contact Natural England’s Energy Crops team on 0300 060 1624/1413, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the ECS webpages.
Source: NNFCC, 2013-02-28.