Government feeds biomass supply industry with new £1.5

The biomass feed stock industry received a boost yesterday with the announcement the government is to extend its Bio-energy Infrastructure Scheme with the launch of a new £1.5m round of grants.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change said that round three of the scheme would be open to small and medium sized businesses seeking to develop wood chips from short rotation coppice plantations or energy crops such as miscanthus, switch grass and rye grass.

"As we approach Copenhagen we need to encourage business to invest in renewable energy," said energy and climate change minister, Lord Hunt. "We funded 75 projects in round two of this scheme and we will continue to work to ensure that the supply chain is in place to create a thriving bio-energy market in England, which is good for the environment and good for business."

Under the scheme, which is being administered by consultancy and research firm TUV NEL Ltd, applications for grants will be accepted from businesses, local authorities and charities operating in England. The deadline for applications is February 26 next year.

DECC said that the extended grant scheme will be followed by an announcement next month detailing the launch of the next round of the Bio-energy Capital Grants Scheme, which provides funding to larger scale biomass projects.

The news comes just days after a new report from research firm Verdantix warned that the growing number of biomass power plants in the UK could see supplies disrupted as a result of their reliance on imported woodchips from overseas. It argued that firms should focus on developing smaller scale biomass power plants that can draw on local supplies of wood chips and other forms of energy crops.

In related news, drinks giant Heineken last week launched its second UK biomass facility at the Royal Brewery in Manchester. The company said that it has now invested around £35m in two 4.7MW biomass plants, the second of which is located in Tadcaster, making it one of the largest non-utility firms to invest in renewable energy.

The two plants burn locally sourced wood chips and the company said that it planned to fit equipment in the future that will allow it to also use waste grain material from the brewing process.

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