Monday, 12 December 2011

More support for community energy projects

BedZed, London, Peabody Trust.
The Buildings Research Establishment has just opened another round of the Community Sustainable Energy Programme.

The Community Sustainable Energy Programme will provide £8 million to community-based organisations for the installation of microgeneration technologies , such as solar panels or biomass boilers and energy efficiency measures including loft and cavity wall insulation.

It will also provide £1 million for project development grants that will help community organisations decide if they could benefit from a microgeneration and energy efficiency installation.

The programme aims to achieve the following outcomes:    

  • Reduction in CO2 emissions
  • Increased community awareness of climate change and how changes to our behaviour can reduce it
  • Increased skills base of local trades (for example, local builders and building-service subcontractors working on renewable energy projects for the first time)
  • Reduction in energy bills
  • Reduction in reliance on imported energy and increased independence from commercial energy suppliers
  • Stronger partnerships within local communities with lasting social benefits
  • Growth of local enterprise in new technologies
Due to the opening of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) applications for the current CSEP round will only be accepted for heat generating technologies and energy efficiency measures only.

Deadline for the receipt of completed applications will be 5pm Friday 29 February 2012.

For full details on how to apply please visit the BRE CSEP webpages.

Friday, 9 December 2011

DECC announces launch of two new community energy funds

In addition to the recently launched woodfuel woodland improvement grant (WF WIG) and Farming and Forestry Investment Scheme (FFIS) two more funding sources have been announced.

The Local Energy Assessment Fund (LEAF) and Rural Community Energy Fund are aimed specifically at community energy projects and are potentially very useful for getting projects implemented.

Whilst the LEAF project has demanding timescales it may be possible for some groups to take advantage, particularly if the scope of the project is tightly defined and there are plenty of people willing to get involved.

Details of the Rural Community Energy Fund are still emerging and an announcement is expected in January.


The Department of Energy and Climate Change, has announced a new £10 million fund to help local communities in England and Wales develop energy projects. The fund will run as a “competition”, with the chance for around 200 community organisations to receive up to £50,000 each to understand local energy efficiency, renewable energy generation issues and to get things started in local communities.

The Local Energy Assessment Fund (LEAF) will be managed by a number of community networks and administered by the Energy Saving Trust. This is a short-term scheme where work will need to be completed by end of March 2012.

The deadline for applications is in two weeks so you must act fast!  The first round closes at noon on the 22nd December.

The second round will close to applications at noon on 20 January 2012 with successful communities notified at the end January.

Additional details of how to apply can be found on the Energy Saving Trust's Green Communities website.  Advisors are available on 02920 467 015.

The grant fund is intended to help communities to prepare for new opportunities in sustainable energy and climate change arising from the Green Deal, Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) and Feed in Tariffs. The grants can be used to fund projects that follow the Energy Hierarchy (reduce energy use, use energy efficiently, generate renewable energy).


The Chancellor announced in his Autumn Statement, the creation of a £15m Rural Community Energy Fund (2012-2015) that will be developed by DECC and DEFRA.  More details will emerge in January 2012. 

In the meantime full details of funding for community energy projects can be found on DECC's website.

Monday, 5 December 2011

National biomass suppliers database launched

The Forestry Commission’s Biomass Energy Centre (BEC) and the Carbon Trust have jointly launched the National Biomass Suppliers Database - a new way for people to find local and national companies which can supply them with woodfuel.

Since the introduction of the Renewable Heating Incentive (RHI), many more people are considering installing woodfuel-powered heating, but they are often unaware that the woodfuel supply chain is well established in many parts of the country.

The new map-based listing, which is also available on the Biomass Energy Centre website, includes the details of around 300 fuel suppliers operating across the UK.

The new system will make it easy to find the nearest, or preferable, fuel supplier, and the service is free - woodfuel suppliers can be included simply by registering and submitting their details online.

Forestry Commission England recently announced its Woodfuel Woodland Improvement Grant, which will increase the amount of wood entering the supply chain from currently under-managed woodlands.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Renewable Heat Incentive is open for business

DECC has now announced the launch of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) Scheme and Ofgem's systems are now open and available to accept applications.

We have had a initial look at the online application process and it appears to be relatively simple.  However, you will need all paperwork close at hand (in electronic format) to increase the chances of completing the process in one sitting.  You can of course save the application and return later if you need to source additional information.

A few points of interest:
  • The person applying should be the authorised signatory for the organisation
  • You will need details of a valid bank account and proof that the bank account provided is held in the name of the organisation/company (e.g. copy of a bank statement which shows the account name, address, sort code and account number with financial information blackened out)
  • For 'simple' schemes Ofgem will respond within 20 working days
  • For 'complex' schemes Ofgem will reply within 30 working days
  • You will need to apply for preliminary accreditation if you installation date is greater than one month from the present (application) date AND your biomass boiler is over 200kWth (i.e. medium scale and above)
  • You will need to attach (or post) a series of documents so it would be worthwhile ensuring these are all at hand before you start.
  • You will need to be able to separate capital costs from non-direct costs (i.e. installer costs, planning costs and anything not attributable directly to the purchase or construction of the physical plant)
For further information, useful links and details on how to apply to the scheme please visit the RHI website:

For a summary of some of the documents and information which participants may be required to submit please refer to the following document “Summary of supporting information for RHI applicants”:

If you have any queries please contact the Ofgem E-Serve RHI Team on 0845 200 2122. The helpline opening hours are 8:30am until 5pm Monday to Thursday, and 8:30am until 4:30pm on Fridays.

Alternatively, you can send an email to  It is recommended that complicated enquiries are sent via email.

Good luck!

Monday, 21 November 2011

Good turnout at Woodfuel Pathfinder contractors event

The function room at the Dog & Bear in Lenham was packed to the gunwales last Thursday as forestry contractors from Kent and Sussex gathered for a roller coaster update on apprenticeships and training, grants and the evolving market for woodland products.

Around 70 people representing a wide range of businesses with an interest in the forestry and woodland management sectors attended the event.  There was a lot of interest in the new woodfuel grant (WF WIG) from the Forestry Commission, LEADER and the new Farm and Forestry Investment Scheme (FFIS). 

Mike Furness from Ngage Solutions, the company responsible for delivering the WF WIG in the South East said:

"It was great to have a packed room to spread the word to.  We have already had two firm follow-up calls for significant roading schemes as a result of the event and we would encourage anyone with an interest to get in touch."

Feedback since the event also suggests a high level of interest in the LEADER and FFIS schemes, both of which are designed to assist rural businesses invest in green projects and new machinery.

There was a lot of debate on the night about how potential apprentices could be identified and retained in the forestry sector.  Some delegates also raised concerns about the cost of equipment and training for new staff.  However, a quick show of hands revealed that six businesses were considering taking on apprentices.  The training providers in attendance at the event (Plumpton College and Concept Training) also expressed great interest in supporting these businesses with work-based learning for apprentices.

The Forestry Commission provided a summary of how markets for woodland products, and in particular wood fuel, are developing and highlighted several examples of installed biomass heating schemes and local wood chip supply chains.

As the evening progressed a clear message emerged: A good package of support for the land-based sector still exists, and with the recent announcement of two major new grants (with a combined total of £30m funding) now is the time to pick up the phone and find out how your business can take advantage. 

The presentations from the event can be found here:

The imminent opening of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) at the end of November will provide a strong market-based opportunity for the forestry sector over the next few years.  If your business needs support on any of the subjects covered in this article then please do not hesitate to get in touch with the Kent Downs Woodfuel Pathfinder on 01303 815 171 or

Monday, 14 November 2011

£20m for farming, forestry and horticultural businesses

Alan TYERS - Hayrolls, Highdown Farm
A new £20 million fund to help farming, forestry and horticultural businesses to become more efficient at using resources has been launched. The scheme aims to help businesses to become more competitive and more profitable, whilst reducing the impact of farming on the environment.

This announcement comes only a few days after the launch of the new £10m Woodfuel Woodland Improvement Grant by the Forestry Commission.

Farmers, foresters, woodland owners, agricultural contractors and horticulturalists can apply for grants of up to £25,000 to invest in green projects, new machinery and improvements to animal health and welfare so their businesses can grow in an environmentally friendly way.

The Farming and Forestry Improvement Scheme will fund projects that:
  • save energy and reduce carbon emissions
  • reduce dependence on artificial fertilizers through better use of manures
  • improve soil quality
  • improve animal health and welfare
  • save and recycle water
  • promote woodland management by processing timber more efficiently

In Kent the LEADER programme has been very successful at providing RDPE grants for a wide variety of land-based and rural businesses.  It is understood that the new FFIS scheme may replace LEADER, although there is underspend in some other regions and this may be used to top-up the Kent LEADERs (providing there is enough demand to warrant an extension).

More information on LEADER, the new FFIS scheme and a range of other topics will be provided at our forthcoming contractors event at the Dog & Bear (Lenham) on Thursday, November 17th. 

There are still some places left so please contact us if you would like to come along ( , 01303 815 171).

Friday, 11 November 2011

£10m to boost woodland management for woodfuel

A new £10m grant scheme to revitalise woodland management has been announced by Forestry Commission England today, 10 November 2011. The new scheme aims to produce woodfuel by improving roads and access for extraction.

Around half of England’s woodlands are undermanaged. There are many reasons for this but one is certainly the high cost of extracting timber so that it can be brought to market. Supporting owners and managers to improve roads and access will reduce harvesting costs and once again make woodland management economically viable.

Pam Warhurst, Forestry Commission Chair said:
“There is an old phrase that says “A wood that pays is a wood that stays.” We are delighted to be able to launch this new scheme to revitalise the economic viability of sustainable woodland management by helping get timber to market. It will create rural jobs and help grow the green economy.”

Applicants will have to have long term management plans for the woodlands that meet the new UK Forestry Standard.  The plans will say how much timber they expect to harvest over the next decade so we will be able to see clearly what the benefits are from each new road built.

The new Woodfuel Woodland Improvement Grant (or Woodfuel WIG), will improve the infrastructure of undermanaged woodlands and contribute to the costs of marketing timber. As well as supplying the growing woodfuel market from thinnings and other operations, well managed woodland can also produce high quality timber. In turn this management improves the quality of woodlands for wildlife.

Woodfuel WIG is available throughout England but most of the funds are targeted towards the South East, South West and Cumbria, where there is greater potential for woodfuel supply.

This new grant is open for applications now and will operate alongside the Farming and Forestry Improvement Scheme, recently launched by Defra to provide comprehensive support to the woodfuel supply chain.

Woodfuel Woodland Improvement grant key features
  • This new grant supports the sustainable production of woodfuel and other timber products and runs to the end of the 2013/14 financial year
  • Work will need to meet the UK Foresty Standard
  • The grant offers 60% towards the cost of work, and doesn’t take account of the timber income that results
  • To apply for a Woodfuel WIG, applicants must have an approved, up to date Woodland Management Plan, and work must be completed and claimed for by 28 February 2014
The following main operations are supported:
  • Roads, tracks and other infrastructure to assist the extraction of timber from woodland. Support will be based on 3 quotes and grant paid on the production of receipted invoices
  • Woodland inventory and costs associated with managing harvesting contracts. Support for this work is based on standard costs

Monday, 31 October 2011

Woodland Contractors Workshop - Nov 17th, Lenham, Kent

Kent Downs Woodfuel Pathfinder: Woodland Contractors Workshop
Dog & Bear (Lenham, Kent) on November 17th at 7pm – Free Buffet
After many years the markets for Kent’s woodland products are improving, woodfuel is starting to provide opportunities for lower quality material (particularly at a local level) and people are increasingly recognising the value of wood as a sustainable product. 

If, as an industry, we are to take advantage of these developments we need a robust and evolving network of woodland contractors.  Appreciating that there is a huge range of business models we would like to better understand what would help existing contractors develop their businesses to respond to the improving conditions.

The workshop will also provide an update on support available to the sector including:

·         The evolving market opportunities
·         The FC’s new Woodfuel Woodland Improvement Grant
·         Grant support for machinery & business development
·         Funding for apprentices

The Kent Downs Woodfuel Pathfinder is a joint Forestry Commission and Kent County Council project (with funding from the EU ERDF Interreg IVa programme) exploring what temporary support would help the woodland industry evolve to become fully self-supporting delivering:

              Market driven sustainable management of Kent’s woodlands
              Maintenance of Kent’s landscape character & secure local jobs
              Carbon lean & sustainably sourced fuel for local heat

Over 70 contractors from Kent, Surrey and Sussex are being invited to this event.  It provides an opportunity to tell us what would help YOU, learn about new initiatives and network with other companies operating in the sector. 

Places are limited.  Please email (or call 01303 815 171) to reserve a seat.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Ofgem update on RHI Phase 1: Large scale biomass tariff reduced

SusCon boiler room, Dartford, Kent
Ofgem have released further information on the status of the RHI Phase 1 launch, delayed from last month.

DECC has announced that the Renewable Heat Incentive regulations have been laid before Parliament, with the aim of opening Phase 1 of the scheme to applicants by the end of November 2011 (subject to Parliamentary approval).

"We have now updated the Renewable Heat Incentive Regulations to reflect the required change to large scale biomass tariff by the European Commission.  The large scale biomass tariff has been revised from 2.7p per kWh to 1p per kWh."

Ofgem is ready to start accepting applications as soon as regulations come into force, although the exact date of this is dependant on parliamentary timetables.

For more information visit either DECC's website on the RHI or Ofgem's website on the RHI

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Woodfuel Woodland Improvement Grant open for applications

The value of wood as a sustainable resource, either as timber or as woodfuel is growing.

The Kent Downs has a long history of traditional coppice management and is well suited to respond to such market led opportunities.

Of course, sensitive and sustainable woodland management is crucial to the character and ecology of the Kent Downs and provides jobs for local people.  However, traditional sweet chestnut products are growing in popularity and new products are being developed.

The growing market for wood as a sustainable fuel, encouraged by the Government’s Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) and the Kent Downs Woodfuel Pathfinder offers market opportunities for the lowest quality wood and ‘offcuts’ produced when creating other wood products.

The greatest opportunities lie in:

  • Using your own wood to supply your own heat needs;
  • Adding value to your lower quality wood by selling woodfuel locally, or
  • By selling the end product - heat.
The volatility and the inevitability of increasing prices of fossil fuel means locally produced woodfuel offers a secure and sustainable supply where production and supply is undertaken by local people.

The Woodfuel Woodland Improvement Grant offers support of 60% of the costs of:

  • roads, loading areas, tracks and other infrastructure which will allow you to harvest wood products;
  • assessing the amount of timber which could be sustainably harvested; and
  • the costs of managing harvesting contracts.
Further details can be found on the Forestry Commission website.

If you are interested you will first need an approved woodland management plan, for which the Forestry Commission also offer support through the Woodland Planning Grant.

Contact your local Woodland Officer for further information.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Surrey Hills Woodfuel Challenge Conference

This conference is about wood as sustainable, green, carbon neutral fuel. It looks at the question: Why would you choose wood?
And its panel of experts will explain: Why you should choose wood!
Organised by the Surrey Wood Fuel Group, this is the second October conference for people who are involved in upgrading old buildings or designing and building new ones, either in the public or private sector. The aim is to explain the business opportunities relating to the rapidly expanding woodfuel market.
Speakers will look at the potential for wood to heat housing complexes, institutions, office blocks and civic buildings and show why architects, designers, landowners, farmers, planners and builders should consider opting for wood fuel in a wide range of projects and how they can do it.
Speakers include Oliver More from Ofgem, Michael Baxter from the Albury Estate, Mark Lebus from LC Energy, Chris Miles from Econergy, Gary Battell (Woodlands advisor) from Suffolk County Council and Bill Biddell from the Hampton Estate.

The financial position has changed rapidly over the last year and speakers will explain the subsidies available through the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) and show the on-going cost benefits of switching from fossil fuel to wood, as well as being shown the nuts and bolts of wood heating installation.
Wood fuel heating is now established in this country. Surrey for example has 167,715 acres of woodland, and wood fuel is Surrey County Council’s official preferred heating source.
There are some high profile wood fuel champions already enjoying the benefits, including the University of Surrey and Birtley House. Delegates will be able to see for themselves how the woodchip system heats the Birtley House Nursing Home, inspecting both boiler house and chip store.
The conference will demonstrate the extent of the wood fuel supply chain in Surrey. This is a wooded county and wood is a sustainable resource with an expanding network of suppliers. Using wood for fuel enables woodland to be managed for biodiversity and conservation.

Booking for this event (which includes lunch) is essential and a conference fee of £25 plus a £2.50 booking fee will be charged at the time of booking.

This event is supported by the Forestry Commission and Birtley House.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

RSPB on woodfuel and bioenergy

Stevens Croft is owned and operated by E.ON Climate
and Renewables and is the UK’s largest wood fired
biomass station producing 44 MW of clean electricity
 The RSPB has released a report that looks at the impact on increasing domestic demand for woodfuel on overseas habitats.

The report highlights the number of biomass power stations currently in the planning process which, when built, could increase demand for fuel significantly and lead to an increase in the use of imported wood.

The RSPB's report is hot on the heels of the Renewable Energy Association's (REA) recently launched 'Back Biomass' campaign which calls for a long-term approach to the Government's commitment to biomass heat and power.

Whilst the RSPB and REA are perhaps looking at the biomass 'opportunity' from two different perspectives they both acknowledge the critical role to be played by 'sustainable' harvesting.  By this they mean that woodfuel can be produced, domestically or otherwise, at a rate that does not jeopardise the source woodland or forest.

The RSPB favour an " increase in the use of domestic wood fuel as a result of thinning out poorly managed and overly dense woodlands...".  However, they warn against the overuse of biomass energy generating technologies. 

Whilst the REA is far bolder in its support of biomass energy it acknowledges that sustainable feedstock is also critical:

"Carefully planned woodland management, carried out by experienced professional foresters creates healthier, better structured woodlands with greater growth and increased biodiversity. Woodland in England is often ‘unmanaged’ because no attractive markets exist for the wood products of a managed forest."

The REA also recognise the fact that woodfuel is a market-based opportunity for the forestry sector:

"By supporting the biomass industry, the real market value of sustainable biomass sources will be realised and the sustainability and biodiversity of the UK’s forests can be enhanced."

The Kent Downs Woodfuel Pathfinder welcomes both the RSPB report and the REA campaign.  The Pathfinder project has always promoted sustainable woodland management alongside biomass energy and is actively supporting woodland owners and users biomass technology to ensure that biomass feedstocks are sustainable.

For support with woodland management, woodfuel and biomass heating please contact

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Barclays launches £100m renewables fund for farmers

Brookland Farm, Herefordhsire
(Photo Ben Whittle)
Along with the partnership between Siemens and the Carbon Trust it seems that private finance for renewables is really beginning to take off.

Barclays has launched a £100m renewables fund aimed at the farming sector.  It focuses on electricity production from solar, wind and hydro technologies, leaving the Government's publicly Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) to incentivise the production of renewable heat from September 30th this year.

The scheme is expected to fund around 100 projects ranging in value between £250,000 and £700,000.  The fund managers anticipate that most projects will be solar (photovoltaic) or wind.

Clearly the launch of this fund is more good news for renewable energy in the UK. However, traditional constraints such as planning and landscape impact remain and not everyone will be able to adopt these technologies.

Many of the land and property owners we have spoken to have already considered solar which is unsurprising considering the nature of the technology and the relatively large roof areas associated with agricultural buildings.

But other options do exist.

Given the good access to woodland within the agricultural sector biomass heating is also generating a lot of interest and we are seeing increasing interest in feasibility studies and the RHI, both for commercial and domestic applications.

More details on the Barclays fund can be found on the Guardian and Barclays websites.

If you are considering biomass heating and would like to undertake a feasibility study please do not hesitate to get in touch with us.

Matthew Morris
Woodfuel Development Manager
Kent Downs AONB
01303 815 171

Monday, 15 August 2011

Evening briefing seminars: Presentations

The presentations from the recent briefing sessions can be read or downloaded via Scribd using the following links:

Matthew Woodcock - Forestry Commission: Biomass heating examples

Stewart Boyle: The Renewable Heat Incentive

Matthew Morris: Kent's woodland resource

If you have any questions about these presentations, or any other related matter, then please feel free to contact us at the following email address:

Welcome to the Kent Downs Woodfuel Pathfinder Blog

The Kent Downs Woodfuel Pathfinder Blog has been set up to provide a temporary repository for information relating to the Pathfinder project.  In particular it will be used to communicate project information, such as the recent evening briefing sessions, as well as general information relating to woodland management, woodfuel and the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) which opens for business on September 30th.

We also want to encourage users of this site to write their own articles as well as stimulate debate by commenting on items.  Articles can be submitted directly to myself (  To comment on an article you will need to use an existing profile recognised by the Google Blogger software or create a new one (this is very easy and only takes a few moments).

To get things started we will create a distribution list using Google Groups, so that we can keep you informed when we post new articles.  Everyone who booked onto the recent evening events using the event web site (Eventbrite) will be added to this group and you will receive notification of this shortly.  If you do not want to be part of this group, either now or any time in the future, just let us know and you will be removed.  Please also email me if you want to ADD anyone.

So, welcome to the blog - we hope you find this site useful.

Matthew Morris
Kent Downs Woodfuel Pathfinder Coordinator
Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB)