Friday, 30 March 2012

Renewable Heat grant scheme extended

HDG chip boiler installed by North Downs Wood and Heat
On 26 March, DECC announced a second phase to the Renewable Heat Premium Payment scheme, which will provide further short term support for installations of renewable heat technologies in the household sector.

The new phase of the scheme will run in Great Britain and again focus on houses not heated by mains gas. As with phase 1, there will be two parts to the scheme: a voucher for private householders and a competition for social landlords. Consideration is being given to the introduction of a Community Competition.

Statistics for the RHPP indicate that 785 biomass boiler grants have already been issued.   The second phase of the scheme, worth £25m (£10m more than the first phase), should provide even greater support for the installation of renewable heat technologies in the household sector.

The RHPP runs in parallel with the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), the World's first financial incentive for renewable heat.  This is open for commercial heat installations (which includes multiple domestic properties connected to a central biomass boiler).

RHPP Phase 1

This phase of the scheme will run until 30 March 2012. Applicants should note that the on-line application form will be removed from the Energy Saving Trust website during working hours on 30th March 2012. Regardless of when customers applied for or received their voucher, and in order to be eligible to receive their grant, all completed claims must arrive at the address printed on the voucher (Energy Saving Trust, Edinburgh) before midnight on 31st March 2012.

As part of the scheme, DECC and EST ran a competition for social housing providers to part-fund projects to install renewable heating. See below for a list of the winners who were awarded funding.

RHPP Phase 2

Under the new voucher scheme, homes not heated by mains gas will be able to apply for grants for air-to-water-source and ground and water source heat pumps, biomass boilers and solar thermal. All householders can apply for grants for solar thermal. There are minimum energy efficiency criteria, and householders must agree to complete customer questionnaires, as well as making provision for the installation of a meter to monitor their energy use and performance of their heating system.

Asian Longhorn Beetle found in Kent

Asian Longhorn Beetle
An outbreak of the Asian longhorn beetle (ALB), an exotic beetle pest which could have severe consequences for British trees, has been found in Kent, the Food & Environment Research Agency (Fera) confirmed today.

This is the first time an outbreak of this pest has been found in the UK, and it is being treated extremely seriously. Fera and the Forestry Commission are taking urgent steps to try to eradicate the outbreak before it has the chance to spread further afield.

Several larvae of the beetle were found inside a poplar tree during a routine survey by the Forestry Commission at a site in the Paddock Wood area. Scientists from the Commission's Forest Research agency had been monitoring an area around the site where an adult beetle had been found in 2009, and this is the first evidence of infestation. It is thought the beetles originated from wood packaging used to import stone from China at an adjacent industrial site.

The beetle is not native to the UK, and poses a serious threat to a wide range of broadleaved trees and shrubs such as maple (including sycamore), elm, horse chestnut, willow, poplar, birch and some fruit trees.

Speaking about action to eradicate the outbreak, Martin Ward, Head of Plant Health Policy at Fera, said,

“Our plant health inspectors and the Forestry Commission are conducting a survey to determine the extent of this outbreak. They will be contacting all those within the survey area over the next few days and weeks with a view to inspecting all potential host trees for signs of the beetle. In the meantime we would urge members of the public, local businesses and landowners to be on the alert for the beetle and let us know if they find anything.”
Adult beetles are large (about 20 - 40 mm long) and shiny black with variable white markings. Their antennae are particularly distinctive, being much longer than their bodies (up to twice the body length) and are black with white or light blue bands. The larvae of the beetle feed undetected on the inside of the plant, and can kill it or leave it weakened and susceptible to further pest and disease damage.
The most obvious symptoms of ALB damage are the circular adult exit holes, which are about 10 mm in diameter and are generally found in the main trunk and above. The adult beetles usually emerge from these holes between May and October.
Dr John Morgan, Head of the Forestry Commission's Plant Health Service, said,
“It’s difficult to say exactly what measures will need to be taken until we have completed the initial survey work to determine the extent of the outbreak. However, we will need to remove any trees found to be infested, and it is possible that we will need to remove potential host trees around the original site as a precautionary measure. Eradication measures to treat outbreaks in the US and Italy have resulted in the loss of tens of thousands of mature trees.”
Anyone who suspects they have seen an Asian longhorn beetle, or evidence of its presence, should contact the Fera Plant Health Helpline on 0844 248 0071 or email If possible, the beetle should be caught and placed in a secure container so that an inspector can collect it. The beetles are not harmful to humans, although they should be handled with caution because they can nip the skin.
More-detailed information about ALB can be found on the Forestry Commission’s website.

High domestic fuel prices blamed for rise in theft of harvested wood

Try getting these in the back of the family hatchback!

The theft of harvested timber from woodlands is not a new phenomenon, but these recent BBC news items from Somerset and Gloucestershire perhaps hint at a growing problem.  Reports from Greece add more evidence to the clear relationship between illegal forestry, depressed economies and high fuel prices.

Another factor may be the inexorable rise in the use of wood stoves.  The Stove Industries Alliance, the body that represents stove manufacturers and distributors in the UK, estimate that around 150,000 wood stoves have been installed each year for the last four years.  This has already led to a significant increase in demand for firewood (and the firewood industry has rightly responded with strong investment in new equipment and facilities).

But given the increase in the cost of firewood, and more significantly the huge increases in oil and gas prices, it is not surprising that some people may view their local woodlands as a prime source of free fuel.

The BBC articles suggest that the problem can extend up to 400m into a woodland.  In some cases illegal loggers are using chainsaws and large vehicles (20 tonnes in one night in one case).

We are not aware of any significant problems in Kent at the moment...but please do get in touch if you hear of anything and we will highlight any problems on this blog.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Woodfuel Pathfinder featured on BBC Countryfile

In case you missed the most recent episode of the Countryfile, and the feature on coppice management and woodfuel, you can see it here on the BCC iPlayer: Countryfile March 11th 2012.
The venue was Torry Hill Fencing, a business that clearly demonstrates how good woodland management can yield a range of benefits.

It was also pleasing to see that the only waste product from the process, the bark that is removed from the chestnut lengths before they are split for pailings, can be used as goat feed (which was a somewhat unexpected by-product from a morning's filming with Matt Baker)!

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Rural Economy Grant (REG) launched

Rural economy grants, which could be worth more than £1 million each, will enable entrepreneurs in rural areas to take life-changing opportunities to grow their businesses through the Rural Economy Grant scheme, increasing both their competitiveness and profits.
The Rural Economy Grant (REG) provides grants to enable a significant ‘game-changing', transformational performance in farm, forestry, tourism, agri-food businesses and micro businesses in rural areas in England.

The £60 million REG has been established in response to the findings of Defra's Rural Economy Growth Review (launched in November 2011), which through consultation and an in-depth analysis of a broad range of research, identified large grants (of £25,000 up to circa £1 million) are needed in key business sectors to unlock significant rural economic growth potential.

Project applications will need to demonstrate that as a result of a grant their business will achieve a significant step change in performance (such as job creation, increased turnover, access to new markets etc).  The REG application process is competitive and those projects offering the greatest return on grant investment will be more likely to be successful.

Investment in the Forestry Sector

This priority within REG can offer a range of support to help the forestry and timber sector to significantly transform their business competitiveness, productivity and environmental
efficiency, whilst better utilising forest resources to strengthen and respond to market demand for products such as woodfuel.  Projects in woodlands with significant local importance where active management can positively increase its sustainability and develop its economic potential will also be eligible for support.

Support for primary processing associated with the above must demonstrate significant increases in economic and environmental efficiencies in forestry and timber micro-enterprises (businesses with less than 10 employees with an annual turnover or annual balance sheet total of under €2 million).

The focus will be larger scale projects (projects with a total investment above £62,500 and grant request of at least £25,000) that can demonstrate that the investment will move the business significantly beyond current practice.

Grant investment is available to support:
  • Creation/development of new businesses in the forestry and timber sector
  • The modernisation of primary processing
  • The use of new technology in micro-enterprises
  • Product and market development and product ‘substitution’ in favour of timber and promotes great use of locally sourced timber
  • Developing business capacity in micro-enterprises producing high quality woodfuel

Investment through RDPE does not substitute grant opportunities that should be pursued through other existing grant schemes such as the Woodfuel WIG or the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI).

Primary Processing is defined as all activity post felling but before industrial processing (for example logs, rough planked or chipped timber or simple enhancements to the quality of that product through drying/seasoning). Industrial processing is defined as anything that changes the primary product (for example lamination, pelletising, jointing etc).

Three main themes are being considered under the Forestry Priority for REG:

A. The Modernisation of Supply Chains

Up to 40% of eligible costs can be supported to improve the co-operation and collaboration in the sector leading to more effective and sustainable supply chains.  Support will facilitate:
  •  Co-operation and collaboration to improve supply chains
  • The development of ideas and initiatives that improve the effectiveness and sustainability of supply chains
  • The development of new or established supply chain relationships that increase the
  • environmental efficiency and sustainability of the business
  • An increase in the sector’s ability to address
B. The Development of New Products and Markets

Up to 40% of eligible costs can be applied for to support businesses that want to work together to develop new products, processes or technologies with the aim of strengthening the sector. Support will facilitate: 
  • Increasing the use of timber as a substitute for less sustainable materials
  • Increasing the number of products that use lower grades of timber
  • Increasing the contribution of timber products in adapting to climate change
C. The Development of the Market for High Quality Woodfuel

Up to 40% of eligible costs can be applied for to support woodland owners and woodfuel businesses to produce a clean, efficient and renewable energy source, Support will facilitate:
  • Increasing the supply and quality of both wood chip and fire log woodfuel
  • Increasing the use of wood fuel sourced on and for use on farm/holdings
  • Increasing the amount of woodland in sustainable management
  • Generating sustainable and energy efficient woodfuel businesses

Support for Primary Processing Equipment to deliver against the themes
The minimum REG grant award is £25,000 and a maximum of up to 40% can be applied for.
In all cases applicants for primary processing equipment must be able to demonstrate that they are micro-enterprises, seeking to significantly transform their business and that the project can clearly demonstrate it is addressing a high level/strategic need within REG.

Eligible Primary Processing Equipment:
  • Timber processors and harvesting heads for primary processing use
  • Tractor mounted chippers
  • Self propelled chippers
  • Tractor mounted firewood processors
  • Mobile saw bench
  • Tractor mounted forestry grabs/tongs
  • Low impact equipment and equipment that addresses difficult terrain
  • Forwarders
  • Forestry trailers

Round 1 - Outline Application (Deadline 5pm, 30 April 2012)
This initial stage allows you to provide us with an outline of your project, detailing how you anticipate it will fit with the overall aims of the appropriate theme (farm competiveness, agri-food, tourism, forestry, and micro-enterprise), the need and demand for the investment, and benefits of your project.

Full Application

If your Outline application is endorsed, you will be invited to submit a Full application. The Full application is a more in-depth stage - requiring the submission of a full business case / business plan and supporting evidence to demonstrate the need and demand, impact, value for money and deliverability of your project and how it will make a game changing difference to your business and local economy. You will also need to provide three like-for-like quotations for all project costs.

Who Can Apply?

The following businesses across England are eligible to apply (please see section 7 of the
Applicant Handbook for further details):
  • Farmers
  • Rural based enterprises
  • Forestry contractors
  • Woodland owners
  • Horticultural businesses
  • Rural Growth Networks
  • Not for Profit/ Companies Limited by Guarantee
For support contact:
South East RDPE delivery team:

01932 357083