The Government has today published an action plan to unlock the potential for renewable energy in biomass.

The plan says that energy from crops, trees and waste can make a strong contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and sets out 12 key ways to make this happen.

Measures include a capital grant scheme for biomass boilers, the establishment of a new Biomass Energy Centre to provide expert information and advice, along with further grant support for biomass supply chains and a commitment to consider using biomass heating in Government buildings.

The report, launched by Ministers from Defra and the DTI, forms the Government's response to the Biomass Task Force, which made a package of recommendations in October.

Its main argument, that biomass is particularly suited for generating heat, is accepted by the Government, though the action plan makes clear that electricity generated from biomass and combined heat and power (CHP) are also an important part of its future.

Lord Bach, Defra's Minister for Sustainable Farming and Food, said, "There is enormous potential in biomass, to generate renewable energy, to help the environment and to provide another possible market for our farmers.

"We know that biomass is not the answer to every issue facing us but we should be getting much more from this valuable resource.

"This action plan provides us with a clear path forwards. It has been drawn up by a cross-Government team, building on the excellent work done by the Biomass Task Force."

Minister for Energy, Malcolm Wicks, said, "The plans we are announcing and the Biomass strategy that is being developed will supplement initiatives such as the DTI's Low Carbon Building programme and the bioenergy capital grants scheme to further increase the use of biomass technology.

"We are aiming for 10 per cent of our electricity to come from renewable sources by 2010 and double that by 2020 so biomass will have an increasingly important role to play in the UK's future energy mix."

The Biomass Task Force made 42 recommendations to Government. The Government's Response accepts most of these, setting out plans for implementing them. A number of initiatives have already begun.

The Task Force's recommendation that the Government should not pursue a renewable heat obligation will be considered further and the evidence reviewed.

The action plan is primarily for England. However the Devolved Administrations of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have helped in its development and it will also contribute to a UK biomass strategy, which will be published in the next year.