A £1m fund from the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) will help new and existing feedstock suppliers in the north east develop facilities and systems to access specialist training.
The use of biomass to generate heat and electricity is recognised by the government as a means to deliver immediate carbon and cost savings for homes and businesses.
There are around 25 current suppliers in the region who are sending approximately 2,500 tonnes of biomass to market each year. New demand is likely to increase that figure by further 10,000 tonnes over the next year, the equivalent of around £500,000. The potential is there for the sector to grow from an annual value of around £125,000, to an estimated £1.5m by 2013.
Run by Rural Development Initiative (RDI) this project will see more capital investment in facilities and systems for harvesting, processing, storage and distribution; work on biomass fuels such as those from the forestry, arboriculture arisings, forestry and timber co-products, and short rotation coppice; more staff trained to supply biomass; and more businesses meeting industry quality standards.
One NorthEast’s rural board member Ian Brown said: ‘Biomass will have an important role to play in meeting the UK’s targets for cutting carbon emissions, in our move to a low-carbon economy.’
He added: ‘This growing sector of the rural economy is an area of opportunity for farms and forestry businesses, and we want to strengthen our fledging biomass supply chains so that they are able to meet demand as it continues to increase.’
The RDPE 2007-2013 is jointly funded by Defra and the EU, with the aim of delivering targeted support to land-based businesses and rural communities. It is managed in the region by One NorthEast, Natural England and the Forestry Commission.