Memorandum from the Woodland Trust
The Woodland Trust welcomes the opportunity
to contribute to this inquiry. The comments that follow are delivered
on behalf of the United Kingdom's leading charity solely dedicated
to the conservation of native and broadleaved woodland. We achieve
our purposes through a combination of acquiring woodland and sites
for planting and through wider advocacy of the importance of protecting
ancient woodland, enhancing its biodiversity, expanding woodland
cover and increasing public enjoyment. We own over 1,050 sites
across the country, covering over 17,500 hectares.
We welcome the statement in the Climate Change
Programme that "the Government and the devolved administrations
recognise the importance of developing renewable sources of energy
as a part of the drive for sustainable development and the
long term response to climate change".
However, we look to the Government to step up the rate of progress
significantly above and beyond the proposal that 10 per cent of
the UK's electricity requirements should be produced from renewable
sources by 2010. We are especially concerned about the slow rate
of progress being made on investment in energy generation from
wood fuel. Already the UK is behind many of its European partners
in terms of biomass energy generationfor example biomass
energy already accounts for 12 per cent, 18 per cent and 23 per
cent of energy supply in Austria, Sweden and Finland respectively.
It is estimated that England and Wales together generate only
1.2 per cent of their electricity from biomass with Scotland only
reaching 0.1 per cent.
The figure for energy generated from wood fuel would be smaller
still, despite the fact that the UK has one of the best climates
in Europe for growing trees. It is imperative that the use of
wood fuel is promoted so that the UK can generate significant
levels of energy from this renewable material.
Although the UK Climate Change Programme notes
that the Government "is working with a wide range of stakeholders
to promote the use of wood as fuel. A stable market for wood fuel
will assist the sustainable management of currently under managed
or derelict woods in the south of England and improve commercial
conifer plantations in Scotland where timber production is set
to double over the next 15-20 years",
we were disappointed that the renewables obligation did not provide
capital grants for the use of wood as a fuel.
There appears to be a false distinction made
in the renewables obligation between energy creation from short
rotation coppice and the use of wood fuel. This is despite the
fact that energy generation from both fuel sources involves similar
processes. It is important that capital grants under the renewables
obligation incentivise energy generation from wood fuel as well
as from energy crops. In the UK Climate Change Programme it is
acknowledged that "the total annual wood fuel resource
from forestry and arboriculture in England, Scotland and Wales
is over one million dried tonnes".
It therefore seems strange that the use of forestry residues as
a viable means for energy creation is given such a low profile
throughout the draft obligation. The Trust believes that there
are three main reasons why wood fuel should be given a higher
profile in the obligation:
1. There is a need for immediate action:
There will be a lead in time for energy crops
of at least three to four years. Short rotation coppice schemes
will need to be designed, grants will need to be applied for,
and the crops planted, and it will not be until the second or
third growing season that the crop is actually ready. There is
a huge resource already available in woods that could be used
in the meantime. The Forestry Commission initiated study An
Evaluation of Market Outlets for Broadleaved Timber in South-East
England (1998) sought to identify potential uses for up to
200,000 tonnes a year of low-grade broadleaved roundwood in South
East England. We believe that wood fuel is a prime candidate for
use of this timber.
2. Benefits for the local economy:
Use of timber from existing woodland could play
an important role in sustaining rural communities, providing employment
opportunities in timber harvesting and transport and supply chains.
The Department of Trade and Industry estimates that a 20MW plant
(supplying energy for around 20,000 homes) would provide full-time
employment for 48 permanent staff and also significant short-term
Although this is an example of a medium to large scale plant there
is certainly an opportunity in the south of England for example,
for small to medium sized plants serving up to 5,000 homes which
would provide significant economic benefits to local communities.
It would also help to support the forestry sector and could offer
valuable diversification opportunities for farmers.
3. Using wood as a fuel can provide significant
There are also potential environmental benefits
over and above those provided by other sources of renewable energy.
For example, much of the broadleaf woodland in the South East
has traditionally been managed on some form of coppice system.
A diverse array of plants and animals has survived in these woods
over the centuries that are adapted to this management system.
Interruption of the coppice cycle as a result of market collapse
for small diameter timber has led to a rapid ecological decline
of many these woods. For example the heath fritillary butterfly
requires the open sunny habitats produced by coppicing to breed.
As coppice grows the area becomes more and more unsuitable for
the butterfly and it moves on. Its number has declined by over
90 per cent in the last 30 years primarily due to a reduction
in the amount of coppicing being practised. Development of renewable
energy systems based upon low grade, small diameter coppice would
not only reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, but would have
the additional benefit of helping to halt the ecological decline
of one of our most important habitats.
For these reasons the Woodland Trust would like
to see the renewables obligation contain strong provision to encourage
the use of forestry residues in energy generation. We believe
that the Government should encourage the creation of power plants
that burn both forest residue and short rotation coppice product
to help the market develop.
The Trust would also like to pursue the question
of integration between the grants provided by MAFF for development
of energy crops under the Rural Development Programmes and the
renewables obligation. We would like to see a clear statement
from Government that MAFF's schemes will be fully integrated into
the renewables obligation to ensure that the schemes are "joined
The Woodland Trust is concerned that in the
profile of the renewables obligation, the annual increment as
a percentage of sales rises to 2007 and then drops off. If the
Government is going to meet the post Kyoto target of a 60% reduction
in carbon emissions by 2050 recommended by the Royal Commission
on Environmental Pollution and acknowledged as necessary by the
Prime Minister in his speech to the CBI / Green Alliance in October,
then targets for the annual increment in the renewables obligation
need to rise ever more steeply and should be set for a far longer
period. It is essential that investment be sustained to ensure
that in the future a significant proportion of our energy is derived
from renewable sources.
Sensible planning is essential to ensure that
projects are able to develop while ensuring that the damage caused
by the developing market is kept to a minimum. However, while
the Trust wishes to see the Government promoting renewable energy,
we do not believe that the planning system should give "favoured
status" to renewable energy schemes. Equally, we do not feel
that they should be treated more rigorously than any other industrial
development. Instead the planning system should be used to identify
where renewable energy facilities would be best developed, and
encourage their development, for example in association with new
The planning system as it stands puts up several
potential barriers to the development of wood fuelled heat and
power stations. These include limitations on acceptable transportation
distances and concerns over the conversion of agricultural land
to wood crops. We hope that the limitations on what is perceived
as acceptable transportation distances are classed as guidelines
rather than being set in stone, to ensure that development of
wood fired power stations is not inhibited. We would also like
to see a requirement for structure plans to include a commitment
to provide new developments with heat and power from renewable
In order to minimise impact on the environment
and possible resultant conflicts with the planning system and
the needs of the transportation network, we would favour the use
of small-scale heat and electricity generating plants. These should
serve local users and use wood fuel from local woods. This would
ensure that the impact of transportation would be kept to a minimum.
It would also create jobs in the local area and help to improve
the local environment.
18 DETR (2000) Climate Change; the UK Programme,
European Commission COM (97) 599 final (26/11/1997) Energy
for the Future: Renewable Sources of Energy. White Paper for a
Community Strategy and Action Plan, p37. Back
Helen Liddell, MP Minister for Energy question for written answer
146475, 25 January 2001. Back
DETR (2000) Climate Change; the UK Programme, p115. Back
DETR (2000) Climate Change; the UK Programme, 2.7 para
DTI (2000) Wood Fuel for Electricity and Heat: Benefits to
the Local Economy. Back