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Climate change is driving energy policy

Government policy

The pressing need to address climate change is driving developments across a host of policy areas, particularly energy.

Renewable energy policy

As part of its Climate Change Delivery Plan, the Scottish Government has set ambitious targets for renewable energy to help reduce our carbon emissions. Securing the target of  sourcing 11% of heat demand from renewable resources by 2020 is a priority, and biomass (including woodfuel) is critical to delivering that goal.

Renewable heat can also help address energy security issues, offering new and exciting opportunities for investment and growth in Scotland, in the same way that we benefitted from cheap and abundant coal, oil and gas in the past.

Woodfuel is a significant and uniquely responsive source of renewable energy, particularly for heat generation which currently accounts for 53% of energy demand in Scotland. Woodfuel already provides around 30% of the renewable energy production in the European Union. It is most efficient when locally sourced.

Current policy is for biomass to be used in heat-only or combined heat and power (CHP) schemes, off-gas grid, at a scale to make best use of both the available heat, and of local supply.

New Scottish Government policy on green heating was announced in June 2015. This sets out plans for Scotland to have an affordable green heating plan and to help the country reach a largely decarbonised heat system by 2050.

 

Growing demand for biomass

The biomass industry is now rapidly growing and there is an increasing demand for timber, from local markets to major energy generation plants.

The Woodfuel Demand and Usage Report 2011 calculated that demand for woodfuel in 2010 was approximately 1.2 million green tonnes, and estimates that demand will continue to rise to around 1.6 million green tonnes in 2011. Current initiatives, such as the Renewable Heat Incentive should further increase demand.

For many years a clear message has been broadcast from the UK forestry sector to politicians and to the wider public that production from Britain's forests is increasing. Potential production is indeed set to increase, however the information behind the 'headlines' has to be carefully considered and understood, so that the subject of future availability and production can be put into context given the rapidly changing dynamics in the demand for timber products and the finite resource available. See the 'Wood Fibre Availability and Demand in Britain 2007 - 2025' report commissioned by Confor.

The Woodfuel Task Force was set up in 2007 to look at how to further generate supply from traditional forestry, such as forest residues, and new sources such as arboricultural residues or short rotation forestry.

A raft of government incentives to stimulate demand for renewable energies are available. See the Funding & Incentives section.