Crops for Energy has produced the first holistic study looking at the potential contribution of woody energy crops to south west regional renewable energy targets, greenhouse gas reductions, economic development and wider environmental benefits.
The position paper and accompanying report suggests that planting energy crops, such as short rotation coppice and miscanthus on 3.5% of SW agricultural land (65,595 hectares) would contribute to a thriving bioenergy sector and provide the following benefits:
- 2.64 Terawatt hours of energy per year equalling 37.5% of the regions renewable heat target
- 662,146 tonnes CO2 equivalent saved each year, offsetting 21% of the emissions from agricultural food production
- £768 million of investment stimulated in biomass boiler projects
- £55.4 million/yr saved in fuel costs by consumers
- £27.8 million/year in farmer profit
- 3,745 renewable energy jobs equalling a 134% increase on the current number of jobs in the bioenergy sector
Crops for Energy Principal Kevin Lindegaard says:
“Energy crops can really punch above their weight in the amount of benefits they provide. By growing more in the region we would reduce our dependence on imported fossil fuels thereby increasing security of supply and keeping revenue in the local economy. 336,000 of the regions households and thousands more businesses are not heated with mains gas and as a result are paying a high cost to keep warm. Using locally produced energy crops would help create assured local markets and insulate people from future price rises”.
“The environmental benefits of energy crops are often overlooked. Appropriately planted energy crops could help improve water quality by preventing pollution entering our rivers, reduce the impact of flooding and increase the amount of birds and butterflies on farm land”.
The UK Government’s Bioenergy Strategy was published in April 2012 and predicts that the greatest increase in domestic bioenergy supply will come from agricultural residues and energy crops. It is available here.
A report produced for the Environment Agency and Forestry Commission by Forest Research in July 2011 called “Woodland for Water: Woodland measures for meeting Water Framework Directive objectives” suggests that strategically placed energy crops could provide an effective way of reducing pollution from farmland and providing flood risk management. It is available here.