The Energy Crops Scheme administered by Natural England will close to applications on the 31st August 2013. As long as an application is approved before the end of December 2013 planting can take place in the spring of 2014 or 2015.
Payments under the scheme cover 50% of the costs of establishing miscanthus or short rotation coppice in England. The minimum area supported is 3 hectares. This can be made up of more than one field although the smallest size field eligible is 0.5 hectares. Find out more by contacting Natural England’s Energy Crops team on 0300 060 1624/1413 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the ECS website.
This is a great opportunity for farmers and landowners. Fuel prices are going up all the time so it makes sense to think about planting energy crops for your own use. You might also consider selling woodfuel to local heat users such as a school or leisure centre or a big power plant. Drax, the biggest coal fired power station in Europe is offering index linked prices of £70/tonne delivered for energy crops. However, by far the best returns can be achieved when you grow for your own use. With the grant it is possible to produce heating fuel for 1-1.5 pence per kilowatt hour. This compares to 2 – 2.5p/kWh for woodfuel from your own undermanaged woodland to 3.5p/kWh from bought in woodfuel and 6p/kWh for heating oil. So you should be miles better off if you grow and use your own. The land take is low – a farm using 10,000 litres of oil per year will only require 3 hectares of energy crops.
What’s more by growing your own fuel you will insulate yourself against future price rises. All the other fuels are likely to go up. This is because when you buy woodfuel it will need to be transferred from woodland to regional depots and then on to you, the end user. This requires diesel as the transport fuel and as everyone knows the price of this is creeping up all the time – but if you don’t have to move the fuel far because you are growing it in your own fields then you will be safeguarded from this eventuality.
Finally, energy crops are eligible fuels under the Renewable Heat Incentive. In this scheme you get paid to keep warm. It sounds too good to be true but it isn’t. A farm offsetting 10,000 litres of fuel with woodchip could be looking at a rebate of around £8,000 per year in addition to any savings made on fossil fuels!
If you would like to go ahead with an ECS application but don’t have the time then Crops for Energy can help. For a reasonable fee we can do all the paperwork on your behalf. Our normal support package involves the following:
- Filling out ECS application forms
- Walking fields and producing annotated maps
- Liaising with utility companies if required
- Producing evidence of energy end use documentation
- Contacting contractors for quotes for husbandry activities, rabbit fencing, planting and planting material
- Liaising with Natural England and Forestry Commission officials as and when necessary
- Obtaining receipted invoices from contractors and fill out ECS claim form
For the ultimate hands off and hassle free experience we can also co-ordinate energy crop establishment and management including drawing up specific briefs for contractors, organise land preparation, planting, spraying and rabbit fencing activities. This service would involve a post planting and mid-season crop walk to identify any problems that occur. See our energy crop management page for details.
No decision has been made on how energy crops will be supported after the current scheme comes to an end. However in our experience the offer is usually less generous whilst the bureaucracy gets more onerous. So you should act now to benefit from this exceptional opportunity.
If you would like to talk over your project and get a quote then please call us on 0844 249 2901 or contact us.