Bioscope: stimulating demand for biomass heating

Establishing good-quality exemplar biomass heating projects in the South West

Project duration: June 2006 to July 2007

Bioscope aimed to tackle a major barrier to the wider development of biomass heating in the South West (and the UK generally) – namely the lack of good-quality, strategically-placed exemplar biomass heating projects.

[NB Bioscope finished in 2007, but led to the development of RegenSW's Bioheat programme]

The project objectives were:

  • to stimulate demand for biomass heating in the South West
  • to contribute to the long-term growth of the UK biomass heating industry
  • to provide good-quality, strategically-placed exemplars and raise awareness of the potential for biomass heating among key public sector stakeholders
  • to stimulate the development of a further 10-20 plants within the region over the next five years
  • to have a positive impact on job creation/security in the renewables sector
  • to directly support the creation of wood fuel supply chains in the South West from forestry residues, woodland management and pellet production, creating or retaining jobs in the delivery, transport, harvesting and processing of wood fuel

The project engaged with local authorities, housing associations and other key stakeholders in the seven counties of the South West to raise awareness and identify opportunities for considering biomass heating. The project aimed to prepare detailed scoping studies for eight of these sites in order to be able to facilitate grant applications and ultimately implementation

A primary target audience was key stakeholders and decision-makers within local authorities and housing associations and other forms of social housing (e.g. mechanical and electrical service teams, energy managers, procurement teams). Their engagement was essential because of:

  • the potential for considering biomass heating as an option when refurbishing existing boiler plant and/or designing and installing heating systems for new buildings
  • the high heating requirements for these sorts of buildings (e.g. schools, county halls, social housing blocks)
  • the potential for this audience to take a longer-term view and to balance rates of return with wider objectives such as sustainable development, community strategy and climate change strategy
  • the 'public' nature of such sites, making them ideal as exemplars

Bioscope has been successful in raising the profile of biomass heating and fostering new interest within the South West. It has also highlighted several barriers that must be overcome if biomass installations are to become commonplace in public buildings:

  • The region needs exemplar biomass heating installations to demonstrate the technology
  • The absence of a coordinated reliable local woodfuel supply chain undermines confidence in the technology
  • In many cases local authority decision makers do not believe biomass heating presents a credible alternative to fossil fuelled plant
  • There is, at the time of writing (early 2006), a lack of coordinated effort across the South West with biomass initiatives, leading to a piecemeal disconnected approach and duplication of effort, subsequently undermining the credibility of the industry

Based on discussions at the county seminars and general findings of Bioscope, a number of cross-cutting themes were identified. The following nine key recommendations are for the region to address:

  1. There needs to be a regionally coordinated seminar to establish current activity, available skills, installed projects and woodfuel supply initiatives
  2. Bioscope phase II would give the opportunity for some of the sites identified to be developed into strategically important regional demonstrator projects, and deliver sustained support for future projects
  3. There is significant interest in using biomass heating in the South West, but a lack of capacity in the private sector to meet this demand. Support from the region to build capacity in the sector is critical and needs to happen in tandem efforts by agencies to create and maintain levels of interest and demand for biomass heating installations
  4. Proposed biomass installations within public buildings still encounter significant objectors from within local authority departments. There needs to be a concerted effort to educate these client groups about the benefits of biomass technology
  5. Related to point 4, there are no large scale biomass heating installations in the South West which can be reliably used for site visits. Bioscope has sought identify potential sites where such a system could be implemented
  6. Engaging stakeholders throughout the project proved relatively straightforward, the importance of SWRDA funding and the regions role in developing biomass should not be underestimated and gives initiatives such as Bioscope added creditability
  7. The South West needs commercially viable woodfuel facilities and robust supply chains to provide an affordable, reliable and high quality fuel supply
  8. One site identified in the Bioscope project stands out as a potential exemplar project; Cannington College in West Somerset. With courses covering biomass heating to be offered on site, energy crops grown locally to supply the boiler and accessibility of the site for public awareness raising it meets all of the projects criteria. SWRDA should investigate the provision of capital support more fully with the site contacts and Somerset County Council to enable the project to proceed
  9. There should be further contact with all Bioscope applicants to establish whether any assistance is required to facilitate biomass heating installations
For further information contact:

Martin Holley | 0117 934 1419

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