We recently welcomed Energy Secretary Amber Rudd and local MP Bill Wiggin to Croft Castle nestled in the beautiful, if muddy, Herefordshire countryside to officially open our biomass heating system.
This cutting edge technology is getting the property off oil, reducing our heating bills and benefitting the environment in this special place.
As one of five pilot projects, developed with our partner Good Energy, it has paved the way for our £30 million Renewable Energy Investment Programme (REIP), launched last summer.
The visit gave us the chance to show Ms. Rudd and Mr. Wiggins our new boiler system powered by wood chip sourced from conifers on the estate. We explained that this project, and the future ones we have planned, simply would not be possible without the Government’s support for the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI).
Our woodland expert Iain Carter explained how conifer trees had overrun areas of the estate, impacting on the ancient woodland and species – not to mention the views. It is important to understand that this project has realized fantastic nature conservation benefits too. So by using the trees for fuel, instead of buying oil, we are opening up space for the ancient broadleaf woodland, dating back to the 1600’s, and wildlife to thrive. It has also helped with flood management on the estate.
The new system isn’t just good news for Croft, there are benefits for the local economy too. Oil powering the old boilers came from far away but now we harvest our energy locally. Jobs have been created in Herefordshire and woodchip suppliers are investing in new equipment as the industry becomes more financially sustainable. It’s been a tough time for renewable energy recently as the government has cut the Feed in Tariffs paid to small scale renewable schemes. We raised our concerns over the proposals during the consultation process but available tariffs are set to fall by over 60 per cent in some cases. We told Ms. Rudd that this will have a serious impact on the financial viability on some of our proposed projects in the wider REIP.
The Energy Secretary said the Government’s reasons behind the Feed-in Tariff cuts were to keep energy bills as low as possible and ensure that support for low carbon technologies represents value for money for consumers.
Ms Rudd did say that funds for the Renewable Heat Incentive, which subsidises Croft’s biomass, and without which it would not have been possible to build, would increase up to 2020/21. Whilst this is welcome news the cash needs to be distributed across the sector and not be used to just support bigger businesses which are more likely to import the biomass they use.
This was the second time that the Energy Secretary had visited one of our properties. She came to Ickworth in the summer to see our biomass system. At Croft she was right to cite this as a really good example of cutting edge technology and we have extended the invitation for her to see more of how our renewable’s work is helping us play our part in addressing the impacts of climate change. Let’s see what happens.