Woodfuel East: Final round of wood fuel grants

THE clock is ticking for woodland managers, land owners, wood fuel enterprises and forestry contractors looking to claim a slice of the remaining �1.2million pounds funding set aside under the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) to stimulate the wood fuel supply chain in the Eastern Region.

Woodfuel East (WFE), the initiative responsible for awarding and administering the grants, is closing the doors to new enquiries from November 30. Before then all those keen to apply will need to have submitted their ‘concepts’ to WFE detailing their needs in relation to their woodland management or internal or external woodfuel supply plans.

Edwin van Ek, Manager, Woodfuel East said: “There is great potential in the eastern region for landowners and managers to diversify into economically-viable woodfuel production and bring more neglected woodlands back into active management. The current round of the RDPE is scheduled to close by the end of 2013. Once all the WFE grant schemes have closed, there is likely to be a gap until 2015 before any similar new funding might come online and there are no guarantees that there will be any funding for the woodfuel supply chain. It is very likely that future funding would be national, not specifically set aside for the forestry and woodfuel sectors and would come without the support that WFE is able to provide. We urge famers, landowners and forestry contractors to get in touch with us now so as not to miss out on money that could transform their business for the better.”

At the end of August 2012, WFE had committed �1.2m to farmers and estate owners, forestry contractors and woodfuel businesses in the region looking to better manage their woodland stock or expand their wood fuel business. This has resulted in support to sixty nine projects with an additional �1.9m invested in the woodfuel supply chain by applicants.

A growing number are making the most of these financial incentives to become self sufficient by installing woodchip boilers and using their own woodlands for heat generation.

The Southill estate near Biggleswade in Bedfordshire, took the leap earlier this year of tearing out the estate’s old oil fired heating system to install a 365 kw Gilles woodchip boiler designed to supply heat and hot water to Southill House, the home of the Whitbreads, the estate offices and meeting rooms.

With help from Woodfuel East, Mark Egar, estate manager, received grants for equipment and infrastructure to harvest and process timber from his estate (comprising approx 11,000 acres with 1,000 acres of woodland, parkland and amenity planting).

Most Read

Mark Egar said: “I’m convinced that the conversion from oil fired heating to woodfuel is a good investment in terms of finance, the environment and jobs. There’s no waste. Low quality wood, which is unsuitable for firewood logs or quality timber, can now be used. Now that the woodlands are being managed for fuel they are being regenerated, while we also save carbon and secure more jobs on the estate. Best of all is that we can be self-sufficient and plan ahead. We know what our costs are likely to be, unlike future oil prices.”

For new grant applicants, the first port of call is Woodfuel East’s Business Advisers Phil Potter and Sid Cooper, who are on hand to guide applicants through the process.

Sid Cooper said: “I meet many farmers and woodland owners who realise there may be money to unlock in their woodland holding, but who don’t know how to get started. If this is you, I can pay a visit to your premises, discuss your ideas and then advise on the options and funding which may be open to you; before guiding you through the application process if you wish to go ahead.

“Be warned though - to beat the deadline for this last round of funding, we need to hear from you before the middle of November, a phone call is all it takes to get things started.”

Grant support* is available to help fund self supply to make use of the Renewable Heat Incentive or to supply round wood or woodfuel to others, including :

• roads for the extraction of timber and thinnings from woodland;

• hard standing for seasoning or curing timber;

• construction of new, or the conversion of existing, buildings for storage of woodfuel;

• purchase of equipment for the extraction or processing of wood for fuel

• purchase of equipment for the delivery of woodfuel

*The maximum grant rate offered will be 40% of eligible project costs; except for infrastructure grants which can pay up to 60%.

The latest round of funding for WFE grants closes on January 31, 2013 Outline applications, or ‘Concepts’ need to be sent in to WFE by 30th November 2012. Contact Woodfuel East on: Tel – 01223 773072; Email: woodfueleast@forestry.gsi.gov.uk or visit www.woodfueleast.org.uk.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter