Rudie gives us fuel for thought

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AS temperatures plummet and oil and gas prices soar, forest chiefs are predicting more people in Scarborough and across the region will branch out and use wood to heat their buildings.

A new survey by the Forestry Commission and Treeworld Ltd has revealed that Yorkshire and the Humber has more than 200 eco-friendly woodfuel boilers installed - the majority in North Yorkshire.

They include units heating hotels, offices, churches, schools and even a new monastery near Helmsley in the North York Moors.

Full results of the study will be unveiled at the first in a series of events on January 26 aimed at increasing awareness of woodfuel amongst existing and potential users.

It takes place at the new £2m Duffield’s Wood Pellet mill, Melmerby, near Ripon, North Yorkshire, the first facility of its kind in the county and offering a reliable supply of carbon lean fuel to the expanding market.

Rudie Humphrey, woodfuel officer with the Forestry Commission, said: “We will offer a tour of the state-of-the-art plant and also explain how the new Renewable Heat Incentive scheme – set to be launched soon by the Department of Energy Climate Change – will make using wood as a fuel even more financially compelling.”

The scheme will provide financial support for those who install renewable heating systems. The move is part of a push to reduce the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels and encourage greener low carbon technology to help combat climate change.

“It’s a real game-changer and will signal an even greater take up for woodfuel, even above the impressive growth we have already seen in this region,” added Mr Humphrey.

Unlike oil and gas, well managed woods can produce timber indefinitely. The region has 92,000 hectares (230,000 acres) woods - 25 per cent of which are managed by the Forestry Commission.

But forest chiefs reckon 50 per cent of the remaining woods in private ownership are under-managed or neglected. They could produce 150,000 tonnes of additional timber on a sustainable basis, whilst also improving the habitat for birds, insects and small mammals.

Mr Humphrey said: “The aim is to get more woods producing timber, encourage the installation of more boilers and create a robust supply chain between the two.

“We know woodfuel is a carbon lean, eco-friendly way of generating power, but it’s also an expanding business opportunity.”

Caption: Rudie Humphrey, woodfuel officer with the Forestry Commission (submitted)