Burning ambition for wood fuel

The North East's growing biomass sector has the potential to be contributing more than £75m a year to the regional economy by 2015, according to a new report.

It suggests that in 7 years' time and with continued support, the value of the sector could have increased by more than 90% and created more than 2,000 new jobs.

The research, carried out by Northwoods as part of the region's NEWHeat project and backed by One NorthEast and the Forestry Commission, also suggests that ultimately, in terms of economic value, biomass could become the most important solid fuel for heating.

The report's author and Project Director of Northwoods, David Clubb, said: "Whilst other renewables - particularly the wind industry - have undertaken studies to find out how much their sectors are worth to the UK economy, there has been very little research to demonstrate the great value to the UK from biomass.

"It is important that the value of the sector to the region is laid out in straightforward economic terms, in order that the right policy and strategy can be developed to support its continued growth."

The Forestry Commission and Northwoods are working with the private forestry sector to increase the amount of wood it produces.

This research is thought to be the first of its kind in the UK, with no other region known to have explored the potential economic value of biomass in this way. It is already being used in the development of national policy.

Brendan Callaghan, Forestry Commission Regional Director for North East England said: "The findings confirm what many in the forest industry have known for some time - that there is considerable potential to increase the use of wood fuel to help boost the economy and meet the region's renewable energy targets.

"The North East already produces more wood from its forests and has a larger wood processing industry than any other part of England, and new local markets for wood fuel will provide a further boost to the economy in rural areas and help fund the sustainable management of woodlands."

The full report can be viewed at http://www.northwoods.org.uk/media/imagelibrary/BiomassValue_northeast.pdf.

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