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    Renewable Energy Opportunities Highlighted
29/03/06

NFU Scotland Vice President Bob Howat has outlined how the renewable energy industry could offer great opportunities for farmers throughout Scotland, with the potential for them to improve their income and contribute to the fight against climate change.

Mr Howat was speaking on the subject of biofuels at the Scottish Renewables Annual Conference in Glasgow yesterday (Tuesday 28 March), on the same day the UK Government launched its Climate Change Programme 2006. He highlighted a number of key action points to ensure Scotland's renewable industry could flourish. These are:

  • Long term government commitments to both the biofuel tax rebate and renewable transport fuel obligation.
  • Sensible regulation and planning rules which encourage renewable developments.
  • Effective grant schemes throughout the supply chain.
  • A sustainable return to farmers, potentially through the direct involvement of farmers in processing ventures.

NFUS has also welcomed the publication today of the report by the Scottish Parliament's Environment Committee into the production of energy by burning material such as wood. The Committee has called for a comprehensive strategy for developing biomass energy, to include in particular a sensible regulatory framework and simplified grant schemes.

Speaking on biofuels, NFUS Vice President Bob Howat, said:

"CAP reform has been the catalyst for a great deal of hard thinking on farms up and down the country. The political momentum to develop renewables has therefore come at the right time as farms look to new potential income streams.

"NFUS pressed for the five per cent renewable inclusion target for road fuels which the UK Government has now announced. However, that must be a target for domestic production and not be met by a counter-productive move to increase biofuel imports. We also need a clearer picture of political support, in terms of the target and tax rebate beyond 2010. We also need common sense back in our regulatory system; the ridiculous ban on tallow should finally make government realise that it has lost the plot on environmental regulation.

"But, whilst political action is crucial, at the end of the day, the involvement of farmers in the biofuel industry will be determined by whether they can secure a sustainable return. Oilseed rape will always be a commodity crop and the political excitement for renewables doesn't change that market reality. Therefore, we must look very closely at farmers being involved in the industry beyond the farmgate to get rewards from the production process. We are involved in a number of discussions to that end.

Reacting to the publication of the biomass report by the Holyrood's Environment Committee, Mr Howat said:

"We gave both written and oral evidence to the Committee during its inquiry and I am glad to see that many of our points have been taken on board. It is clear that warm political words on the development of biomass projects must be translated into action. We need the right framework and that means developing targeted grant schemes and ensuring our regulatory and planning systems actually encourage innovation - too often they can be barriers. I look forward to the Executive's response to the report."

link Farmers play key role in climate change solutions
link New MHS Strike Could Cause Massive Disruption
link NFUS Warns Of Possible Meat Hygiene Service Strike

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