From today, farmers will be able to apply for the new
Energy Crops Scheme, although no grant agreements will
be offered until the Rural Development Programme for England
2007-2013 (RDPE) has been approved by the European Commission.
The scheme has been opened for applications only to enable
growers to begin the appraisal process, which can take
three months, and plan for spring planting. No work may
be undertaken in connection with any application until
a funding offer is received and accepted by a grower.
The Energy Crops Scheme will provide funding for growers
to establish the perennial energy crops miscanthus and
short rotation coppice (SRC) of willow and other native
or naturalised species to produce renewable energy. These
crops are burnt to create energy and heat after harvesting,
with the carbon released close to the amount absorbed by
the growing crop.
Such crops can reduce dependence on fossil fuels, cut
greenhouse gas emissions and also boost the rural economy,
provided expansion is conducted in a sustainable way. An
individual environmental appraisal, conducted as part of
the application procedure, should ensure that biodiversity
concerns and other environmental aspects are checked before
agreements are made.
The Energy Crops Scheme will be part of the new RDPE,
and will be delivered by Natural England. Establishment
grants are currently proposed at £1,000 per hectare
for SRC and £800 per hectare for miscanthus, although
these rates cannot be confirmed until the programme is
approved by the European Commission and may be subject
to downward revision. We are working to get formal Programme
approval before the end of 2007. The Programme will then
be fully implemented at the earliest opportunity.
Details about the scheme and application procedure can
be found on Natural England’s website at www.naturalengland.org.uk Growers should not undertake or commit to any works until
they receive formal agreement from Natural England.
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