Renewable energy is energy which comes from natural resources such as sunlight, wind, tides, and geothermal heat, which are renewable (naturally replenished). The use of ‘new’ renewable technologies (small hydro, modern biomass, wind, solar) are growing rapidly and are becoming increasingly commonplace in both urban and rural locations. Government incentives, such as the Feed in Tariff (FiT) for electricity generating technologies, have already been very effective at increasing the uptake of renewable energy at a range of scales in both domestic and commercial contexts.The launch of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) in 2011 now offers a substantial incentive for heat generating renewable technologies – a world first for the UK. Phase I of the RHI is for commercial applications (which can include multiple domestic properties) and is already generating substantial interest in biomass heating.
The Kent Downs AONB is one of Britain’s most wooded AONBs. Woodland covers over 20% of the AONB (17,579 ha) and is the second largest land use after farming. A significant feature of woodland throughout the AONB is a predominance of coppiced sweet chestnut. The sustainable use of this resource has the potential to create large volumes of woodfuel that could be used in biomass heating systems. As a renewable and carbon neutral fuel biomass offers a great way for rural properties and woodland owners to gain maximum benefit from the RHI and reduce their reliance on fossil fuels. The Kent Downs AONB fully embraces the use of appropriate renewable technologies that complement the landscapes in which they sit. Our renewable energy Position Statement (and the accompanying report) provide a useful commentary on how the AONB perceives each technology and the role they can play in helping the UK achieve its transition to a low carbon economy.
The Kent Downs Woodfuel Pathfinder
The Kent Downs Woodfuel Pathfinder was established in 2010. It aims to explore a range of interventions which would help the woodheat industry evolve to a fully self- supporting industry delivering: Carbon lean sustainably sourced heat to local heat users, substituting for heating oil; Market driven management of Kent’s woods; Enhanced biodiversity through re-establishment of traditional woodland practices such as coppicing; Secure local jobs; and maintenance of Kent’s landscape character. The project is a partnership between Kent County Council (as part of the EU-funded MULTIFOR project) and the Forestry Commission (as part of their Woodland Carbon Task Force). It is managed and coordinated by the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Unit. The project aligns with the incentives provided through the Government’s Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) and volatility and general increasing price trend of fossil fuels. It also builds on the knowledge gained through the Forestry Commission led Woodheat Solutions Project which has been transferring experience on woodheat from Austria and Finland to SE England. The Pathfinder can also advise on other forms of renewable energy and energy efficiency including solar technologies, wind turbines, heat pumps, insulation and low carbon refurbishment. We would be happy to support any decision-making around low carbon technologies and their link to the Kent Downs AONB landscape – including local suppliers of woodfuel and technology installers.
Kent Downs Woodfuel Pathfinder page