Regulations establishing rules for grant-aid for energy crop plantations in England come into force on 5 December. 1
The grant scheme takes effect next April. A total of £30 million will be available for the subsequent six years to support plantations of short rotation coppice (SRC) and miscanthus grass.
Grants will be available for plantations on both agricultural land and afforestation of non-agricultural land. Eligible parties include landowners, tenants who have the written consent of the landowner to establish a plantation, and producer organisations set up to manage SRC production and supply.
Grants will be available for plantations within ten miles of energy production units of less than 4MW, and within 25 miles of larger units - though the latter threshold may be raised in individual cases.
Environmental safeguards are built into the rules. Agriculture Ministers will have to consult official wildlife and countryside bodies where the land is statutorily designated, and have regard to any decision by the Forestry Commission where a plantation falls under the environmental impact assessment regime.
The rules are as expected from a consultation paper earlier this year which estimated that the £30 million subsidies will support planting of some 21,700 hectares of energy crops (ENDS Report 302, pp 40-41 ).
Additional funding of £40 million, to be shared between offshore wind and biomass, was announced after this summer's comprehensive spending review (ENDS Report 306, pp 14-16 ), and a further £50 million - shared between the same technologies - by the Prime Minister in October (ENDS Report 309, pp 41-42 ).