Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Sustainable forestry strong in England

Latest figures published by Forestry Commission England show our woodlands are incredibly well protected and sustainable forestry remains strong.

According to records, just 0.4 per cent of trees felled in England were done illegally without a felling licence. Conservation habitats, such as heathland, have been restored from commercial plantations whilst keeping a slowly expanding wooded area overall. A thriving timber industry has increased domestic supply as imports have fallen.

Simon Hodgson, Forestry Commission England Chief Executive said:
“For the first time we have been able to publish a suite of new statistics to show what is happening to woods and forests in England and how Forestry Commission England is performing.

“The overall picture is great news for us. Protection of our woods and forests is strong with miniscule amounts of illegal felling. The general public are very much our eyes and ears on the ground and we are always heartened at the public’s willingness to report suspected illegal activity and we are developing an online system to make this quicker, easier and more accurate.

“We see domestic timber supplies increasing while imports shrink and a growing woodfuel network all of which boosts the local green economy. Commitments to restore and recreate conservation habitats from private and public plantations are being met while we see the overall area of woodland expanding."

The Forestry Commission remains a leader as a significant land manager in the care of the Engalnd’s best wildlife conservation sites - Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) – with 99.6% in target condition.

“All that said significant challenges remain. Everyone agrees we need much greater growth in creating new woodlands and we are working to significantly increase long term investment from the private sector. We are working to mitigate the threats from a changing climate to trees in the future from new pests and diseases and poor growing conditions. Last, but most certainly not least, is the appalling record of Health and Safety in the forestry sector: skills and training are high but the number of fatalities in a small industry must be tackled."

Castle Head FSC - Tree Planting - Feb 2009
“We are already working with the sector to implement recommendations from the Forestry Regulation Task Force and look forward to receiving the Independent Forestry Panel’s final report to Government.”

27 June 2012
Forestry Commission News release 15523

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

RHI cost control mechanism announced

The Government consulted on how it might apply cost control mechanisms to the RHI in May.  The results have now been published and a summary is provided below.

The mechanism will work as follows:

  • The RHI would be suspended for the remainder of the financial year if the budget forecast suggests that the budget could be breached.  For 2012/13 no more than £70m should be spent on the RHI.  Spending more would be likely to exhaust next year’s budget through the cost of installations already receiving RHI funding, leading to a boom and bust approach.
  • Given the £70m cap, the cost control mechanism should suspend the scheme at 97% of the annual budget (£67.9m) with one week’s notice.
  • A weekly update will be provided on the DECC website setting out progress towards the suspension trigger, alongside a methodology used to calculate the forecast.  This will allow the market to make informed judgements about the likelihood of suspension.
  • Those installations that have already been approved will not be affected.
  • Applications made before the notice period will be processed as normal.
  • Applications made during the notice period will be processed if the installation has been commissioned before the suspension date.
  • Applications made after the suspension date will not be processed.

DECC currently estimates that RHI expenditure in 2012/13 will be around £42m.  While this amount could vary, weekly RHI application rates would need to increase by around 500% by the end of the year to reach £70m. Therefore, DECC sees the likelihood of suspending the scheme as low.

However, DECC acknowledges the high degree of uncertainty about how the market will respond to the RHI and has therefore introduced cost control procedures so it is prepared for unexpected changes in application rates (which is unlikely given that rapid cost reductions are unlikely in renewable heat technologies and also because there are significantly more barriers to the deployment of renewable heat).

As of 27 May 2012 Ofgem had received 533 applications (43 preliminary), had accredited 88 installations and rejected two (on account of these installations having received a grant).  There are concerns about the current backlog of applications for accreditation and Ofgem is working to resolve the delays via reallocation of staff resources and by reviewing approval processes.

A summary of the milestones for the RHI is shown below.

Woodland Creation Grant 2012 - up to £4,800 per hectare

A giant sequoia log, Sequoia National Park, California, undated, c1910
The Forestry Commission has issued some details of the Woodland Creation Grant 2012.

Expansion is a key priority of the Forestry Commission. Grant rates have increased, allowing a maximum of £4,800 per hectare, to provide greater incentive to achieve this.

All applications meeting UK Forestry Standard will be considered as eligible.  Further details on eligibility are provided in this year's Woodland Creation Grant (WCG) Guidance.

Grant rates

The basic planting grant for both broadleaves and conifers has increased by £1,000 per ha, providing a basic planting rate of £2,800 for broadleaves and £2,200 for conifers per ha. 

The overarching England Woodland Grant Scheme (EWGS) for new woodland has three elements that can be applied for, depending on the eligibility of both site and applicant: 
  • Woodland Creation Grant (WCG)This is the main grant that contributes to the costs of establishing new woodland.
  • Additional Contributions (AC)ACs increase the contribution towards the cost of establishing new woodlands that deliver specific priorities.
  • Farm Woodland Payments (FWP)These are compensation payments for agricultural income forgone when creating new woodlands on agricultural land.

Key priorities for the scheme relate to the value that trees and woodlands can play in support of:
  • Water Framework Directive (WFD)
  • The aims of Nature Improvement Areas (NIAs)
  • Offering permissive access in Priority Places
  • Creating, connecting or expanding native woodlands to 5 ha or more
  • Creating new conifer woodlands up to 3 times greater than previously restored native habitat.

For more details on the Woodland Creation Grant and associated grants please visit the relevant Forestry Commission web page here.