Friday, 7 November 2014

Public Forests to be named as exempt in the Infrastructure Bill

We have just learnt that the ability of the Government to transfer the public forest estate to the Homes and Community Agency, as part the Infrastructure Bill, has been prevented by campaigners.

We have compiled a series of links that should provide most of the background:

We would also recommend a visit to the Save Our Woods campaign website - the organisation which appears to be leading the fight to retain control of the public forest estate.

Apologies for the lack of coverage on this topic - there seems to have been very little coverage about this in the media!

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Re-ignite: A seminar for Wood Heating in the Public Sector

Installing biomass heating in public sector buildings can be very hard to achieve.  Barriers range from institutional inertia to a basic lack of understanding of alternatives to oil, gas or LPG systems.

To help unravel this complicated set of problems South East Wood Fuels, in partnership with Rural Energy, will deliver a one day seminar on November 18th at The Keep in Brighton.

Places can be booked via the South East Wood Fuels website or by telephone on 01323 340041.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

National Woodfuel Conference 2014

The Pathfinder project recently attended the National Wood Fuel Conference which took place on October 17th at Denbies Wine Estate near Dorking in Surrey.

The event was very well attended and many of the most notable wood fuel, biomass and forestry companies were in attendance.  The event was expertly put together by Surrey Hills Enterprises (part of the Surrey Hills AONB).

Highlights for us included a presentation by Ben Ditchburn from the Forestry Commission (see here) who provided strong evidence of the level of timber and biomass stocks in woodlands in the South East of England.  

Ben's presentation was widely appreciated, primarily because his data confirmed how timber extraction, even at enhanced levels, will sit comfortably alongside increasing stocks of timber and carbon in our forests.

Guy Boulby from DECC, who's presentation covered the future of heating in the UK, discussed the likely role that biomass heating will play over the next 20 to 30 years.  Ben explained how biomass will act as an important transition technology until other technologies will start to play a bigger role.

Of great interest was the launch of new biomass heating guidance from CIBSE by David Palmer and his colleagues.

The presentation provided a background to why the guidance was needed and how it has been developed.

The guidance, which can be downloaded free of charge from the CIBSE website, focuses on technical aspects and will be of most use to biomass heating installers, heating engineers and people and building services specialists.

All in all the National Wood Fuel Conference, now in its fourth year, provided an authoritative demonstration of wood fuel sustainability and how the biomass sector can help bring neglected woodlands back into positive management.

All of the presentations can be found here.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Development of Forestry Businesses - FREE Demonstration Workshops

The Forestry Commission will deliver three demonstration events in November.  
These are designed to illustrate how three forestry businesses located in the South East have grown over the last seven years and how Rural Development Programme England (RDPE) support has helped facilitate this growth.

The events are described below.  Contact and booking details can be found at the end of the article.

Friday 7th November – Balcombe Estate nr Crawley

Balcombe Estate has a long history of integrated woodland management maintaining their estate sawmill and pursuing new markets for wood products. 

RDPE support has helped them build their woodfuel supply business, including supporting the purchase of a 360 mounted harvester in partnership with a nearby estate. They are currently exploring how they can grasp the growing interest in locally grown timber by upgrading their sawmill and marketing. 

As they grow their business they are also exploring how they can work collaboratively with complimentary businesses and neighbours.

This event will include:
  • First hand experience of a previous grant recipient
  • A walking tour and demonstration of harvesting/firewood processing
  • Lunch and refreshments

This event will illustrate how entrepreneurial management and enthusiasm can grow forestry business in lowland England and how RDPE support and collaboration can help accelerate this process. 

This event will be of particular interest to anyone exploring how they can grow their forestry business in SE England. 

Registration from 9.45am for a 10am start. Lunch will be provided.

Tuesday 18th November - H G Matthews Brickworks nr Chesham

H G Matthews illustrates how a local business with high energy needs has developed the use of locally sourced wood as a fuel along with the supply chain to meet their needs. 

This event will be of particular interest to local businesses considering use of locally grown wood, contractors who are looking to expand or establish woodfuel supply chains and owners exploring options for woodfuel supply. 

This event will include:

First hand experience of a previous grant recipient
  • Walking tour of the brickworks
  • Lunch and refreshments at a nearby public house. 

Space is restricted and so we can only accommodate 20 individuals at this event. Only one person per company/organisation please. 

Registration from 9.45am for a 10am start. Lunch will be provided.

Thursday 27th November - Brockwood Park Farm nr Petersfield

Brockwood Park Farm illustrates how woodlands on farms and estates can be managed cost effectively to deliver woodfuel to heat the owner’s, neighbours’ and/or local business properties

Heating oil is becoming ever more expensive and few people realise that a tonne of seasoned wood can deliver as much heat as 350 litres of heating oil and you may be eligible for support from the Government’s Renewable Heat Incentive.

Alex Morton at Brockwood Park has carefully considered his options and brought together a package of equipment, infrastructure and skills to help him manage his woods extremely well and supply woodfuel to the adjacent school as well as heat his home. He is now exploring opportunities to extend his forestry management with neighbours.

This event will include:
  • First hand experience of a previous grant recipient
  • A walking tour of woodfuel processing site

Registration from 9.45am for a 10am start. 

As these are ‘on site’ visits spaces are limited and hence early registration is encouraged. To book please click here.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Bioenergy demonstration project - FREE event

Monday, 13 October 2014

Bredhurst Woodland Action Group (BWAG) - Update and Forthcoming Events October 2014

Latest update from the good people at Bredhurst Hurst (one of Kent's most well run community woodlands).

BWAG Land Purchase

BWAG has now finalised the purchase of their 6th plot in Bredhurst Woods.  In total, BWAG own just under 9 acres of woodland.  Proceeds from all events go towards further purchases to enable BWAG to secure as many plots as possible, ensuring Bredhurst Woods remains a community amenity for generations to come.

Photographs for BWAG 2015 Calendar

If anyone has any photos of the woods and the surrounding area that you would like to be considered for next year’s calendar, please contact Jim Chalmers on 07870 878907.  All entries must be with Jim by Thursday 16th October

Heritage Tree Project

Thursday 16th October - 10am to 1pm (Meet at the allotments, Hurstwood Road)

BWAG are working with The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) and, as part of their Heritage Tree Project, we are holding a study day.  We will measure, record and study the many spectacular big, old and gnarly trees of Bredhurst.  

Please bring your own drink and a packed lunch as well as sturdy shoes and all weather clothing. No booking necessary.  For information please contact - Kevyn Wightman, BWAG Trustee, Tel 07980-611069

Bredhurst Traditional Christmas Market

Sunday 30th November - 1pm - 6pm (Green Court, The Street, Bredhurst ME7 3JY). Admission £1 per person, U16’s Free.

BWAG were very pleased to be asked by The 139 Club (a Bredhurst based baby and children’s charity) to hold a joint event.  On Sunday 30th November, we are holding a Bredhurst Traditional Christmas Market in the garden of Green Court. 

There will be a wide selection of stalls selling quality hand made gifts, locally sourced food and drink, mulled wine, mince pies and say hello to Santa!  
All proceeds to The 139 Club and Bredhurst Woodland Action Group. 

For information call Jo Grant (The 139 Club) on 07549 634090 or Vanessa on 07813 785940 or email

The event is kindly supported by The Bell who are happy for you to park in their car park.

BWAG Carol Concert

Thursday 4th December - 7.30pm (St Peter's Church and Green Court, The Street, Bredhurst ME7 3JY). Tickets £7 per person, U16s free.

The Cantium Singers, a 50 strong choir from Rochester, will be performing at St Peter’s Church on Thursday, 4th December at 7.30pm.  

Guests are then invited to take a short walk to Green Court for mulled wine, mince pies and grand Christmas raffle.  There will also be a selection of stalls selling quality hand made gifts.

Tickets - £7 per person, u16s free (includes refreshments).  Tickets must be purchased in advance and are not available on the night. Tickets will be on sale from the end of October.  For further information, please call 07813 785940 (eve/weekends) or email

Friday, 10 October 2014

Business support for forestry businesses

The Forestry Commission has recently appointed a consortium of organisations to provide business support to forestry businesses across England.  

The objective of this support is to support forestry businesses in advance of the new grants within the new Rural Development Programme (RDP), set to start in 2015.

Mike and Max knew there must be an easier way!
A recent survey undertaken by the Kent Downs Woodfuel Pathfinder showed that the average age of forestry machinery currently in use in Kent is around 20 years. 

Survey respondents identified 32 items of forestry machinery required to either maintain or enhance business performance.  

The cost of this machinery was just under £1 million:

Kelvin's tractor had
seen better days
  • The average cost ranged from £7,250 (firewood processor) to £70,000 (harvester/processor).
  • The majority of the equipment was allocated for purchase within the next two to three years (and no later than 2020).
  • Forwarders and firewood processors were the most frequently cited items.
  • Most investment is required in forwarding machinery (£315,000).

Mark's great great great Grandfather's
chainsaw was a bit smoky
These results indicate that substantial investment in forestry machinery is still needed in Kent in order to maintain or develop businesses performance.

The consortium, known as FACE (Forestry Advisory Consortium England), will provide free one-to-one business support.

Details of future schemes under RDP are still taking shape.  

However, based on the previous programme grant support may be available for (but not limited) projects involving machinery, training, business support, venison processing and initiatives involving collaboration.
Guy's harvester was not helped by the foam leftover
from the last woodland rave

Experience from previous rounds of these European Rural Development Grants shows that it will be important for forestry businesses to have good quality “oven ready” applications in time for the official opening.

FCE are encouraging businesses to register their interest in the support as soon as possible. 

Please choose from the appropriate regional contact below:

  • East England: Corinne Meakins 01842 819089
  • East Midlands: David Bole 07712 750549
  • South East: Matthew Woodcock 01483 326210
  • South West: Mark Prior 01392 834260
  • West Midlands: Simon West 01905 532212
  • North West: Penny Oliver 01524 565805
  • Yorkshire & the North East 07831 216024

Further details can be found here.

Rick's two horsepower log extractor was very thirsty
In parallel to business support the Forestry Commission is also delivering a series of workshops between September 2014 and January 2015.

To register for these events please contact Amy or Jude on 07502 985 921 or email  More details can be found here.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Forest seedling app solves problem of identifying young trees and shrubs

The Forestry Commission has developed a new smart phone application that supports identification of young (<1 year), self-set tree and shrub seedlings that are commonly encountered in British woodlands and forests.
The main features of the app are as follows:
  • Accurately identify and record self-set tree and shrub seedlings
  • Record field notes and locations using GPS without a mobile signal
  • Includes high-resolution images of leaves and other seedling features that can be used for identification
  • Uses dynamic filtering to allow users to identify seedlings based upon a number of key characteristics including leaf shapes and stem hairs
  • Supports species searches and includes listings by common and scientific names

The field guide app has been developed by the Forestry Commission from content supplied by Forest Research. It costs £1.49 and is available from iTunes Store and Google Play.

Monday, 8 September 2014

British Woodlands Survey 2014

BWS 2014 focusses on ancient woodland, planted ancient woodland sites (PAWS) and restoration. Following on from BWS 2012, this latest survey is exploring current management practices and attitudes towards ancient woodland and PAWS.

The findings will support a Heritage Lottery funded outreach project, for owners and managers of ancient woodland or PAWS. The project, co-ordinated by the Woodland Trust, is offering advice and site assessments from locally based Project Officers in 10 areas of the UK at no charge to landowners and managers.

The survey is open to all woodland owners and managers. It will be available in English and Welsh. The survey will take only 20 minutes to complete, and will be live throughout September. There is valuable information provided at the end of the survey on how to identify ancient woodland and PAWS, and contact details for the local Project Officers providing expert advice to owners and managers should you wish to enquire about a visit.

About BWS

The BWS series provides an evidence base on which future polices and practice can be developed to support further sustainable forest management for multiple ecosystem services in Britain. We intend to conduct regular major surveys every four years, interspersed by smaller surveys on particular themes.

If you are interested in commissioning a future BWS then we would be pleased to discuss your aims. We are also interested in sharing selected data with researchers with a view to publishing original research.

BWS 2012

The first BWS survey was conducted in 2012, and was designed as a major survey gathering information about ownership, markets and management. As such it was intended as a baseline against which data from future major surveys can be compared. BWS 2012 itself built upon an important series of surveys undertaken by the Department of Land Economy at the University of Cambridge since 1963.

A summary of the 2012 report can be found here.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Game Management in Woodlands - FREE event

The good people at the High Weald AONB have organised a seminar on game management in woodland.  

This free event will take place on Tuesday 7th October (10:15 to 2:00 pm).

Places are limited - please book using this link.  For more information please contact Matt Pitts at the High Weald AONB.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Small Woods Association - Skill Sharing weekend 12-14th September 2014

The Small Woods Association has just released details on its 2014 skill sharing weekend.

The event will take place at the Woodland Enterprise Centre at Flimwell in East Sussex from Friday 12th to Sunday 14th September.

The event will include:

  • Two keynote speakers
    • Alison Field (Forestry Commission Regional Director for the South East) who will talk on the future for woodlands in the region, the impact of tree diseases and the changes in grants.
    • Tim Rowland (Future Trees Trust) will talk about their work in improving the planting stock of broadleaved trees so as to enhance the social, economic and environmental benefits that they offer.
  • Lectures and workshops on selling timber, woodland management problems, tool sharpening and a range of greenwood and coppice crafts
  • A session on woodland first aid
  • A tour of the managed woodlands at Flimwell
  • Foresters Question Time
  • Lunch on the Saturday, with a barbeque and social in the evening
  • A quiz and film show on arrival on the Friday.
  • Camping space is available free of charge, or we can advise on accommodation locally.
  • And last (but not least!) the Small Woods Association AGM.

The cost for the weekend will be £42 for Members, and £48 for members guests.  For more details and to book please visit the SWA website.

Members are welcome to attend for the AGM business ONLY free of charge - please contact

Friday, 22 August 2014

Lucas Mill - Fuelwood Case Study & Video

Those lovely people at Fuelwood have just created a new case study and video for the Lucas Mill - a portable saw mill that can be set up around a felled tree.

More videos can be found here.

Whilst on the subject of machinery Fuelwood has an interesting selection of ex-demo and second hand equipment - take a look here.

Finally, we should draw your attention to APF2014 which will take place at the Ragley Estate (Warwickshire) on the 18th to 20th September.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

RHI - biomass sustainability and Biomass Suppliers List (BSL)

Over the last few weeks we have received several emails from DECC regarding their policy for biomass sustainability that it applies to renewable energy subsidy schemes including the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) and Renewables Obligation (RO).

Given the volume of reading required to keep up with all of the recent announcements we have attempted a summary to enable readers to locate some of the important documents.

First up is the Biomass sustainability policy Q&A that was released following the consultation workshops that took place in London.  This is well worth a read as it neatly summarises some key questions as well as confirming the following:
  • Introduction of the greenhouse gas and land criteria in the RHI/RO biomass sustainability policy will now be introduced from Spring 2015.
  • Non-domestic RHI participants will have two methods of demonstrating compliance with the forthcoming sustainability criteria:
These 'criteria' are:

  • GHG criteria: Biomass fuel used by RHI participants must meet a lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions target of 34.8g CO2 equivalent per MJ of heat, or 60% GHG savings against the EU fossil fuel average.
  • Land Criteria: For woodfuel the criteria are outlined in the UK Timber Standard for Heat and Electricity.
Woodfuel meets the Timber Standard for Heat & Electricity if it "...originates from an independently verifiable legal and sustainable source and appropriate documentation is provided to prove it."

Currently this documentation is obtained via one of two routes:
  • Category A: Evidence that the woodfuel originates from a legal and sustainable source can be provided through the use of independent certification of the wood by a recognised forest certification scheme (e.g. FSC, PEFC).
  • Category B: Evidence that the woodfuel originates from a legal and sustainable source can also be provided in the form of alternative/bespoke documentary evidence that provides sufficient assurance that the source of the wood is legal and sustainable (e.g. via a supplier registered on the BSL or via self-reporting - for more details click here).

Summary of post consultation decisions

Some changes have been introduce following the consultation and feedback received during workshops.  These changes are as follows:

  • New requirements to report on the proportion of ‘hardwood’ and ‘softwood’. There will be an additional requirement to report on whether any of the wood used was likely to have come from threatened or protected species.
  • Arboricultural residues will be deemed sustainable under the Timber Standard for the RO and RHI.
  • Not to exempt wood from diseased trees from the Timber Standard.   
  • To “deem sustainable” under the Timber Standard, trees removed from non-forest land for ecological reasons.
  • Not to exempt wind blow from the Timber Standard at this stage but to keep the evidence under review.
  • Not to exempt non-waste residues from sawmills from the Timber Standard.
  • To add ‘highly biodiverse grasslands’ to the list of protected land types in the land criteria for non-wood solid and gaseous biomass.
Copies of the original consultation document and Government Response can be can be viewed on the DECC website.

Further reading:

BSL guidance and Q & A 

UK Timber Standard for Heat and Electricity

DECC February 2013 Government Response document, announcing RHI sustainability criteria 

DECC December 2013 Government Response document, providing an update on RHI sustainability criteria

Ofgem Renewables Obligation sustainability guidance

EU 2010 Report on biomass sustainability

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Ancient Woodland Restoration - FREE workshops

Monday, 11 August 2014

Renewable Heat Incentive - latest uptake figures from DECC

The latest RHI figures continue to demonstrate how successful the scheme has been at increasing the rate of renewable heat generation in Great Britain.

Biomass heating remains the clear 'winner' of the RHI and account for 94% of all installations, 99% of the installed capacity and 85% of the payments made under the scheme.  

Whilst the number of biomethane installations is small (just 3) they are starting to account for around 5.6% of the total payments made (which is great than the 'large biomass' category).  As I stated before this seems to demonstrate the enormous potential of biomethane production from anaerobic digestion.

Of note, particularly to those considering installing a biomass system, is the recent acceleration in applications seen in June.

Whilst the precise reasons for this dramatic increase are not clear (backlog?) it is possible that it might lead to additional tariff adjustments later in the year (on top of the 5% reduction for small biomass implemented on July 1st).

In terms of geography the South West region continues to lead the way with 19% of all installations. 

In the South East, where this blog lives, Kent has the most accredited installations.

The top 10 business types benefiting from the RHI are shown in the table.

Will there be more tariff adjustments in 2014?

In simple terms - yes, quite likely.

The results of the next tariff review will be  the announcement on 31 August 2014 (with any changes commencing on 1 October 2014).

The data suggests the expenditure thresholds for the overall RHI budget are starting to be exceeded.  The cause of this is 'small biomass' tariff which is now well over its  expenditure threshold. 

This situation has been tolerated for a while because uptake of the non-biomass tariffs was, and still is, well below forecast and the overall budget was within its limits.  The difference now is that uptake of the 'small biomass' tariff has accelerated so fast that it has now impacted the finances of the overall scheme.

Given the scale of the current overspend it is possible that a 10% reduction in the 'small biomass' tariff might take place on October 1st.  This would reduce the tariff from 8.4 p/kWh (tier 1) and 2.2 p/kWh (tier 2) to 7.6 pence and 2.0 pence, respectively.

The impact of this reduction for a 199 kW biomass boiler is around £2,000 a year (although this depends heavily on the heat load and of course the actual meter readings).


There has been a large 'spike' in applications in June - whether this develops into a 'trend' is yet to be seen.  Regardless of this the scheme overall is starting to overspend and as such the rules for degression are clear.

Any decision to reduce tariffs (in October) will most likely affect the 'small biomass' tariff.

Any sub-200 kW installations that are currently in progress now have a clear signal to complete as soon as possible.  New projects, with an expected commissioning date post-October 1st, should probably factor-in a lower tariff for feasibility and business planning purposes.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Non-domestic RHI - small biomass tariff reduced

Ofgem has announced that the small biomass tariff will be reduced by 5% from July 1st 2014.

This is in response to increasing uptake in the sub 200 kW category as well as higher than anticipated levels of eligible heat being submitted in meter readings.

This degression of the small biomass category follows the annual inflation increase that took place on April 1st.  This saw the tariff increase from 8.6 p/kWh (Tier 1) and 2.2 p/kWh (Tier 2) to 8.8 and 2.3 p/kWh, respectively.

The 5% reduction from July 1st will mean that the tariff falls again to 8.4 and 2.2 p/kWh (which is similar to the levels seen in 2012).

The latest uptake figures clearly indicate that whilst the RHI overall is operating within it budgets, uptake of the small biomass category has accelerated.

Meanwhile, uptake of the medium tariff remains strong but is currently operating below budget forecasts.

Activity in the large biomass tariff category is far lower than the other categories.  However, there are clearly a number of schemes at pre-application stage (green column) and these may start to have greater impact on budgets over the next 24 months.

Overall biomass heating remains the clear 'winner' in the non-domestic RHI.  The majority of the available budget (and installed capacity) is currently allocated to biomass technologies and activity in the other RHI-eligible technologies remains relatively modest. 

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

New report assesses alternative tree species to Ash

We have been closely following Ash dieback over the last two years and have spoken to many woodland managers and stakeholders about the impact of the disease.

One of the most frequently asked questions relates to how woodlands will adapt to the disease, and in particular which tree species will make effective replacements.

Until recently our response to this question was fairly limited and was based on a few species such as small leaved lime.

It is therefore very timely that Natural England has released a new report that may help guide practitioners in the selection of alternative tree species that are ecologically similar to Ash.

The report (Assessing and addressing the impacts of ash dieback on UK woodlands and trees of conservation importance) examines the ecological function of 11 tree species considered most likely to replace ash across the UK. 

It also provides a range of case studies showing how existing management plans may be adapted to conserve ash-associated biodiversity should significant ash dieback occur.

In this post we have attempted to summarise the main findings of the report to assist with the dissemination of the findings.  If proactive management action is being considered we recommend reading the report in full.

The eleven tree species looked at were:

The ecological similarity of these alternative to Ash was assessed by considering three main factors:
  • their ecological functioning
  • the number of ash-associated species they support
  • their traits
Ideally any alternative tree should be similar to ash in all of these characteristics.

Ecological functioning

Ash lies at an extreme of the ecological range of native tree species in the UK. It produces nutrient-rich highly degradable litter that does not form a deep litter layer and which maintains a high soil pH.

For ecological functioning the  11 alternative species were assessed in terms of leaf litter decomposition rates, litter quality (chemical and physical properties), nutrient cycling and succession rates.

A change from ash to a tree species with very different ecosystem functioning (e.g. oak or beech) will result in changes in the characteristics of the woodland: slower nutrient cycling, increased carbon storage and changes in the ground flora species present.

Ash-associated species

Around 1,000 species are known to 'use' Ash trees and tree species native to the UK support more ash-associated species than non-native tree species.

Native oak species were found to support the greatest number of ash-associated birds, invertebrate, lichen and mammal species.  

Elm, hazel, oak, aspen and sycamore were found to support the greatest number of the ash-associated species that are most vulnerable to ash-dieback. However elm remains susceptible to Dutch elm disease and is therefore not widely suitable as an alternative to ash.

Traits of alternative tree species

The traits of trees such as tree height, bark pH and fruit type indicate, in part, the type of habitat created by a tree species and the resources available to species that use the tree. Ideally the traits of any alternative tree should be as similar as possible to ash.

Of the native tree species assessed elm had the most traits the same as ash followed by silver birch and rowan.


The study found that the alternative tree species that support the greatest number of ash-associated species are very dissimilar to ash when assessed by traits and ecological function. 

  • Oak supports 640 of the 955 ash-associated species and beech supports 505 ash associated species.
  • However, in terms of ecological function, oak and beech have much slower rates of leaf litter decomposition and nutrient cycling than ash and their canopies cast a much darker shade which will influence the ground flora species.
  • Alder is similar to ash with respect to ecological function (leaf decomposition rates, litter quality and nutrient cycling) but supports fewer ash-associated species (389 out of 955)
As such the method that is most suitable to assess how similar the alternative tree species are to ash will depend on the objectives at the site, for example maintaining ash associated species or maintaining the woodland character and ecological function.

Management scenarios

Six management scenarios that could be applied to woods infected with ash-dieback were considered over two time periods (1-10 years and 50-100 years). The scenarios were:
  1. Non-intervention – stands are allowed to develop naturally with no interventions.
  2. No felling with natural regeneration promoted – no felling but otherwise stands initially managed for natural regeneration.
  3. Felling – all ash trees and coppice removed in one operation with, if necessary, additional trees of other species cut to make the operation more viable.
  4. Felling and replanting – all ash trees and coppice removed in one operation with, if necessary, additional trees of other species cut to make the operation more viable. Then active management to replant with alternative tree and shrub species.
  5. Thinning – regular operations to thin stands by removing diseased and dead trees or coppicing ash, with, if necessary, additional trees of other species cut to make the operation more viable.
  6. Felling with natural regeneration promoted – all ash trees and coppice removed in one operation with, if necessary, additional trees of other species cut to make the operation more viable. Then active management initially to achieve natural regeneration in the stand, with subsequent management to develop overstorey species.
In the short term (1-10 years) more ash-associated species were supported under scenario (5) ‘thinning’ than scenario (6) ‘felling with natural regeneration promoted’.

In the long-term (50-100 years) there was little difference between scenarios (5) and (6) in their impact on obligate and highly associated ash species with of these species predicted to decline in abundance or be at risk of extinction. 

However, the confidence level of these assessments is only low to medium suggesting that the actual impact on ash-associated species is currently only partially understood.

For species 'partially associated' the assessment is somewhat brighter:
  • Species partially associated with ash are generally predicted to decline initially following the onset of ash dieback but after 50-100 years the majority of partially associated species are predicted to be unchanged in abundance compared to current population levels due to an increase in the abundance of other tree species which they utilise.
Overall there is a clear difference in the response of highly associated species, which are predicted to either decline or go extinct and the majority of partially associated species which are predicted to remain unchanged in abundance after 50-100 years.


When woodland managers are considering which alternative tree/shrub species to regenerate or plant in order to mitigate the impacts of ash-dieback on biodiversity, the number of ash-associated species supported is only one factor to consider. 

Woodland managers should also think about other information provided in this report such as the impact alternative trees might have on ecosystem function and factors which will influence the occurrence of ash-associated species in the woodland, such as: woodland structure, food availability, the size, shape and number of holes in trees for roosting bats and hole nesting birds, interactions between species, and changes in woodland ground flora composition.

Ash dieback is just one of several diseases and other potential drivers of change within woodlands within the UK. Other tree diseases and drivers such as grazing, pollution and climate change will also need to be taken into account. 

Management for biodiversity will usually be considered together with the other objectives of woodland management including timber production, amenity, flood prevention and carbon sequestration.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Training voucher scheme to help cross-skill heating engineers to renewable heating systems

The Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has announced a £650,000 fund aimed at expanding the skill set of domestic heating engineers to include the installation and maintenance of renewable heating systems. 

Many of the people installing renewable heat technologies today come from the heating and plumbing sectors and most of the experience is related to oil, gas and LPG systems.

Whilst most conventional renewable technologies are based on familiar electrical, mechanical and hydraulic principles, renewable technologies bring with them a range of additional technical considerations that may not have been encountered during conventional oil, gas or LPG projects.  

Biomass heating, for example, is a proven and reliable technology, but a lack of installation experience can lead to technical difficulties, additional costs and sub-optimal performance.  For example, poorly designed fuel stores can lead to fuel degradation and high fuel delivery costs.

Giving consumers and installers reliable information is an important part of helping them make decisions about their heating system. With the launch of the domestic Renewable Heat Incentive it is important to ensure that consumers have a range of installers to consult, and that these installers are trained to the very latest standards.

The two main areas of support are as follows:

Short course vouchers for existing heating installers

  • The short course vouchers are aimed at existing plumbing and heating engineers in order to encourage them to undertake training in renewable heating technologies.
  • This part of the scheme will deliver vouchers worth 75% of the cost of the training and assessment, up to a maximum of £500 per voucher (including VAT).
  • A maximum of ten vouchers per company will be available. To be eligible the company must be a small to medium-sized enterprise (SME).

Vouchers will be available for:

  • Solar thermal
  • Heat pumps (both air source and ground source)
  • Biomass
  • For solar thermal and heat pump training courses to be eligible, the training must include a QCF assessment that leads to a qualification that is accredited by an awarding organisation. 

Apprenticeship support vouchers

  • The apprenticeship support scheme will support those nearing the end of their plumbing/heating apprenticeship to become skilled with one or more renewable technologies.
  • The apprenticeship support vouchers are worth up to £2,500(including VAT).
  • A maximum of ten vouchers per company will be available. To be eligible the company must be a small to medium-sized enterprise (SME).
  • If an apprentice has already chosen to take the “renewable technology” pathway, they can apply to extend the number of technologies within that pathway and use the funding to support that training.
  • If an apprentice has already selected a non-renewable pathway such as oil or gas, they can still apply and use the funding to take one or more of the QCF units in the renewable technology pathway.

Eligible training includes:

  • Understand the fundamental principles and requirements of environmental technology systems
  • Solar thermal (installation & service and maintenance)
  • Heat pump (installation & service and maintenance)
  • Biomass [solid fuel] (installation & service and maintenance)
  • In addition applications can be made from apprentices to support them in other ways, such as the provision of learning materials and, if required, assistance to enable them to access work types that they may require to complete their apprenticeship programme.

Full details can be found here.

Green heat technologies more affordable with RHI upgrade

The Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has announced changes to the non-domestic (commercial) Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI).

The main changes are as follows:
  • Increased financial support for:
    • renewable CHP
    • large biomass boilers (over 1MW)
    • deep geothermal
    • ground source heat pumps
    • solar-thermal
    • biogas combustion
  • New technologies added:
    • air-water heat pumps
    • commercial and industrial energy from waste

  • An evolved approach to budget management:
    • Improved market intelligence has been used to inform growth rates across the range of renewable heating technologies supported
The updated tariff table is shown below.

These changes are the result of co-operation between industry and Government, and have been welcomed by the Renewable Energy Association (REA) and affiliated trade bodies.

"The RHI is now a truly world-leading renewable energy policy," said the REA's chief executive Dr Nina Skorupska. "Almost all renewable heat applications are now supported under the scheme, offering businesses greater choice than ever before on how to sustainably meet their heating needs.”

The Solar Trades Association provided evidence to Government in support of increasing the 'value for money cap' for renewable energy support programmes, which has enabled support for solar water heating to increase to 10p/kWh (from 9.2 pence/kWh).

Stuart Elmes, chair of the STA Solar Thermal Working Group, said: 

"The extra support for solar heating means that the economics will now stack up for more projects. More swimming pools, sports centres, food factories and hospitals will now be able to afford year-round heating from the sun."

We have also proposed that future improvements should include front-loading RHI payments for solar into the first seven years, as with the domestic scheme, to help businesses get over payback hurdles."

Support for large biomass heat has doubled (to 2p/kWh), but this technology sub-sector still draws the lowest fixed level of subsidy of any low carbon technology.

The newly formed Wood Heat Association (WHA) announced its affiliation to the REA last week. Speaking of these changes to the RHI, the WHA's interim chairman Julian Morgan-Jones said: 

"Under the previous cost-control mechanisms, wood heat was being unnecessarily constrained in order to preserve head room in the budget for heat pumps that was clearly not going to be used. The revised cost control mechanisms more closely match real world deployment and will ensure that wood heat can maximise its contribution to cost-effective emissions savings and renewable energy targets."

The RHI counts towards the UK's 2020 renewable energy target and helps reduce the UK's dependence on polluting fossil fuels. The above changes came into effect on May 28th 2014.

Full details can be found here.