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Plans to turn Wales into a renewable energy powerhouse were boosted today [Thursday, 25 February] when the Rural Affairs Minister, Elin Jones, unveiled a multi-million pound grant scheme designed to place the nation at the forefront of Britain's wood energy industry.
The Wood Energy Business Scheme 2 (WEBS 2), which is managed by Forestry Commission Wales on behalf of the Welsh Assembly Government, will provide £7.8 million of European funding to enable wood from Wales to be turned into a carbon neutral renewable fuel - creating jobs and stimulating our rural economy in the process.
WEBS 2, which is available for businesses throughout Wales, will enable the wood energy market to contribute to the objectives of the Assembly Government’s strategy for woodlands and trees, Woodlands for Wales.
The Minister said that WEBS 2 would help to take Wales to the forefront of clean energy production in the UK by helping businesses to convert the raw material found in our woods into renewable heat or power.
WEBS 2 was launched at Clifford Jones Timber, a thriving family business which built a £4.7 million state-of-the-art biomass fuel processing plant in Ruthin, Denbighshire, with the help of WEBS 1.
The potential for maximising the benefits from our woodlands – and doing our bit for the planet into the bargain – was first unlocked by phase one of WEBS. The scheme funded 100 projects between 2004 and 2008 which between them will save 20,000 tonnes of CO2 every year and created or safeguarded around 75 jobs.
The Clifford Jones Timber plant is the first in mainland Britain to use timber sourced directly from sustainable forests in the UK. At full capacity, the plant can produce 30,000 tonnes of clean wood pellets every year, operating on a 24-hour shift.
The Rural Affairs Minister, Elin Jones said, "This state-of-the-art plant demonstrates that buying into the notion of clean, renewable energy can be about more than being benevolent and offers genuine business opportunities.
"Wood pellets are a clean, sustainable and convenient form of woodfuel, ideal for heating boilers of all sizes, from individual homes through to schools, offices and buildings with larger heat loads - such as leisure centres and industrial units."
The Minister said Clifford Jones Timber exemplified how Wales's woodlands could be used to invigorate local economies and create jobs in rural areas, as well as make an important contribution to the fight against climate change.
Through WEBS 1, many companies in Wales had participated in the learning curve of how to make woodfuel work and were today well placed to take Wales to the forefront of the renewable energy industry, she said.
WEBS 2 aims to attract £15 million of private sector investment and hopes to save an additional 35,000 tonnes of CO2 every year, as well as creating jobs and providing training.
The Minister added, "It is the Welsh Assembly Government’s intention that the use of sustainably produced woodfuel for energy will make a real and meaningful contribution to reducing our carbon footprint, and it will support job creation and enterprise development in rural communities through the emerging fuel supply chain.
"The kind of activity we can see here at Clifford Jones Timber illustrates exactly what we mean by a competitive and integrated forest industry and the role of woodfuel alongside other products."
The Minister said she wanted the woodfuel market to create new opportunities for owners of small woodlands by making the management of smaller woodlands more economically viable and desirable.
By increasing the use of woodfuel, WEBS 2 will contribute to the Assembly Government's One Wales programme of government, which includes targets for carbon emissions reduction of 3% a year by 2011, and the Assembly Government's commitment to 3% annual reductions in Wales’s greenhouse gas emissions from 2011 laid out in the Renewable Energy Route Map for Wales.
WEBS 2 will also assist a number of the outcomes of the woodland strategy, including helping to reduce the carbon footprint of Wales and increasing the use of timber as a renewable resource.
Alan Jones, Chairman of Clifford Jones Timber, said, "The opening of our biomass fuel processing plant has been a massive leap forward for us as a business and puts Wales on the map as a world leader in fuels of the future. Seventeen new jobs have already been created at Clifford Jones Timber as a result of the WEBS programme.
"The plant will eventually generate enough renewable power resource to maintain a town of ten thousand homes. Our eventual aim is to focus exclusively upon the domestic market, providing a sustainable future for the communities of Wales."
Pictured (from left) during the launch is Clifford Jones Timber Director Sarah Jones Smith, Clifford Jones Timber General Manager Richard Jones, Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones and Director Forestry Commission Wales Trefor Owen.
NOTES TO EDITORS
WEBS 1 was a four-year capital grant scheme established in 2004, run by Forestry Commission Wales for Objective 1 and 2 (Powys) areas of Wales. It funded heating schemes in a range of commercial and public sector buildings, from small rural tourism businesses, manufacturing businesses and public sector sites including hospitals and schools. It also funded a range of fuel supply businesses producing wood chips.
Building on the success of WEBS 1, WEBS 2 is a four-year project from 2009 to 2013 also run by Forestry Commission Wales, drawing down European funding to offer capital grants to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) for woodfuel heating systems, small-scale woodfuel Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plants and woodfuel processing equipment.
WEBS 2 has around £7.8 million to allocate across both Convergence and Competitiveness areas of Wales. Grant levels for individual applicants are likely to be 41% in Convergence Areas and 31% in Competitiveness areas. It aims to install 40 MW of heat capacity and five MW of electricity.
Clifford Jones Timber is a family business employing 42 people at its timber manufacturing plant in Ruthin. In 2005, the company bought a second sawmill company based in Gretna in Scotland. The company's turnover has increased from £1.6m in 1998 to £8.4m in 2008. The forecast for 2009 was £10.3m. Between 2007 and 2008, the company developed the pellet production facility at the Ruthin site at a cost of £4.7m, of which £550,000 was a grant from the first round of the Wood Energy Business Scheme (WEBS 1). Some of the material to supply the plant is transported down from the Gretna site. Clifford Jones Timber supplies sustainable wood pellets and briquettes under the brand name of Blazers Fuel Logs, supplying the National Trust throughout the UK as well as other retailers.
Media enquiries to: Mary Galliers, Forestry Commission Wales, on 0300 068 0057, mobile 07827 955423, firstname.lastname@example.org or John Clayton, Clifford Jones Timber, 0151 708 9210, mobile 07754 278511, email@example.com
For more information on WEBS 2, contact Mike Pitcher on 0300 068 0076, mobile 07817 014805, firstname.lastname@example.org