According to Lucy Hopwood of the York based NNFCC, speaking at the Energy Now Expo in Telford, the inconsistency of UK’s government in offering support payments for energy crops had severely dented growers’ confidence.
Theoretically, ligno-cellulosic perennial crops such as short rotation coppice or miscanthus could account for 720,000ha – 2.8m hectares in UK, however a more realistic assessment attributes an area between 7,000 and 50,000 hectares to these crops.
This reduction could undermine the UK’s ability to meet the targeted 15% of energy produced from renewable sources by 2020. A solution to partially cover this gap may come from the exploitation of the true potential of baled straw; 12.2m tonnes of straw are available annually, though 5.7m tonnes are incorporated into soil by growers, nearly half of this potential remains untapped. Straw-burning power stations have been quick to capitalise on this, yet the market price of straw for energy is still less than that paid for by livestock farms.