Government backs £66m fund to generate electricity from straw

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The Independent Online

The Government will today announce a £66m aid package to support a new generation of "biomass" power stations that produce electricity by burning fast-growing crops such as straw, willow and elephant grass.

The Government will today announce a £66m aid package to support a new generation of "biomass" power stations that produce electricity by burning fast-growing crops such as straw, willow and elephant grass.

The public funding is expected to lever in about £200m of private sector investment enabling half a dozen such stations to be built along with a up to a hundred smaller power and heat plants.

Up until now, biomass projects in the UK have been small scale. But each of the stations to be built using the funds announced today will be 30 to 40 megawatts in size.

As well as providing direct employment, the new stations will help support the rural economy by providing jobs in the harvesting and transporting of the crops during the difficult winter months.

The Government is committed to ensuring that Britain produces 10 per cent of its energy from renewable sources by 2010 but the recent energy review set a more demanding long-term target of 20 per cent.

Brian Wilson, the Energy Minister, said: "It is the role of government to ensure secure, diverse and sustainable supplies of energy at competitive prices, now and in the future. Renewable energy, from a range of sources, clearly contributes to all three. Together these schemes will help the growing number of technologists, developers, investors and planners interested in this ecologically-strong industry to establish a firm foothold in our future energy markets."

Funding for the scheme being announced today will come jointly from the Department of Trade and Industry and the National Lottery new opportunity fund.

The Government is already providing support for the development of energy crops through the £29m Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs' energy crop scheme.

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