A project supported by the Environmental Research Institute aims to develop the sustainable use of bioenergy within the region Highlands and Islands of Scotland, with the support of members within academia, business, and public sectors.
The Highlands and Islands Bioenergy Alliance initiative was launched with the help of Scotland’s minister for energy, enterprise and tourism, Fergus Ewing MSP at Culloden Battlefield Visitor Centre, which is heated via a biomass boiler fuelled with woodchips from the Scottish School of Forestry, Inverness College UHI. Mr Ewing stated “Sustainable bioenergy offers great potential for meeting the Scottish Government’s heat and transport targets, reducing fuel poverty and reducing energy costs for businesses. We are already seeing many sectors, including the whisky and tourism sectors, taking advantage of the benefits that bioenergy brings.”
Led by the University of the Highlands and Islands’ Energy Research Group, the project represents a co-ordinated effort to support the development of a bioenergy sector with partners including the ERI, Highland Council, Community Energy Scotland, HWEnergy, AVC Group and Highland Birchwoods. At the launch James Fraser, UHI principal and vice-chancellor said: “The University of the Highlands and Islands is proud to be involved in this exciting and ambitious project. We have strong research and teaching interests in bioenergy so it’s an opportunity to use that expertise to support communities and businesses to make best use of our local resources and help build a positive international reputation for the region in this sector.”
Bioenergy is a renewable source of energy derived from organic mass including wood and its waste products, and crops such as reed canary grass. The use of bioenergy is already widespread in some regions including Austria and across Scandinavia, and when managed correctly can represent a sustainable energy-source that benefits rural economies significantly by retaining revenue within the local area. Through the use of knowledge exchange with partners within the UK and Europe the new initiative will seek to place the Highlands and Islands region at the forefront of the bioenergy industry.