Coalition urges supermarkets to support renewable energy on farms

21st November 2014

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  • Generation ,
  • Renewable


Stephen Byrne

A coalition of renewable energy and farming bodies is calling for supermarkets to join its campaign to radically increase the amount of energy produced on farms.

There is potential for at least 10GW of renewable energy across UK farms, according to the coalition, which is led by NGO Forum for the Future. It says that supermarkets could either buy the energy directly from farms, or support the use of it on farms that are supplying it with produce.

Crucially, supermarkets can make their own supply chains more secure by ensuring they have a supply of home-grown energy, according to Giles Bristow, Forum for the Future’s programme director.

The coalition is in talks with “a good proportion of major supermarkets” about its campaign, known as Farm Power, Bristow said. “There is definite interest, we’re now digging into how they go about it.”

The group also includes Nottingham Trent University and Farmers Weekly magazine, and is supported by a steering group made up of National Grid, farming body the NFU, Business in the Community and United Utilities, among others.

It argues that renewable energy can help farms and surrounding agricultural communities diversify, increasing jobs and economic growth. It also says that renewable energy technology can help biodiversity, land and water management and other ecosystem services.

The coalition has identified several barriers to realising its vision. These include a lack of consistent and accessible information to help farmers and rural communities install renewable energy; and problems with grid connections and the planning system.

Bristow said: “Individual farmers have made some investment, and are doing what they can despite a system that doesn’t really support them. We are trying to up the ambition – there is a lot happening but there could be more.”

Dr Jonathan Scurlock, chief adviser on renewable energy and climate change at the NFU, said that it strongly endorses farm diversification into renewable energy, for export as well as for self-supply, where it supports traditional agricultural production.

“We recognise that low-carbon energy production can actually enhance our national food security for only a modest land take, and the additional returns from renewables make farm businesses more resilient and better able to manage volatility in both the weather and in farm prices”, he said.

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