Congratulations to our APPG Chair, Selaine Saxby MP, who has promoted to the position of Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) at the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

 

An “astonishing £3.34 billion” of taxpayers’ money has been paid by the UK Government in Renewable Heat Incentive payments over the past decade, a scheme which subsidises wood-burning while a potential shortage of wood is threatening the UK’s construction sector. 

These are key points raised in a report commissioned by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the wood panel industry which represents the UK’s six industrial plants producing wood-based materials for the construction industry. 

The report calls for an end to the Renewable Heat Initiative and warns that any future subsidy regime for biomass “must be predicated on completion of a comprehensive and robust assessment of subsidy impact upon wood supply”. 

The cost of RHI last year alone stood at more than £800 million. While the scheme closes to new non-domestic entrants in 2021 and domestic the following year, the UK Government is currently considering future subsidy arrangements following consultation. 

The report points out that it takes 30 years to replace every tree that is chopped up into biomass pellets for burning and warns: “The UK wood supply is finite – and if wood is being burned for subsidy, it cannot be used in the construction industry as was the intention when these trees were planted”. 

The six UK wood processing plants are located close to the forestry plantations from which their raw material comes. The report warns: “If the industry becomes dependent on imported timber (as is already happening), that rationale disappears”. 

Collectively, the six plants directly provide more than 2000 well-paid jobs as well as many more indirectly. These, says the report, “are directly dependent on this issue being addressed by the Government.” 

It also asserts that “open-ended subsidy to burn a scarce natural resource is inconsistent with the Net Zero commitments made by administrations across the UK”. 

The report states: “In the longer term, the answer might lie in planting more trees. However, (this) offers no prospect of early relief — the benefits of planting over the next few years will not be realised until 2040-60. 

“Forestry planting has been in decline in the UK since the 1970s and that is the legacy the industry is now living with. Inevitably, therefore, the biomass sector is currently — and for the next 20 years — relying on planting which took place with other purposes in mind, long before the RHI existed”. 

Selaine Saxby MP, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group and whose North Devon constituency includes a large wood panel manufacturing plant at South Molton, said: “Wood is too important a resource to burn. 

“That is the basic contention of those of us who are calling on the UK Government to reconsider support for the Renewable Heat Incentive before a crisis is created for other users of our finite forestry supply”.

Alastair Kerr, Director General of the Wood Panel Industries Federation and Secretary of the Expert Working Group for the Wood Panel Industry, commented: “We have a successful industry providing high quality employment and with ambitions to invest and expand, particularly in response to increased demand for housing. Increased use of wood in construction is also consistent with the Government’s environmental agenda. “All we are asking is for recognition from Government that wood is a finite resource and there is a conflict between burning it as fuel with taxpayer subsidy and using it for the purposes intended when trees were planted. Security of wood supply is now a major concern in determining our members’ investment plans”.

 

David Rutley Group Shot 2

(Left to right:- Simon Hart – EGGER Forestry Business Development Manager; John Paterson – Director of EGGER Forestry; Guy Opperman MP for Hexham; Tobias Zimmermann, Plant Director, Technical/ Production, EGGER UK; David Rutley MP, Minister for Food and Animal Welfare; Alastair Kerr – Director General, Wood Panel Industries Federation)

David Rutley MP, Minister for Food and Animal Welfare, with the responsibility for forestry policy in England, visited Northumberland’s largest manufacturing site EGGER (UK) Limited, Hexham on Friday 19th July along with the UK Government’s Tree Champion, Sir William Worsley.

This is the second UK Government Minister to visit EGGER’s Hexham plant this year, with the Minister of State for Energy and Clean Growth, Rt Hon Claire Perry MP visiting in March 2019. These visits followed the publication of the APPG for the Wood Panel Industry’s Expert Working Group Report. David Rutley MP’s visit provides a welcomed recognition of the wood panel industry’s role in supporting a strong forestry policy post-Brexit.

EGGER (UK) Limited has invested a substantial £250 million in UK operations in both Auchinleck and Hexham. This is to ensure it remains at the heart of wood-based materials production within Europe, with now over 800 direct employees. EGGER (UK) Limited’s two manufacturing sites deliver the equivalent of 27,500 lorry trailers of wood-based materials each year.

The Minister used the visit to deliver a welcomed speech to stakeholders on increasing forestry cover in Northumberland and across the nation, highlighting the new Environment Bill and forthcoming Tree Strategy as the UK Government’s latest commitment to bolstering tree planting in England.

Forestry Minister David Rutley MP said: “There is no doubt that forestry is a vital industry in Northumberland, and my visit to Egger’s impressive Hexham plant only confirmed this.

“I believe passionately that tree planting must be at the heart of our plans as a government. I look forward to continuing discussions with Egger and other stakeholders in the forestry sector on how we can work together in partnership to achieve our ambitious goals.”

John Paterson, Director, EGGER Forestry commented: “We were delighted to have the Minister visit our plant where we were able to show him the manufacturing process and range of panel-based products produced in Hexham. Northumberland is a fantastic location for afforestation and we look forward to further discussion on the future of large-scale planting opportunities. EGGER makes a considerable contribution to both the local and national economy and as a company we are encouraged by the initial steps taken recently in terms of woodland creation targets which will be a key component for promoting confidence for this domestic industry in the years ahead.”

Alastair Kerr, Director General of the Wood Panel Industries Federation (WPIF) added: “We were pleased to continue the constructive conversation with the Minister on the challenges facing our industry as a whole. The principal issue facing the industry is wood security and constraint upon long-term supply limits its growth potential. Future forestry policy needs to detail key planting targets for the next twenty years, which will prove a crucial time for the wood panel industry. We look forward to further discussion on this and energy policy in order to secure the long-term future of this critical domestic industry.”

Guy Opperman, MP for Hexham said: “It was fantastic to have David Rutley MP,  the DEFRA Minister, visit Egger in Hexham. It was an incredibly productive meeting with representatives from across the Forestry sector. He will have left the event in no doubt that we want more forestry in Northumberland, which will not only result in more forestry sector jobs but will also build us a better environment.” 

 

© Sandy young Photography 07970 268944 Michael Grove MP Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on a visit to Norbord Europe Ltd, Codie Scotland. E: sandy@scottishphotographer.com W: www.scottishphotographer.com **Editorial use only**no photo sales**no marketing** credit must read scottishphotographer.com**

(Left to right: Alastair Kerr, Director General – WPIF; George Webb, Purchasing Director – Norbord; Steve Roebuck, Environment, Health and Safety Director – Norbord; Stephen Kerr MP for Stirling and Chair of the APPG for the Wood Panel Industry; Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Nick Fedo, General Manager of the Cowie Plant – Norbord).

Secretary of State for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs, the Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, met with one of the UK’s leading wood panel producers, Norbord Europe Ltd., to hear about the challenges they are facing sourcing their main raw material.

Mr Gove was given a guided tour of their operations in Cowie, Stirlingshire, accompanied by local MP Stephen Kerr, who also chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for the wood panel industry.

Norbord and other leading manufacturers who are members of the Wood Panel Industries’ Federation (WPIF) have warned that a major government rethink is required to help the industry satisfy demand for its products, in order to secure thousands of jobs and help the UK face up to its housing crisis.

A recent report carried out on behalf of the APPG for the wood panel industry, involving former Energy Minister, the Rt Hon Brian Wilson, concluded that wood availability will decrease dramatically within the next decade. 

The strain on the UK’s wood basket is being exacerbated by renewable energy subsidies and is creating real uncertainty for wood panel manufacturers while endangering the supply of key materials in the construction and house building sectors.

Stephen Kerr, MP for Stirling and Chair of the APPG for the Wood Panel Industry and Expert Working Group, commented:

“I’m pleased Michael was able to visit a major contributor to the local and national economy.

“I have the privilege of chairing the APPG for the wood panel industry, a sector which 7,500 British jobs are directly supported by.  In my own constituency alone, 250 jobs are created and sustained by the Norbord plant directly, with another 250 employed by local supply chain partners indirectly.

“The wood panel manufacturing industry is a UK success story, with a contribution to the economy in excess of £850m per annum and an ability to meet 65% of the UK demand for wood panel products.

“This industry has the capability to increase production to meet the UK’s demand for wood panel products and to do so with no reliance on imports of wood from elsewhere in the world.  However, this is only possible if it has enough wood to sustain and grow its manufacturing capability.”

Steve Roebuck, Director of Environment, Health and Safety, Norbord, said:

“I’m very pleased that Mr Gove took time to visit our site and listen to Norbord’s concerns.  He certainly took on board our message that the UK’s wood supply is now at a critical point due to demand from heavily subsidised biomass for energy.

“We’re not against the use of wood for energy, but continuing to use subsidy to drive wood towards energy is putting undue pressure our domestic wood supply.  This threatens industries, such as construction and furniture manufacture, which rely on wood panels and sequester carbon for generations.

“The APPG expert working group report concludes that removing the subsidies which cover woody biomass would create a competitive, free market for all wood users competing for a finite resource base.  The equalisation of the market would be the most desirable for wood panel manufacturers and would place all wood users on a level playing field.

“A point that I think all parties agree on is the pent-up demand in the requirement for low cost affordable housing.

“If you’re not going to have wood panels manufactured in the UK, you’re going to import them, and you’re not going to make them out of steel, so this is a critical area that everybody is agreeing on – we have to build those houses and, to build those houses, you need wood-based panels.  That’s 50 per cent of our business.”

Alastair Kerr, Director General of the WPIF and Secretary of the Expert Working Group, added:

“We were delighted that the Secretary of State for the Environment, Rt Hon Michael Gove, was able to take a tour of Norbord’s manufacturing plant as part of his recent visit to Stephen Kerr MP’s Stirling constituency.

“This provided an opportunity to discuss the challenges facing the industry, primarily the future of domestic wood security, and to highlight the policy options outlined within our recent APPG for the Wood Panel Industry Expert Working Group Report produced earlier this year.
“We welcome the Secretary of State’s commitment to improving long-term forestry cover through the targeted planting of a further 11 million trees by 2025, and look forward to further engagement where we can explore the immediate and medium term concerns in more detail.”