This week, Theresa May MP officially opened The Energy Centre at Berkshire College of Agriculture, Maidenhead – the UK’s first renewable energy training facility at a Further Education college.
The facility – pioneered by leading biomass company LC Energy in partnership with Berkshire College of Agriculture (BCA) and Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership – is an important first step in addressing the significant skills shortage in the renewable energy sector here in the UK.
The opening of The Energy Centre at BCA will lead to courses which will enable – for the first time - students aged between 16 and 19 to gain accredited technical qualifications in renewable energy, marking a key development in delivering the skills required by employers to help the UK meet its renewable energy targets.
The UK has been allocated a target to increase the proportion of its renewable energy use to 15% by 2020. There is currently a shortfall of 50% in the 12% target for the generation of heat from renewable sources and a shortfall of 18% in the 30% target for the generation of electricity from renewables.
LC Energy firmly believes that extending access to approved and accredited technical education and skills training in renewable energy is key to addressing this, and to reducing the country’s reliance on fossil fuels. As such, the company has installed the first training biomass boiler at a UK College of Further Education to facilitate accredited training for the next generation of heating and plumbing engineers.
What is biomass and why?
Wood heat (also called biomass heat) is one of the most cost-effective forms of low carbon energy. Biomass can provide space heating, hot water and high grade heat for domestic and industrial processes.
The modern wood heating industry uses mainly processed fuel - such as chips or pellets made predominantly from virgin timber sourced from sustainably managed woodlands - in highly efficient stoves and boilers, that usually deliver heat via a water-based central heating or district heating system to a building or collection of buildings.
Biomass is a renewable resource and energy from biomass (bioenergy) is an important tool in efforts to limit global climate change, because it can displace fossil fuels. Fossil fuels add carbon into the live carbon cycle, whereas biomass is already a part of the live carbon cycle. Good forest management enables biomass to deliver significant greenhouse gas savings.
As well as heating, biomass in its various forms can also deliver power generation, biogas production renewable transport fuels and sustainable soil improvers.
Theresa May MP said:
“I was very pleased to go back to Berkshire College of Agriculture to hear of the innovative work the college is doing and to open the new energy centre. It’s vital that young people have the education and skills to take on the jobs needed for the future. So I was pleased to be able to meet with students who, through using the new energy centre, will be given the training and opportunity to make a real difference to help protect our planet for future generations.”
Mark Lebus, Managing Director of LC Energy, says:
“We are delighted to have collaborated with BCA and the Thames Valley Berkshire LEP to deliver the UK’s first biomass training facility at a Further Education college.”
“The renewable energy sector offers sustainable employment but currently lacks accredited training and skills. By widening access to training we can eliminate the skills shortage and play our part in creating a Britain fit for the future - outlined in the Government’s recent Industrial Strategy.”
“Our thanks to Theresa May MP for kindly opening this facility and to our project partners for working with us to make this happen.”
Gillian May, BCA Principal, says:
“The College enrolled 12 new apprentices in April 2018 for this and associated programmes. We already have two biomass boilers and engine rooms on campus, the addition of this new Centre provides the facility for the development of professionally recognised training for this sustainable energy provision.”
Matthew Woodcock, Partnerships and Expertise Manager at the Forestry Commission, said:
“The woodfuel strategy for England is about reversing the decline in woodland biodiversity by increasing the number of sustainably managed woodlands. Here in the South East, the most wooded region in England, the biomass industry is key to the economic viability of woodland management. The move by LC Energy and BCA to increase awareness and training opportunities for 16-19 year olds in biomass engineering careers is vital to creating more jobs and developing a vibrant and sustainable biomass industry. "
The capital for the refurbishment of the new unit has been provided by the Thames Valley Berkshire LEP in accordance with the Skills Priority Statement.
About LC Energy: LC Energy is a leading biomass supply and engineering company based in Shere, Surrey delivering long-term renewable heating solutions to customers in the public, private and commercial sectors.
Established in 2007, the company has grown from offering wood chip fuel to adding bulk and bagged pellets and, since 2014, biomass engineering services. Today, LC Energy provides its customers – who include schools, universities, care homes, leisure centres, global hotel groups, international airports and private homes – with an end-to-end biomass solution for heat generation.
LC Energy seeks to inspire every heat energy user to adopt a low carbon long term and renewable alternative to fossil fuel energy. The company has become one of the pre-eminent providers of high quality renewable heating services and fuel supply.