Dunster Biomass Heating Scotland

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Dunster Biomass Heating Scotland's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Dunster Biomass Heating Scotland is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett, MP
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles, MP

Manager Alasdair Peppe
Energy centre for a wood
chip fuelled rural district
heating network; making
best use of local resources
In 2014, two established biomass boiler installation companies
merged their Scottish interests to form Dunster Biomass
Heating (Scotland) Ltd. This was a boom time as the
government’s Renewable Heat Incentive was driving a rapid
expansion of the sector. Manager Alasdair Peppe noted that,
although there were numerous companies operating in the
field, very few in Scotland were striving for the level of efficiency
and technical innovation that has now become the standard.
Alasdair tells
The Parliamentary Review
Our starting point was to offer the highest-quality and the best value-for-money
installations in the sector. Initially, our biggest challenge was keeping up with
demand and avoiding the temptation to expand too fast. We installed numerous
sophisticated systems ranging from individual new-build houses to rural district
heating networks and industrial heating systems. It would have been easy to take
on additional employees or subcontractors but that would have diluted the core
expertise of the team and therefore the quality of our work. Also, we were well
aware that this was a time-limited market. The RHI was specifically designed to
offer high rewards to early adopters of low-carbon heating technology and then
to reduce the rewards as the industry developed. We could tell that a crash was
coming and were determined to be lean and efficient enough to cope when it did.
When the crash came in late 2016 and early 2017, it was harder and faster than
most in the industry had anticipated. The feedback mechanism built into the RHI
was flawed; it took too long to act and then continued to act long after installation
rates had dropped below sustainable levels. It also coincided with an unexpected
»Manager: Alasdair Peppe
»Founded in 2014
»Located in Forres, Morayshire
»Services: Designing, installing
and maintaining biomass
heating systems
»No. of employees: 4 full time,
4 part time
»No. of sites maintained:
Approx 150
Dunster Biomass
Heating Scotland
Highlighting best practice
drop in the oil price thus reducing
one of the main non-subsidy drivers
for people to switch to biomass
heating. Many installation companies
either went bust or withdrew from
Fortunately, because we had resisted
the temptation to expand and had
concentrated on building a base
of maintenance contracts and
loyal clients, we have been able to
weather the storm to date, but it is
a very different market in which we
now operate. Instead of being an
installation company which does a bit
of maintenance, we are a maintenance
company that does an occasional
installation. We have been able to
retain our core competence and have
continued to innovate technically
so we believe we are well placed
to take advantage of any upturn in
Pushing for policy change
Our future is inextricably bound
up in government environmental
policy. Around 30 per cent of all UK
carbon emissions result from space
heating. In order to hit their legally
binding targets, it is essential that
the government implements a policy
which incentivises a move away from
high-carbon forms of heating. We
passionately believe that a key part of
this is using biomass, generally wood,
as a fuel to heat buildings. Burning
wood from well managed forests is
close to carbon neutral; as the forests
grow, they absorb carbon. When
the trees reach maturity, they are cut
down, and the carbon released into
the atmosphere when they are burnt is
re-absorbed by the next generation of
trees growing in their place.
The rising demand for wood fuel over
the past ten years has brought huge
areas of UK forestry back into active
management after generations of
under-management – think of thick,
dark, crowded conifer plantations
which are almost environmental
deserts. When in active management,
they are thinned two or three times
prior to the final felling resulting in
much improved biodiversity and,
paradoxically, a greater uptake of
carbon because the remaining trees
grow bigger. Ancillary benefits include
many high-quality rural jobs – it is all
good news.
Boiler fuelled by
residue from timber
yard provides heat for
industrial processes as
well as office and retail
Instead of
being an
company that
does a bit of
we are
company that
does an
The RHI has resulted in numerous heat
users switching from fossil fuels to
low-carbon biomass. Unfortunately,
the incentive rates have now fallen so
far that new deployment has almost
ceased and the scheme is to end in
2021. No replacement scheme has yet
been proposed and it seems unlikely
that the obvious path, which would
be to learn from its shortcomings and
implement a revised scheme, is going
to be followed. Despite warnings from
environmentalists across the world that
everyone needs to act now, not rely
on a silver bullet in 30 years’ time, the
policy dreamers in Whitehall seem to
have the upper hand. Their preferred
route is to generate heat from biogas
and hydrogen for those buildings on
the gas grid and green electricity for
those off it. They wish to reserve the
biomass to be burnt in large power
stations where the, as yet unproven,
technology of carbon capture and
storage can remove the carbon
dioxide emissions thus creating carbon
negative electricity generation.
Since none of the technology for this is
currently available, this is precisely the
approach that environmentalists are
warning against. Through membership
of the board of the Wood Heat
Association, I am actively involved
in trying to get this point across and
to influence government policy. We
can reduce carbon dioxide emissions
from heating, and we can do it with
technology which is available now and
is affordable. Biomass heating is not
the answer for all buildings, but it can
address a significant proportion of the
problem and if one of the silver bullets
comes good in 30 years, then it can
be replaced within the normal cycle of
renewal without any great cost.
Creating a sustainable future
In the meantime, I find it difficult to
predict where we will be in five years’
time. We have a loyal client base
and an enviable reputation for the
quality of our work and service, so, at
worst, we will remain a maintenance
company that is capable of providing
design and installation services to those
environmentally responsible companies
and individuals who wish to switch to
biomass heating.
My wish is that government policy
recognises that biomass heating is
a fundamentally good thing and it
provides an incentive to persuade
people to move away from high-
carbon dioxide forms of heating. This
is not about paying people to generate
heat; it is compensating them for the
additional costs they are incurring
in order to be environmentally
responsible. Currently, emitting carbon
dioxide costs the country, but that cost
is not passed on to the emitter. Unless
we tax carbon dioxide emissions, and
you only have to look at the chaos
caused by proposals to do that in
France to see that it is unlikely to be
politically acceptable, then we should
incentivise those who move away
from emitting carbon dioxide. Doing
nothing is not an option.
carbon dioxide
costs the
country but
not the
emitter... we
those who
move away
from emitting
dioxide. Doing
nothing is not
an option
Converted single garage
housing the boiler and
pellet store for five
dwellings; low-cost, low-
carbon heat

This article was sponsored by Dunster Biomass Heating Scotland. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Michael Gove.

Rt Hon Michael Gove's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Michael Gove

This year's Parliamentary Review comes at a momentous time for parliament, as we collectively determine the destiny of the United Kingdom. 

On October 31, the UK will leave the European Union. The successful implementation of this process is this government's number-one priority.

Three years after a historic referendum vote, we will deliver on the decisive mandate from the British people. Trust in our democracy depends on it. Until that final hour, we will work determinedly and diligently to negotiate a deal, one that abolishes the backstop and upholds the warm and close relationship we share with our friends, allies and neighbours in the EU. But in the event that the EU refuses to meet us at the table, we must be prepared to leave without a deal.

As the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, it is my job to lead on this government's approach, should that scenario happen. Preparing for Brexit is my department's driving mission. But while I am leading this turbocharged effort, the whole of government is committed to this endeavour.

Ministers across Whitehall are working together to ensure that every possibility is considered, every plan is scrutinised and every provision is made. A daily drumbeat of meetings means that we are holding departments accountable, so that preparations are completed on time.

The chancellor has confirmed that all necessary funding will be made available. And we have mobilised thecivil service, assigning 15,000 of our most talented civil servants to manage our exit from the EU.

We will make sure that on November 1, there is as little disruption to national life as possible. Our trade relationships will continue to thrive, thanks to agreements with countries around the world worth £70 billion. Our country will remain secure, thanks to nearly 1,000 new officers posted at our borders. And the 3.2 million EU nationals now living and working among us can remain confident, with absolute certainty, of their right to remain in the UK.

Above all, our goal is to be transparent. Soon, we will launch a public information campaign so that citizens, communities and businesses are ready and reassured about what will happen in the event of “no deal”.

In my first few weeks in this role, I have travelled to ports and tarmacs, borders and bridges, all across the UK –from the seaside of Dover to the rolling green hills of County Armagh. I have heard from business owners and border officials, farmers and hauliers. They are ready to put an end to uncertainty. And they are ready to embrace the opportunities ahead.

Our departure from the EU will be a once in a lifetime chance to chart a new course for the United Kingdom. Preparing for that new course will be a herculean effort. But this country has made astounding efforts before. We can do it again.
Rt Hon Michael Gove
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster