Conservation group to get 50% of energy from renewables

Water wheel   National Trust The Trust already has some 150 individual renewables schemes

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The National Trust has revealed a plan to generate half of its power from renewable sources by 2020.

The trust already has 150 individual renewables schemes, but the new document projects how fossil fuel will be reduced across its properties.

It aspires to set an example to others by integrating renewable energy into sensitive landscapes.

The organisation has been criticised for its chairman's vociferous campaign against wind power.

This is considered as the renewable source with most potential in the UK.

Under its new plan, the trust's main renewables by 2020 will be hydro (27%) and biomass (21%); augmented by heat pumps (1%) and solar (0.5%).

Grid electricity will supply 26% of its power, gas 15% and LPG 6%. Oil - currently a major cost and carbon source for the trust's rural properties - will be reduced to just 3%.

There are also plans to cut energy consumption by 20%. Wind power will play no part, because the trust's historic landscapes are deemed too sensitive.

Patrick Begg, rural enterprise director for the trust, which aims to preserve historic buildings and land for the enjoyment of the public, told BBC News: "We've put all our effort to make the big leap in generating renewable energy from all our properties. Our new programme will get us to (50% of energy) by 2020."

The subsidised renewables will save the organisation money, he said, producing an expected return on capital of 10% - much better than traditional investments.

Unexpected bonus

Morden Hall Park, in south-west London, already boasts an array of renewables, including a wood-fired boiler, different sorts of solar panels and what is claimed to be the UK's most energy-efficient historic building, the Stable Yard.

The new showpiece, behind the old water wheel and Snuff Mill, is an Archimedes screw reclining in the River Wandle, lazily generating power for the visitor centre (the Archimedes screw was originally designed as an irrigation pump. Its modern adaptation allows power to be generated from a low head of water).

The biggest unexpected bonus to the trust overall has come from biomass burning for heating. The organisation owns 25,000 hectares of woodland and Mr Begg acknowledged initial fears that wildlife would be harmed if the woods were managed more intensively for fuel.

Patrick Begg Here, Patrick Begg stands in front of the Archimedes Screw on the River Wandle

"We were very pleased to see that the opposite has been the case," he said. "Managing woods more intensively, including coppicing, has actually increased biodiversity."

The trust's efforts overall have been applauded - but with reservations. It is a major land-holder, but if all the improvements go to plan will still be generating the tiniest fraction of the UK's renewable energy.

What is more, its chairman Simon Jenkins has used his influential newspaper columns to fuel opposition to wind energy, which is the most readily available large-scale renewable energy source in the UK.

This has been highly controversial with some environmentalists accusing him of setting back the cause of renewable energy in a desire to preserve the landscape in aspic.

Mr Begg said: "Simon has some very strong opinions about wind, which he's free to express. The Trust has been perfectly clear - we're not anti-wind, we're anti-wind in the wrong place, badly designed."

He said the Trust, an organisation loved by Britain's middle classes, had no misgivings about receiving electricity subsidies from poor people struggling to pay their bills. The subsidy system, he said, was designed to tackle climate change and the Trust wished to play its part.

The majority of the trust's estate was free to enter, he said There were no plans to open the other properties free of charge to people in fuel poverty.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    The actual percentage of renewables is absolutely irrelevant – I could say I’d paid off 50% of my credit card bill, but the really important thing is it £5 or £50,000?
    Given the static nature of many National Trust properties, they could reduce carbon emissions to virtually nothing just by turning the heating and lights off, all you’d need was electricity for the tills in the gift shop!

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    Good. The more organisations that get on board with renewables now, the more research investment will go back in to develop better (and more visually attractive?) next generation solutions. Wind detractors should realise that putting up with them in their current form now may yeild better designs in the future. And we won't ultimately be left sitting in the dark when the gas runs out!

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    Whether the renewables are practical or not all depends on the site of course
    If they have fast flowing water with plenty of “head” then a small hydro plant could be a good idea

    The down side is that FIT,s make any renewables “practical” for the installer, but silly expensive for the taxpayers

    No doubt the NT are jumping on the FIT bandwagon and just exploiting the taxpayers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    At least they being realistic about their renewables and not using wind.
    Heat pump circuits can be set under compost heaps and water always flows.
    I still think Tidal power is the way to go and unlike Solar and wind you know its only going to slacken off twice a day.

    The government chickened out on the Seven Barrier on cost but never thought how much money it would save our balance of payments

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Renewable energy sources are the future, and I guess we can only dream of a nation that got 50% of its energy from renewable sources. I applaud the National Trust's ambition.


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