England's National Trust invests in biomass, other renewables

By The National Trust | July 10, 2015

The National Trust, an independent charity in England, Wales and Northern Ireland,  recently announced its largest-ever investment: £30 million ($46.5 million) in renewable energy to provide heat and power to more of its historic places. The announcement follows the successful completion of five renewable energy projects at National Trust properties, part of a £3.5million pilot launched with Good Energy in 2013.

The investment, by Europe’s biggest conservation charity, marks a milestone toward reaching its targets to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, cut energy usage by 20 percent and source 50 percent from renewable sources on its land by 2020.

The Trust’s renewable energy program could also help save up to £4m on its energy costs each year. Electricity generated from some of the projects will be sold to the grid providing the charity with a source of income. This income, coupled with the savings made, will allow more money to be spent on vital conservation work.

The National Trust is investing in more than 40 further projects which include:

*A 200-kW lake source heating project at Blickling Estate in Norfolk which will remove two oil tanks and 25,572 litres per annum of oil consumption with an estimated saving of 68 tonnes of CO2 per year

*Two biomass boilers at Upton House in Warwickshire to heat the mansion and other areas saving an estimated 55 tonnes of CO2 per year

*A 250-kW hydro scheme at Hayeswater in Cumbria where there is a legacy of hydropower from historic corn mills and water wheels. This project will provide an income stream to support conservation work on National Trust land

These new projects follow the completion of the five pilots which include a biomass boiler at Ickworth in Suffolk, which was formally switched on today. Ickworth’s new boiler has replaced a 5,000-litre oil tank, removing the risk of contamination from oil leaks. Using wood fuel sourced directly from the estate has created an even bigger conservation dividend: as well as the mansion becoming self-sufficient in heat, the new woodland being planted to secure future fuel is also reinstating lost design features from the Grade II listed park and gardens. The more actively managed woodlands will also create better, bigger habitats and markedly improve nature conservation.

Patrick Begg, rural enterprises director at the National Trust said, “In setting out our 10 year plan we recognised we will have to play our part in helping to mitigate climate change. A key part of that is to reduce our reliance on oil and look for greener energy solutions. We have a responsibility to look after the special places in our care, requiring us to make long-term decisions that will protect them for future generations.

“Many of the properties in our care are energy intensive and in remote areas without access to mains gas. Installing renewable technology in these places is a huge challenge. For instance we found that connecting hydros to the grid is more complicated than we expected. We have learnt a great deal and we will continue to do so.

“The success we have seen in decommissioning oil tanks, lowering our energy costs and reducing carbon emissions has shown us that renewables play a vital part in us reaching our 2020 energy targets and in delivering more for our core conservation mission.”


Biomass boiler at Ickworth in Suffolk. Credit National Trust images, Ray DalCollaboration has been a key part of the Trust’s renewable work. The charity is using the lessons learned through the pilot phase of its renewables program to inform future projects as well as sharing experience, through its Fit for the Future network, with others who are looking for a greener energy supply.

The Trust’s energy partner, Good Energy, has worked alongside the charity to help develop its renewable strategy and inspire others to think about their energy use.

Juliet Davenport OBE, CEO and founder of Good Energy said, “It’s been fantastic to see how renewable projects like the biomass boiler at Ickworth are transforming the energy use of some our oldest and most special buildings. The National Trust is truly inspirational with this approach.

“Together, we have worked hard to inspire consumers to switch to cleaner, greener forms of electricity and help to build a more sustainable energy future for the UK.”

Energy users can support the National Trust’s renewable energy program by making the switch and signing up to Good Energy. The company will give the Trust up to £40 per year for each new customer who signs up to its dual fuel tariff and quote the National Trust when switching.