What a fantastic two days we had at the NFU Conference this week. Around 1500 farmers descended on the ICC in Birmingham for the NFU Conference 2019 to reflect on the importance of farming and food production in these challenging times.
The two days were made up of plenary sessions, workshop and commodity breakout sessions and we were lucky enough to host our own workshop “Energy: The alternative income stream” on Tuesday afternoon.
In the years ahead, many farm businesses will look to renewable energy generation and storage to provide a vital diversified income and reduction of on-farm energy costs. As a result, the role of the farm business as a provider of energy services will become even more significant. What does the future hold for financial incentives, Government regulation, energy prices and new product innovation? Here is what our experts said during the workshop:
Tim Pratt, Technical Director
“The importance of the price of electricity and gas to farmers and growers businesses is at an all-time high. Ten years ago, this was only of particular concern to larger, energy-intensive businesses and the focus was the cost of bought in energy.
“However, with the significant investment in renewable energy since then, the value of the energy produced and sold is now equally important. So ‘low is good’ for some and ‘high is good’ for others. What will the future hold? A review of past and current market prices might just provide some insight.
“I don’t have a crystal ball, unfortunately. We are all worried about risk and volatility, and whether or not you should have a strategy depends on you and your business.”
Jonathan Scurlock, NFU Chief Adviser, Renewable Energy and Climate Change
“Energy security, food security and climate change are still converging as significant drivers of future agricultural policy. As scientists call for limiting global warming to just 1.5C, the NFU has set a new ambition of “net zero agriculture” by 2040, facing down the challenge from our international competitors in the low-carbon farming stakes.
“We’re behind the curve compared with some of the major European competitors on converting to green energy but renewable energy remains one of the most popular sources of diversification to boost farm income as we transition to a new UK agricultural policy.”
Oliver Coe, NFU Energy Head of Technical Delivery
“The regulatory landscape with regards to energy in the UK has changed significantly even in the last few years. Of late, Government support for new means of energy production has been waning and more policy designed to reduce the wider environmental impact of industries has been introduced. “This change of emphasis from ‘carrot’ to ‘stick’ has far-reaching implications for new and existing agricultural and horticultural practices used for heat and electricity production. However, with greater regulation also comes the motivation to implement best practices, as well as to identify opportunities for reducing underlying energy costs for farmers and growers.”
Jon Swain, Head of Sales, NFU Energy
“The last ten years have seen agricultural businesses invest in renewable energy at unprecedented levels backed by support from Governmental schemes such as Renewables Obligation Certification (ROC), Feed-in Tariff (FiT) and Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). With the end of these support mechanisms, the time is now to consider how maximum returns can be made from your investments through the best placement of the energy produced and by maximising self-consumption and improving efficiencies on the farm.
“Rather than do without, do more with less. Use what you’ve got and use it efficiently.”
To find out how NFU Energy could save you money or simply help with any of your energy needs, call 024 7669 6512 or email email@example.com