UK's largest private landowner plans 8-fold increase in clean energy investment—50% renewables by 2020

national trust house photo
CC BY-ND 2.0 Sue Hasker

I argued before that bold, ambitious plans may be easier to execute than environmental incrementalism. Indeed, not a day seems to go by of late without a significant new renewable energy commitment from one organization or another. And today was no exception.

As Britain's largest private landowner, and Europe's biggest conservation organization, the National Trust wields a lot of influence. So it's welcome news indeed that the charity has announced a £30 million investment (about US$46 million) in clean energy. The scheme marks an eight-fold increase on its previous £3.5 million pilot that it launched in 2013. The goal now is for the charity to reduce its energy use some 20 percent, and increase the share of renewables in its energy supply to 50 percent by 2020. (That appears to be all energy—including heating—not just electricity.)

The new road map includes 40 different projects across Britain, with technologies ranging from solar to hydro to biomass heating. And while questions have indeed been raised about wood heating in urban areas, given that the National Trust has over 250,000 hectares of land and hundreds of historic homes and buildings under its care, many of them extremely isolated, and often very inefficient, the idea of using wood chips sourced from the Trust's own woodlands—woodlands which require thinning to ensure optimal health—to heat buildings onsite is about as appropriate a use of biomass as I can think of.

The other reason that this scheme is so worthy of note is the fact that the National Trust has come under fire before for opposing wind farm developments in the past. But as quoted by The Guardian, Patrick Begg—the Trust's rural enterprise director—is adamant that the organization is not anti-wind, just "anti-big infrastructure at the wrong scale and in the wrong location.”

Given that the National Trust is also encouraging its members to switch energy suppliers to Good Energy, a provider of 100 percent renewable energy from wind, solar and hydro, that claim would appear to hold water.

The Trust estimates this new initiative will save it up to £4 million on its energy costs each year.

UK's largest private landowner plans 8-fold increase in clean energy investment—50% renewables by 2020
The National Trust has stood in the way of wind farms before. But this commitment marks a serious push for clean energy.

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