Media Release: Energy Minister launches bioenergy initiative

FERGUS Ewing MSP, minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism, will today (Friday 22 June) launch an ambitious venture to help the Highlands and Islands become the UK’s leading region for bioenergy.

Around 50 experts are expected to gather at the Culloden Battlefield Visitor Centre this afternoon for the inauguration of the Highlands and Islands Bioenergy Region initiative.

Led by the University of the Highlands and Islands’ Energy Research Group, the project has secured support from representatives in academia, business and the public sector. Partners include Highland Council, Community Energy Scotland, HWEnergy, AVC Group and Highland Birchwoods.

The initiative is being set up to develop the sustainable use of bioenergy in the Highlands and Islands. Already popular in Austria and Scandinavia, bioenergy is generated from organic materials like wood waste. Correctly managed, it is a sustainable energy-source that can deliver significantly lower carbon emissions than energy produced through fossil fuels. It can also benefit rural economies by allowing revenue to remain in the local area rather than going to external energy companies.

The venue for today’s launch has been chosen for its ‘green’ credentials. Opened in 2007, Culloden Battlefield Visitor Centre is heated by a biomass boiler which runs on woodchips supplied by the Scottish School of Forestry at Inverness College UHI.

Speaking about the launch of the Highlands and Islands Bioenergy Region initiative, UHI principal and vice-chancellor, James Fraser, said: “The University of the Highlands and Islands is proud to be involved in this exciting and ambitious project. We have strong research and teaching interests in bioenergy so it’s an opportunity to use that expertise to support communities and businesses to make best use of our local resources and help build a positive international reputation for the region in this sector.”

George Farlow, vice-chair of Highland Council’s planning, environment and development committee, said: “Highland Council is pleased to support this initiative. The Council sees the development of locally-sourced sustainable fuel supplies as an important priority and has already installed biomass boilers in a number of its properties including schools and leisure centres.”

Fergus Ewing, Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism, said: “It gives me great pleasure to launch this partnership, which I hope can build on the excellent work that is already taking place in the region on biomass for heat and on bioenergy more generally.

“Sustainable bioenergy offers great potential for meeting the Scottish Government’s heat and transport targets, reducing fuel poverty and reducing energy costs for businesses. We are already seeing many sectors, including the whisky and tourism sectors, taking advantage of the benefits that bioenergy brings.

“By working together, industry, the public sector, universities and colleges can ensure we make the most of our available bioenergy resources.”

To find out more about the Highlands and Islands Bioenergy Region initiative, contact Elaine Morrison at the UHI Energy Research Group on 01463 279264 or


Photos: Photos of the event will be available from around 4pm today. Please contact Susan Szymborski if you would like some.

Notes to editors

The founding partners of the Highlands and Islands Bioenergy Region Partnership are: AVC Sustainable Living; Burns, Burns and Burns; Community Energy Scotland; Highland Birchwoods; Highland Council; Highland Heat and Power; HWEnergy; Inverness College UHI; North Highland College UHI; Orkney College UHI; Scottish Land and Estates and the University of the Highlands and Islands.

The University of the Highlands and Islands comprises 13 further and higher education colleges, specialist colleges and research institutions, distributed throughout the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. They are bound together through constitutional, management and academic structures, and co-ordinated through an executive office. Collectively, this is referred to as the UHI partnership.

There are currently over 7,500 students studying on undergraduate and postgraduate courses or undertaking postgraduate research with the university.

The University of the Highlands and Islands is the only university with campuses and headquarters based in the Highlands and Islands. Its mission is to strengthen and develop the social, economic and cultural prospects of the region. It uses a blend of learning methods, including traditional classroom face-to-face teaching, video-conferencing tutorials and lectures and virtual learning environments and other IT media.

The University of the Highlands and Islands is a limited company registered in Scotland No. 148203. Scottish charity No. SC022228. Registered office: 12B, Ness Walk, Inverness, IV3 5SQ.

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Contact: Susan Szymborski
Phone: 01463 279222