CONSULTANT KNIGHT PIESOLD is to study how big a renewable energy source wood could become for Kent.
The South East Regional Development Agency (SEEDA), which commissioned the study, is keen to exploit rich local supplies of wood to make it a major element of a regional biofuels strategy for the county.
Kent has a plenty of thinnings from established woodlands and new short rotation coppice that can be used as a sustainable alternative to oil and gas, it says.
Biofuels such as coppiced wood are classed as a 'renewable' fuel source and are exempt from the Climate Change Levy, imposed by government on electricity generated from fossil fuels.
SEEDA hopes that work from the consultant to prove Wood's economic viability will win over power companies, businesses and residents and persuade them to invest in the strategy.
Knight Piesold's study will look at the feasibility of using wood in combined heat and power plants to generate electricity for Kent. After being harvested, the timber would either be processed for gasification or burned directly to generate electricity, said Knight Piesold chairman Peter Garratt.
According to SEEDA, the South East contains one third of England's ancient semi-natural woodland. Much is neglected due to a poor market for coppiced timber. However, bodies like the Woodlands Trust, RSPB and English Nature are seeking new markets for the timber.