The scheme aims to mirror the success of bioenergy regions in countries such as Sweden– where bioenergy is the main option for heating and accounts for over 28 per cent of all energy used.
The Highlands and Islands Bioenergy Region initiative is led by the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) and has secured support from academia, business and the public sector.
Together they plan to promote the use of biofuels as a sustainable energy source that can deliver lower carbon emissions and benefit rural economies by keeping revenue in the local area rather than going to external energy companies.
The initiative was launched earlier this year at the Culloden Battlefield Visitor Centre near Inverness, which is heated by a biomass boiler which runs on woodchips supplied by the Scottish School of Forestry at Inverness College UHI.
Speaking at the launch, Fergus Ewing, the Scottish government’s minister for energy, enterprise and tourism, said: “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.”
His view was backed up by George Farlow, vice-chair of Highland Council’s planning, environment and development committee, who said: “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.”
UHI principal and vice-chancellor, James Fraser, added: “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.”