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Theresa May visits first biomass facility at FE college

Prime minister opens new site to promote renewable energy skills

Posted by Alex Diggins | May 13, 2018 | Sustainability

Theresa May officially opened The Energy Centre at Berkshire College of Agriculture, Maidenhead – the UK’s first renewable energy training facility at a FE college. The facility is an important first step in addressing the significant skills shortage in the UK's renewable energy sector. Developed in partnership with leading biomass company LC Energy and Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise, the site at Berkshire College of Agriculture (BCA) will allow students aged between 16 and 19 to gain accredited technical qualification in renewable energy for the first time. This marks a key step towards delivering the skills necessary for the UK to meet its renewable energy targets.

The Prime Minister, Theresa May, said: “I was very pleased to go to the Berkshire College of Agriculture to hear of the innovative work the college is doing, and to open the new energy centre. It’s vital that young people have the education and skills to take on the jobs needed for the future. So I was pleased to be able to meet with students who, through the use of the new energy centre, will be given the training and opportunity to make a real difference to help protect our planet for future generations.”

The UK has been allocated a target to increase the proportion of its renewable energy use to 15% by 2020. Currently, there is a 50% shortfall in the target of 12% of heat generated from renewable sources; there is a further gap of 18% in the ambition of generating 30% of electricity from renewables. LC Energy firmly believes that extending access to approved and accredited technical education and skills training in renewable energy is key to addressing this, and to reducing the country’s reliance on fossil fuels.  As such, the company has installed the first training biomass boiler at a UK College of Further Education to facilitate accredited training for the next generation of heating and plumbing engineers.  

Mark Lebus, Managing Director of LC Energy, commented: “We are delighted to have collaborated with BCA and the Thames Valley Berkshire LEP to deliver the UK’s first biomass training facility at a Further Education college. The renewable energy sector offers sustainable employment but currently lacks accredited training and skills.  By widening access to training we can eliminate the skills shortage and play our part in creating a Britain fit for the future - outlined in the Government’s recent Industrial Strategy. Our thanks to the Prime Minister for kindly opening this facility and to our project partners for working with us to make this happen.”

By widening access to training we can eliminate the skills shortage and play our part in creating a Britain fit for the future

Gillian May, BCA Principal, said at the opening of the facility:“The College enrolled 12 new apprentices in April 2018 for this and associated programs.  We already have two biomass boilers and engine rooms on campus, the addition of this new Centre provides the facility for the development of professionally recognised training for this sustainable energy provision.”

Lastly, Matthew Woodcock, Partnerships and Expertise Manager at the Forestry Commission, added: “The woodfuel strategy for England is about reversing the decline in woodland biodiversity by increasing the number of sustainably managed woodlands. Here in the South East, the most wooded region in England, the biomass industry is key to the economic viability of woodland management. The move by LC Energy and BCA to increase awareness and training opportunities for 16-19 year olds in biomass engineering careers is vital to creating more jobs and developing a vibrant and sustainable biomass industry."

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