8:00 a.m. 20 November 2021
William Hargreaves of Savills Suffolk explores how farmers and landowners can contribute to UK environmental goals.
Recent COP26 climate talks have drawn everyone’s attention to reducing the global carbon footprint and the UK government has made it clear that it expects agriculture to contribute to its own environmental goals. .
But what potential opportunities does this present for farmers and landowners?
Let property have long been a source of income for farms and rural estates. However, changes in energy efficiency rules have raised concerns that homeowners may not be able to justify increasingly expensive investments to deliver energy efficient retrofits.
One opportunity for some rural owners is the generation of net zero energy – from biomass boilers providing power through local district heating networks to water heat pumps in lakes and hydroelectric turbines in rivers. .
When the production of electricity from renewable assets such as wind and solar exceeds local requirements, it is possible to supply power to the grid.
While it can be expensive at times, the price of batteries is dropping, meaning that co-investing in energy storage solutions could be an option to maximize returns.
The electrification of heating and transportation is a major goal and energy storage will be essential to smooth out peaks and troughs in renewable supply.
Access to land for renewable energy will remain a major obstacle, but as agricultural policy and planning evolves to meet net zero goals, more opportunities are expected to become available.
Competition for existing forestry and for land suitable for tree planting (afforestation) has never been greater, driving up the value of capital and potentially reducing long-term returns on investment.
Why is the forestry market so hot? In terms of income, traditional means of income generation through harvesting and trading in wood products remain dynamic.
However, there is also a growing trend for new market entrants to seek land so that they can plant trees to offset their own carbon emissions – theoretically making forestry both a financial and environmental investment.
Agriculture – food, fiber and fuel
Selling the carbon stored in agricultural soils is the panacea many farmers hope to replace lost CAP income. However, agriculture needs to undergo a significant transformation to make sense of net zero.
The transition may present options for climate-focused investors to help provide the infrastructure and technology needed by farms to reduce emissions. But a balance must be found so that nature-based solutions do not compromise our national food security and our rural communities.
As supply chains increasingly turn to more sustainable sources, there will be multiple opportunities for growth. A coalition of like-minded producers, for example, would be the most powerful force for change, while also ensuring that farming communities benefit from a “just transition” in land-based activities.
For advice on the rural area in Suffolk contact William Hargreaves in Savills on 01473 234802 or [email protected]