Demand for wood-fuel boilers is powering VerdEnergy’s growth

​A green energy firm ​has outlined plans to more than double the size of the business over the next two years as it taps into demand for wood fuel boilers.

VerdEnergy is to target customers in Yorkshire, Cumbria, the North East and the North Midlands who want to switch from carbon heavy energy sources to wood pellets, which are cheaper and more eco-friendly.

The firm, based in Tockwith near York, currently supplies between 3,000 to 4,000 tonnes of wood pellets per year, but the goal is to supply 10,000 tonnes per year within the next couple of years.

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VerdEnergy’s operations manager Rudie Humphrey said the group will target customers who are not on the gas mains grid.

“The main use is for heating. Wood pellets are cheaper than electricity and LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) and the same price as oil is today, but wood does not suffer the same price fluctuations that oil does.”

VerdEnergy aims to become the​ biggest supplier of wood pellets for boilers across the North of England.

Once a niche sector, wood fuel boilers ​are now used to heat homes, farms, schools, greenhouses, offices, swimming pools and hotels.

​Customer​s include Pheasant Hotel, near Harome, a cutting edge district heating scheme involving five home owners in Ulleskelf and St Martin’s Primary School​ in​ Scarborough.

​​“The wood fuel market has witnessed spectacular growth in recent years thanks to high energy prices, past Government incentives and demand for more eco-friendly alternatives to oil and gas,” said Mr Humphrey.

“Now we are in a consolidation phase where we need to create reliable supply networks and develop expertise to maintain installations.”

Alongside its partner Duncan Renewables, the group aims to provide a one stop shop for customers.

“Together we can source, install and service boilers and importantly provide a Yorkshire-based supplier of fuel,” said Mr Humphrey.

“We’ll be competing with national players whose trucks travel the entire country, but we will be local to our market making us a more reliable and knowledgeable option.”​

​Mr​ Humphrey, ​an ex-Forestry Commission wood​ ​fuel chief for Yorkshire and the North East, said the firm will be supplied from manufacturers in the UK and the EU.

“We only buy FSC (Forest Stewardship Council​) certified products. That’s the stamp of sustainability,” he said.

VerdEnergy is BSL approved​, which means that its pellets will be RHI (Renewable Heat Incentive) compliant. In addition pellets meet EN-Plus standards denoting low moisture content and high calorific value. FSC certified woodlands meet the highest international environmental standards.

Wood pellets contain two per cent embedded carbon, making them much more eco-friendly than conventional fossil fuels, which contain 40 to 60 per cent ​embedded carbon​.

​The pellets are sourced from forests where three trees are planted together at a time. The middle tree relies on the outer two trees to enable it to great straight and tall and this middle tree is then typically used for furniture.

​“The first tree is the weedy tree. It is sacrificed and used for biomass. So essentially we are using a waste product,” said Mr Humphrey.

​VerdEnergy will offer a guarantee that new orders will be fulfilled within 48 hours.

VerdEnergy C​ustomers​ who sign long term contracts will be offered remote monitoring and automated ordering, coupled with boiler maintenance contracts. ​

​The group supplies customers with a gadget that can work out when the next order is due based on boiler efficiency, climate conditions (the weather) and previous usage.

“We can tell that Mrs Smith is likely to run out in five days time” said Mr Humphrey.

The group’s expansion will be funded from private capital from the group’s managing director, Mark Duncan.

The firm is in the process of building a main distribution depo​t​ in Goole.

“Switching to wood fuel provides a host of benefits,” said Mr Humphrey.

“It creates extra demand for timber which mean woods can be actively managed and that’s better for wildlife. In turn this provides jobs in the processing and distribution industries and cuts down on our use of greenhouse gas fuels.

“It’s a virtuous circle and through our expertise and local supply network we are making the sector more resilient and sustainable.”