Distilleries offered £9m more funding for green projects

By Rod Addy

- Last updated on GMT

The Scotch whisky industry supports 40,000 jobs across the UK
The Scotch whisky industry supports 40,000 jobs across the UK

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Whisky and spirit producers from Orkney to Cornwall are set to toast an almost £9m cash boost announced by the Government on 20 March supporting plans to create low-carbon green distilleries.

Having already received collective funding of more than £1m to kick-start green innovation projects, 12 distilleries across Scotland and five in England can now bid for total grants of almost £9m. 

The grants are intended to help accelerate projects that decarbonise production processes, which typically rely on fossil fuels, contributing to preventing pollution equivalent to the annual carbon dioxide emissions of Norwich. 

In the first phase of funding, distilleries received up to £75,000​. The cash was earmarked for boosting decarbonisation research and development. Potential schemes included the use of hydrogen and biofuel boilers and geothermal energy in production processes.

Projects underway

Projects that have already received funding include the Uist Distilling Company on the Isle of South Uist using low-carbon hydrogen as a heat source. Bruichladdich Distillery developed a boiler system that emits no greenhouse gases or pollutants on the isle of Islay. And Orkney’s Highland Park Distillery uses stored energy from green renewable sources that can be converted into heat on demand. 

“From whisky and gin to rum and vodka, the UK’s distilleries are famous around the world for their innovation, and it is great to see them use this to get into the spirit of going green,"​ said energy minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan. “The funding will support one of our most iconic industries to go further and faster in cutting their carbon emissions and building back greener.” ​ 

In 2019, the UK distilleries industry grew by 20%, highlighting the opportunity for the sector to be at the heart of the UK’s green and resilient recovery from COVID-19.  

The production of whisky directly produced an estimated 530,000 tonnes of CO2​ equivalent in 2018, with the majority of these emissions coming from the generation of heat for the distillation process. That accounts for more than 80% of the distillation industry’s fuel consumption, almost all of which currently comes from fossil fuels.

Scotch whisky supports 40,000 jobs

The Scotch whisky industry supports 40,000 jobs across the UK, with more than 10,000 people directly employed in Scotland. 

With 7,000 ​of these jobs in rural Scottish areas, the latest funding is expected to drive forward support for low-carbon innovation in some geographically remote parts of the UK. It is hoped that would create more jobs and skills and provide opportunities for distilleries to develop their fuel transportation and storage technologies.

Funding for the Green Distilleries competition is part of the £1 billion Net Zero Innovation Portfolio​. That aims to accelerate the commercialisation of innovative low-carbon technologies, systems and processes in the power, buildings and industrial sectors.  

The announcement comes in addition to the green targets announced in the Prime Minister’s Ten Point Pla​n​ and the Energy White Paper​.

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