15 February 2015

New Ignite investment: From farm to fuel

Centrica sharing how our investment will help Brackenburn develop a sustainable fuel and reinvigorate rural communities with Ignite

I believe Centrica can make a positive difference in society and through collaboration, tackle some of Britain’s biggest social and environmental issues. That’s why we are helping the best entrepreneurs with innovative energy solutions grow their impact through Ignite, the UK’s first impact investment fund with a focus on energy, backed by Centrica.

I’m pleased to say that Ignite has recently awarded investment to Brackenburn,one of our Big Energy Ideas. So in today’s blog, I wanted to share how our investment will help Brackenburn develop a sustainable fuel and reinvigorate rural communities.

Farming a sustainable fuel

Brackenburn harvests local bracken which is a naturally re-occurring crop, and turns it into a renewable biomass fuel to keep homes warm. They do this by producing briquettes (‘Brackettes’) that can be used as a fuel in log burners and open fires. It’s a really innovative idea because although several studies have demonstrated the potential of bracken as a biomass fuel, we believe Brackenburn will be the first to actually develop it in the UK.

Bracken is considered a nuisance crop that covers 2.5m acres of the UK and left un-checked, will encroach a further 1-3% each year. It therefore has to be cut from moorlands where it grows, so Brackenburn is putting the crop to good use by reinventing it as a fuel. And because bracken is a naturally re-occurring crop, producing Brackettes doesn’t take valuable farmland out of food production, or impact declining woodland reserves which can often be the case with other biomass fuels.

So how will our investment support Brackenburn? Our financial investment alongside the investment of our people’s expertise, will help Brackenburn’s expand their business and bring the Brackettes to market. The focus at first is to grow the business in the West Country where they're based, before extending manufacturing and marketing across the UK in areas where bracken occurs.

As Brackenburn grows, they will also generate wider benefits for society and the environment.

Bracken grows in remote rural areas which also tend to have a high proportion of long-term unemployed young people. As Brackenburn extends their businesses, they will create employment and training opportunities for these young people.

Working together with Farmlink, they will also educate local children about the importance of renewable energy.

And by regularly harvesting bracken, Brackenburn will encourage local biodiversity to flourish as it stops this rhizomatous fern from suffocating the natural fauna and flora.

If you would like to find out about how we are helping grow the positive impact of social enterprises that drive innovation across the energy chain, read our Ignite cases studies.