Scottish whisky distilleries become more bio-based

Aberfeldy distillery

The UK Green Investment Bank (GIB) has announced £5 million of funding for a pipeline of energy efficiency projects at a number of Scottish distilleries. Half of this will come from GIB, with matched funding from the private sector. Aberfeldy distillery in Perthshire will be taking advantage of the new funding available. This follows GIB’s announcement last year of an investment at the Tomatin distillery, near Inverness. Tomatin is on track to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by c. 80%. 

The projects will finance the installation of biomass boilers, to replace the existing, inefficient, heavy fuel oil boilers. This will reduce the distilleries’ energy costs and their greenhouse gas emissions, without requiring any up-front capital investment. The boilers will be used to produce steam, necessary for several parts of the whisky production process. The Aberfeldy project will use the same core biomass boiler technology and systems as at Tomatin. Engineering and installation works will commence immediately. Bacardi, who own the distillery, have estimated that the project could reduce the distillery’s carbon footprint by up to 90%, by replacing 100% of the heat currently generated from fuel oil. 

Aberfeldy Distillery was founded by John Dewar & Sons, Ltd. in 1896 and opened in 1898. The distillery is located on the outskirts of Aberfeldy, on the southern bank of the Upper Tay. Aberfeldy is the largest malt whisky component of Dewar’s Blended Scotch Whisky. It relies on the fresh water stream Pitilie Burn, which runs alongside the distillery and is the only distillery in Scotland to use these waters. Rob Cormie, Group Operations Director, UK Green Investment Bank, said that “projects like this can help distilleries to save money and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. I would encourage other distilleries to install a biomass boiler or other energy saving technology – an investment to make long term savings and to help to meet the industry’s ambitious green targets. Our spend to save model means that companies don’t need to find the capital up-front and can start saving money from day one.” 

The investment is being made by the Equitix-managed fund, Energy Saving Investments (ESI), in which GIB is the cornerstone investor, alongside the Equitix Energy Efficiency Fund (EEEF). The investment is in partnership with Balcas Limited (Balcas), a British SME and leading UK manufacturer of wood pellet biomass. The new biomass boilers will be fuelled by sustainably sourced wood pellet fuel. The pellets are manufactured by Balcas using renewable energy and raw materials sourced from local, sustainably managed forests at their plant at Invergordon. 

According to UK Business Secretary, Vince Cable, “the UK Green Investment bank, capitalised with £3.8 billion, has been set up to help businesses make the transition to a green economy right across the country. This investment in one of Scotland’s most important industries will help secure jobs, support the local supply chain and become more energy efficient. Through our industrial strategy we are working in partnership with business to give companies the confidence to invest, securing green jobs and a stronger UK economy.” 

Vyncke biomass steam boiler at Aberfeldy distillery will be up and running by the end of 2014 and will reduce the distillery’s carbon emissions by over 5000 tonnes annually, displacing all Stuart Lowthian, Global Technical Director, of Bacardi said: “We are excited to be implementing a sustainable energy solution for our Aberfeldy distillery which will reduce our carbon footprint by around 90%. This will be our second investment in biomass solutions for energy generation in the UK. The first was in our Bombay Sapphire gin distillery at Laverstoke Mill and we will be following up with a similar biomass investment in our tequila distillery in Mexico later this year. These investments underline our Good Spirited global sustainability initiative to work with partners to build a sustainable future. We are hoping to make further investments in sustainable power in Scotland in the future.”

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