My story: Bringing in biofuel
Updated: 25 Nov 2005
By BBC Action Network team
Ian Bright is the renewable energy officer for Somerset County
Council. He is helping to facilitate a biofuel project that will
provide the public sector fleet with 40 cars which are capable of
running on bioethanol, cutting carbon emissions by up to 70%.
The council started the project as part of the renewable energy plan
for Somerset in December 2003, which includes the government’s target
to reduce carbon emissions by 20%.
It will see around 40 Ford Focus Flexible Fuel Vehicles (FFV) being
used by council workers, police and other public sector staff. These
vehicles take 85% ethanol, which is produced from local grain, and
15% unleaded petrol. They are also able to switch between fuels.
We decided to look at this option after we did an energy survey and
found about 32% of energy in the county goes into road transport –
primarily because of fuel.
We then contacted the grain company Wessex Grain. The grain produced
locally is high starch and low protein. It’s precisely because of
this that it’s actually very good in terms of distilling. We could
turn it into vodka or put it in cars - the duty’s a bit different
We then joined forces with Wessex Grain, Wessex Water, and Avon and
Somerset Police, and secured funding from both the EU and the Energy
The cars need the 15% unleaded petrol for the cold climate –
apparently in Brazil they can run on 100% ethanol. But it also means
the car can take 100% petrol, which is an advantage for drivers who
need to fill up where no ethanol pump is available.
Most of the funding we receive will be used on putting pumps in the
forecourts of petrol stations. We’re effectively going to be paying
for them. It’s a hurdle we’re still working with. At the moment we
have plans to go ahead with five pumps in five major towns.
There’s such a huge demand for these vehicles. We’ve had strong
interest from primary care trusts and educational bodies, because
public bodies such as these have chief responsibility for cutting
Apart from that there is also a public demand for this. This is
something that will get a 70% carbon emission reduction with no extra
The project is a £50m investment for the grain and bioethanol
businesses in the county and we’ve had a really good response from
the community. We’ve got very good communication with businesses and
the public. It’s been really fun because everybody involved is so
enthusiastic about it.
Looking at renewable energy is something we have to do. This project
has turned it around into something that can benefit the public.
There are some very exciting opportunities here. People are aware of
global warming and given the chance they will do something about it.
But there’s quite a lot of inertia in the system – all the regulation
framework is set up around mineral oil, but there are little
anomalies on biofuel.
We’ve still got to overcome compliance with the new legislation,
health and safety checks. But once we’ve done that anybody will be
able to buy one of these cars.
We also have to make sure the ethanol is monitored. It’s worth so
much, in this country it will require special bonding, so it has to
be very tightly regulated.
A nationwide project
The natural way forward is to spread from Somerset outwards. It’s
something that can be replicated across the country, now we’ve got
Our project kicks off on the 1 January, 2006. On that date we’ll be
publishing where the pumps are going. We’ll also be able to place our
orders for the cars. We’ll start with 40 but we’re hoping to have 200
within 14 months.