A Scottish businessman in the running for a £50,000 national UK award for an idea which could save people a fortune in energy costs and help preserve the environment is appealing for public support.
Brian Stephenson, Managing Director of bioHOT Woodfuel, is among contenders for an X-factor style contest organised by Barclays Bank to encourage entrepreneurs. However, out of more than 3,600 businesses which have entered the Take One Small Step competition just 220 are from Scotland.
“Scotland used to be a hot-bed of entrepreneurship. It's a shame more people from north of the border haven't entered this competition. There are a lot of firms with good ideas and we need to provide encouragement for younger business people to pursue their dreams,” said Brian.
“We might not have as many entries as the rest of the UK but if we can get more people to vote then it might just show the rest of Britain that Scotland is open for business and that we are interested in new ideas.”
For the last two years bioHOT Woodfuel, based in Helensburgh, has been working on ways to support the growing demand for sustainable fuel from the steadily rising number of people buying wood-burning stoves to heat their homes.
“Currently most of the wood sold in the UK is ‘seasoned’ which means it’s been stored for about two years,” said Brian who is appealing for supporters to log on to www.biohot.co.uk and vote.
“Storing it like this, without drying the wood, means moisture content can still be as high as 30 per cent. The problem with wood this damp is that you get less heat from the logs because a lot of the fire’s energy is used up cutting through the moisture.
“The other problem is that wood in the UK is not packed neatly. Instead it tends to be poured into the backs of trailers and pickup trucks so there is no guarantee you are getting the exact amount of wood you ordered. Under the current system the buyer is given no measurable information on the quantity or quality of the wood they are buying as fuel.”
bioHOT Woodfuel aims to redress the balance by importing kiln dried, netted, and palleted wood from sustainable forests in the Baltic States.
“Unlike the UK the Baltic States have an official standard which is applied to moisture content, the size of the logs, packaging, volume and weight,” said Mr Stephenson.
“Measures of this kind are now being taken throughout Europe but the UK, which has relied on coal, gas and oil for some time, has not yet fully embraced these proposed biofuel standards.
“It’s high time we stepped up to the plate and bioHOT intends to play its part by providing wood which is guaranteed to have a moisture content below 20 per cent, complies with Norwegian standards and exceeds the requirements of the UK authorities.”