National Trust “leading the way” on renewables that work in landscapes, says new D-G

The National Trust’s Director-General reiterated her personal commitment to renewable energy in her first speech at the charity’s AGM today (Saturday 26 October).

Speaking at the event, Helen Ghosh, Director General of the charity, said: “Our members and the nation more generally expect us to stand up for cultural heritage and the natural environment, of course.

Helen Ghosh, Director General of the National Trust

Helen Ghosh, Director General of the National Trust

“We are not just a heritage attraction operator – we have a contribution to make to the debates that matter in this country.

In the last couple of days my post bag has been dominated by the question of energy. 

“We are worried about carbon emissions and the effects of climate change on our properties and the wider world. 

“I was in Essex only last week where I saw first-hand the impact of climate change on NortheyIsland.

“That is why we support the development of renewable energy and low carbon technologies that harvest nature not mine it, and that work in the landscape – particularly in the special landscapes that we look after.

“Our own programme of renewable energy, whether it’s hydro-electricity on the slopes of Snowdon, a marine heat pump in the Menai straits, or the many other examples across the Trust, show how we are leading the way in finding practical solutions. 

“We know it’s not something we can do alone, which is why we are working with other organisations, landowners and charities. 

“There are no easy answers to these questions but it is important that we engage in the debate and stand up for beautiful and historic places.”

Earlier this year the Trust launched a £3.5 million renewable energy pilot with its energy partner Good Energy that could lead to the charity investing ten times that amount in renewable technology at 43 of its properties.

The Trust has committed to reducing its energy use by 20 per cent and generating 50 per cent of its energy from renewable energy sources by 2020.

This will enable the Trust to reduce its energy costs by more than £4 million per annum, releasing more money for the charity’s conservation work.

Everyone is able to support the programme by signing up for renewable electricity with Good Energy. The company will pay the Trust £40 per year for each new customer signing up to its dual fuel tariff via the National Trust. 

Thousands of orchids grow alongside PV panels that are helping to power Plas Newydd in Wales

Thousands of orchids grow alongside PV panels that are helping to power Plas Newydd in Wales

Speaking at the launch of the pilot, Patrick Begg, Rural Enterprises Director at the National Trust, said: “Through our work we show that renewable technologies can be made to work in some of the country’s most sensitive landscapes and historic environments.

“Like householders everywhere we are facing rising energy bills. We spend more than £6 million each year heating and powering the places in our care.

“By investing in renewable energy production we can reduce our energy bills and invest more in vital conservation work around the country. It will put renewable energy at the heart of conservation.”

The Trust’s five pilot projects are:

  • Plas Newydd – 300kW marine source heat pump, providing 100 per cent of the property’s heat requirements
  • CroftCastle – 150kW biomass boiler, supplying 74 per cent of property’s heating needs
  • Ickworth – 300kW biomass boiler, supplying 100 per cent of estate’s heating needs
  • Craflwyn – more than 100kW hydro-generation, which will be sold back to the grid
  • Stickle Ghyll – 90kW hydro-electric project providing 30 per cent of property’s energy needs

Over the last decade around 250 schemes have been installed in Trust properties including a wide range of technologies: wood (biomass), solar electricity and hot water, small-scale wind, hydro-electric, and heat pumps.

Next month the Trust is launching, with partners, the Fit for the Future Network, including some of the country’s biggest landowners and charities that will share best practice in energy saving and renewable energy generation.


18 thoughts on “National Trust “leading the way” on renewables that work in landscapes, says new D-G

    • Agreed, Biff. And what a surprise that the same old reply appears from the NT. “Presumption against fracking at present” is not enough. The examples of NT investing in renewable energy given above are also far from convincing. Instead of using renewables across the NT there are just five pilot projects. Pilots! This is twenty years or more after the first pledge to take on board alternative renewable energy. The NT is dragging its feet and ducking the issue. Fracking must be excluded and the NT must be seen to be upholding that standpoint, otherwise it is letting itself, its members and the country down.

      • Thank you for your comment Janet. We now have around 250 small and medium-scale renewable schemes in place across the places we look after. If you would like to find out more about the progress of some of our renewable projects, please do take a look at our Going Green blog:

  1. I think Janet and I are both saying the NT needs to go much further. i take a long view. I’m a life member and I’m considering giving a life membership to m newly born granddaughter. She should live through to the 22nd century. Many of the Trust’s buildings are several centuries old and are, rightly, being conserved in a manner that should make them last for several centuries more. But unless we stop burning carbon, global warming will see to it that much of the Trust’s work will be abandoned within my granddaughter,s natural lifetime. The IPCC have made it clear that if we are to have a sporting chance of keeping temperature rise below 2 degrees we have to leave some 80% of the fossil carbon that has already been discovered, safely underground, unburnt. To search for more, or in the Trust’s case to allow others to search for more on its land, is a denial of climate science. I think we have all moved beyond that now, so Helen Ghosh must say that any exploration of fossil carbon is not allowed.

  2. Dear National Trust,

    I have just read the following statement which appears on your website:

    “We have a presumption against fracking on our land because natural gas is a fossil gas. The mining process also gives rise to potential environmental and landscape impacts.

    Fossil gas is a finite resource that can only be mined and not harvested – it is not renewable. Its combustion produces greenhouse gases which we believe contribute to climate change. Climate change has a significant adverse impact on our core purpose of looking after special places, for ever for everyone.

    Whilst the use of natural gas might buy time to develop secure, renewable alternative energy sources, it also risks distracting us from focusing on the development of these and on the need for us all to concentrate on using less energy in the first place.

    A presumption against extracting and increasing the supply of natural gas from our own properties is consistent with our approach to our own energy use and generation. This is firstly to reduce our consumption of it at National Trust directly managed properties, and then to generate as much renewable energy as we reasonably can in a way that respects the landscape and environment.”

    Twice you use the terms ‘a presumption against’. What on earth is this supposed to mean? Does it mean you support a ban or a moratorium? If you support either, why not state so clearly, instead of using such weasel wording as ‘a presumption against’. As the UK’s largest conservation group, I would expect you to hold a much tougher stance on this issue but it seems you are not well informed enough at present to call for either a ban or a moratorium.

    If you require further evidence of the dangers of unconventional fossil fuel development to help you inform your stance, please do not hesistate to get in touch. We have dozens of peer-reviewed scientific studies highlighting the grave risks associated with this industry, as well as a host of other studies indicating the social and economic impacts. When local authorities and other environmental bodies have been presented with this evidence, it has resulted in them calling for a ban or a moratorium on unconventional fossil fuel development, which is in line with the stance taken in many communities in the US where this industry is encountering growing opposition.

    I look forward to hearing back from you.

    Best regards,
    G. Ring

    • Dear G Ring, thank you for your comments. To clarify our position on fracking – if someone came to us today with a proposal to frack on our land we would say no.

  3. Re Biff and Janet’s comments I wholeheartedly agree. What I find most disturbing is that when fracking is mentioned ntcomms simply refers to the published wishy washy statement of their presumption against fracking. The evidence against fracking is now strong and clear. I would ask NTcomms to answer with some more concrete position else the Trust’s reputation will be severely eroded.

    • Hi Richard, thanks for your comment. Our position on fracking is clear: we have a presumption against fracking on our land because natural gas is a fossil gas. The mining process also gives rise to potential environmental and landscape impacts. If someone came to us today with a proposal to frack on our land we would say no.

  4. I am also particularly disturbed by the fact the Helen Ghosh did not mention fracking in her press release from the AGM. This is a critical omission. I am getting the feeling that there are powerful influences at work here and the Trust’s future reputation is at stake.

    • Hi Richard, thanks for your comment. Our position remains the same as it always was; we have a presumption against fracking on our land and if someone came to us today with a proposal to frack on our land we would say no.

  5. I am sorry ntcomms but your answer is simply not good enough. You are not sending out a sufficiently strong message. If your presumption against fracking is, and I quote, “because natural gas is a fossil gas” then this becomes an unchangeable position because natural gas will always be a fossil fuel. Why do you simply not say “because natural gas is a fossil fuel we will never allow fracking on our land” THAT sends a clear message. As it stands your “presumption against” looks like you are sitting on the fence in which case your reply above is a falsehood. Please clarify your position by strengthening your statement.

  6. And as for your comment ” if someone came to us today with a proposal to frack on our land we would say no” I have never heard such veiled nonsense in my life. There is no commitment to the future in this staement and therefore has little value, worse, it almost seems like a deception to me.

  7. Turbines work if placed in correct position, but remember the one placed by Welsh government at a cost of £46000, and produces only £5 of power. A barrage on the Severn Estuary would be a superb source of energy. What is the green footprint of timber grown in the US then transported to burn in our biomass boilers

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