Newport’s Premier Forest Group has been awarded the timber industry’s most prestigious award for its achievements in reducing energy and protecting the environment.

The group, which is the UK’s leading vertically-integrated timber group, picked up the Timber Trade Journal’s ‘Environmental Achievement’ award, after investing £2m in energy-saving technology and landfill reduction in the last three years alone.

Among the major achievements for the Premier Forest Group, which includes sawmilling, processing, importation and timber distribution businesses, has been the installation of a full biomass gasification system earlier this year. The investment of nearly £1m will see its Newport Docks headquarters become carbon negative for the first time.

The new generation gasification system turns the business’ wood waste into enough electricity to power the entire nine acre site, saving the business nearly £100,000 a year and allowing surplus electricity to be exported to the National Grid.

A total of 1,250 tonnes of wood waste is produced annually from two of the group’s Newport-based businesses - Premier Forest Products, a timber importer and distributor, and Premier Processing & Fabrication, a timber component manufacturer, both based on its Newport site.

Previously most of the businesses’ waste was sent to landfill before the gasification system was installed, which now transforms all wood waste from the site into energy.

A gasification system works by taking wood waste and converting it into a combustible gas mixture which powers an electricity generator. As well as considerable energy saving benefits and reduction of the company’s carbon footprint, the new unit significantly reduces the costs associated with waste disposal, such as skip hire and transport to landfill.

Premier Forest Group has also invested heavily in solar technology. Its two sawmills, Duchy Timber in Cornwall and Premier Sawmilling in Crumlin, are both powered by 250 kwh photovoltaic solar systems.

These provide enough electricity to power all offices, warehouses and machinery, with surplus being exported to Western Grid. There is also a 200 kwh solar array at the group’s headquarters in Newport.

Dilwyn Howells, co-director of the Premier Forest Group, who is responsible for sustainability across the group said: “We are proud to be leading the way in environmental standards, sustainability and carbon reduction in the industry.

“We have developed a long term strategy to reduce emissions and carbon levels and are constantly monitoring advances in technologies in the renewable energy sector for new opportunities. It requires a change of mindset, a focus on the long term, rather than the short term, and setting an example to others. We have more than 300 members of staff across the group and a dedicated board who are all committed to achieving our ambitious environmental goals.

“As well as our investments in solar technology and gasification, we have introduced extensive recycling initiatives for steel, metal, paper and plastics and a fleet of greener vehicles in the last three years. We are also well-known in the industry for our commitment to responsible stewardship. We only supply wood products originating from sustainably-managed forests and operate a strict purchasing policy to guarantee our impact on the environment is minimised.

“We never stand still as a group and there are already plans to introduce a second gasification system to our sawmill in Crumlin, further electric vehicles and charging points and more solar and wind generation at other sites. We also want to maximise the benefits of biomass production, taking a product that used to be considered ‘waste’ and creating value from it.”

Through an expansive acquisitions programme, which commenced in 2011, Premier Forest Group’s turnover has grown from £53m to a projected £120m in the current financial year. The group includes Premier Forest Products, Premier Processing & Fabrication, Premier Sawmilling, Mill Timber Direct, Clarks Wood, Duchy Timber and Y Goldberg & Sons.