New report casts doubt on biomass plant plans

Protestors gather outside the Scottish Parliament
Protestors gather outside the Scottish Parliament
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THE company behind a controversial scheme for a biomass power station at Leith was today urged to drop the plan after the publication of a new report which campaigners said cast fresh doubt on the viability of the proposed plant.

Environmental group Friends of the Earth said Forth Energy should scrap the proposed development in the wake of the report by the influential UK Committee on Climate Change, which recommended that large-scale biomass power stations should no longer be eligible for public subsidies.

The committee of top scientists and leading business figures, which advises the UK Government on climate change, said the UK would not be able to meet its targets to slash greenhouse gases by mid century without using energy from plant sources such as wood.

However, it argued building large new biomass power stations did not make economic or environmental sense.

Instead, the report said coal-fired plants that come out of operation could be converted to burn biomass.

The committee said: “We strongly recommend the Government should explicitly state that support for new dedicated biomass power plants will be limited to small-scale plants.

“Alternatively, any support for new large-scale dedicated biomass should be limited to a very small number of projects.”

The Scottish and UK governments are currently consulting the level of subsidies for biomass and other renewable technologies.

Francis Stuart, Friends of the Earth Scotland policy officer, said: “While we have concerns that the substantial increase in biomass forecast in this report could put pressure on world forests, it’s clear the Committee on Climate Change believe large-scale power plants, such as Forth Energy’s proposals, have no role to play in our energy future. Forth Energy should take heed and withdraw their application.

“Unfortunately, they show no sign of doing so. It’s imperative then that the Scottish Government rule out subsidies for unsustainable biomass. While they’ve made the right noises, the changes proposed in their review don’t go far enough.”

Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said: “We welcome the findings of the Committee on Climate Change, particularly its recognition that support for new large-scale biomass is costly and unsustainable.

“The Scottish Government is already consulting on removing support for large-scale biomass electricity-only plant.”

Calum Wilson, managing director of Forth Energy, claimed the report’s criticisms were directed at electricity-only biomass plants whereas the Leith plan was for a combined heat and power plant. He said: “We believe that existing conversion and new-build combined heat and power plants are required as part of the UK’s energy mix.”