Forth Ports’ Proposed Biomass Plants Increasingly Unpopular
In August 2009 when Forth Ports announced its plans to build four 100-megawatt biomass plants at Dundee, Rosyth, Grangemouth and Leith in partnership with Scottish and Southern Energy the move was cautiously welcomed in the press as a sensible addition to Scotland’s renewable energy mix. Among other statements made at the time Charles Hammond, Forth Ports chief executive, claimed that the plant in Dundee would produce enough energy to make the city’s entire population carbon-neutral.
Forth Ports also claimed that the plants – which they said would be fuelled by wood pellets and forestry waste, some from overseas but all from sustainable sources – would help tackle climate change and create 600 jobs during construction and a further 180 permanent posts once in operation.
However, when the plans for the plant at Leith Docks were unveiled in February 2010 it became clear that the plant would be shipping in up to a million tonnes of non-Scottish biomass material annually. Forth Energy was accused of ‘greenwash’ , and the notion that importing and burning millions of tons of wood could be be described as ‘green energy’ was ridiculed.
A local pressure group, Greener Leith, was formed to examine the proposals in more detail. Their conclusion was that while the proposed plant might be environmentally preferable to a new coal fired plant it was too big, in the wrong place – and would do little to help tackle climate change over the necessary timescale. They have also questioned the idea that all the wood brought in from abroad would in fact be from sustainable sources.
More recently Greener Leith, FOE Scotland and other pressure groups have concentrated on the social cost of ‘big biomass’, questioning the effect that these huge plants with their insatiable desire for fuel will have on the supply of native timber for small-scale schemes such as district heating schemes, and on the supply of wood for wood-fired domestic heating.
Any scheme over 50MW has to be approved by the Scottish Government, and the position of the newly elected SNP majority government on biomass was made quite clear in its manifesto:
“We support the expansion of local, small-scale biomass and share public concerns over the large-scale schemes now being proposed in some parts of Scotland.”
In the light of the above manifesto statement it seems unlikely that these plants will ever be built in their currently proposed forms.