Is The Tide Turning Against Big Biomass?

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. Evening News headlineAmong 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.


Forth Ports website

Greener Leith  

FOE Scotland – Back Away from Big Biomass  

3 Responses to “Is The Tide Turning Against Big Biomass?”

  • admin:

    On the same day this post was published environmental activists blocked the two access roads to Grangemouth docks in protest against the proposed biomass power station at the port. ‘Action Against Agrofuels’ said the wood-burning power station would threaten forests and worsen climate change.

    Forth Energy’s statement that it would use sustainably sourced wood cut no ice with the group. They say there is “nothing sustainable” about creating new demand for wood and are worried that the plant would lead to air pollution and related health problems.

    About 20 people were involved. They blocked access to the entire port using scaffolding and bike locks, leading to traffic queues at the North Shore and South Shore roads.

    During the demonstrations some protestors chained themselves to scaffolding placed in the road in order to block the port’s access. Seven people from the group were eventually arrested – four for causing obstruction at South Shore Road and three for the same offence at the Central Dock Road protest.

    ‘Every effort was made to resolve this peacefully,’ said a police spokesperson. ‘The protestors were given every opportunity to end their demonstration and having failed to do so were arrested for causing an obstruction. We sought to minimise the impact of the protestors’ activity for business in and around Grangemouth, and in particular the port, with a view to restoring normality as soon as possible.’

    Speaking about the proposed plant and the action taken against it, Forth Energy’s managing director Calum Wilson stated: ‘Whilst the impact on shipping operations in the port itself was minimised, their actions today disrupted the local community and the livelihoods of members of the haulage industry across Scotland. They sought to bypass the proper planning consultation process and could have compromised safety had their been an emergency at the port.’

  • Readers of this post should be aware that Greener Leith as an organisation, is in fact, older than Forth Energy. It was formed in 2006, by local residents and aims to promote community involvement, sustainabile development and better public spaces. Whilst we have been heavily involved in the campaign against the Forth Energy biomass Greener Leith we do lot’s of other things too. In fact, we are in the process of developing a community owned renewable energy project ourselves.

    There is a local No Leith Biomass campaign group which is a loose federation of local community groups. You can find it here:

  • Iain G Richmond:

    No one has been able to reconcile the fact to me that you can burn a tree a helluva lot quicker than you can grow it!!

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