Scottish Ministers announced their approval of Forth Energy’s 100MW biomass power station in Rosyth on Friday. [1] The announcement has been met with dismay from campaigners, who say that the plant is a betrayal of rules put in place to limit the impact of biomass power stations and that it will cause more forest destruction, carbon emissions and local air pollution. [2] The plant will burn 1 million tonnes of wood each year, most of it to be imported from the Americas. [3]

The decision follows on from the Scottish Government’s approval for Forth Energy’s biomass plant in Grangemouth last June, one which has faced major local as well as national opposition. The Grangemouth plant was approved based on Forth Energy’s claims – disputed by campaigners – that they could supply a lot of heat to the Ineos refinery. No such claims could be made in Rosyth. Nonetheless, Forth Energy could receive as much as £64 million a year in subsidies. [4]

Oliver Munnion, Biofuelwatch co-director said: “With this decision, the Scottish Government has dropped all pretences of wanting to limit the amount of inefficient biomass electricity and they are betraying promises made to the Scottish Parliament. Together with other campaign groups, we have long warned that the Scottish Government’s claims about only supporting larger biomass plants that are CHP is a scam. The Rosyth decision fully confirms our fears. This plant will be a polluting, non-renewable, electricity-only power station. Ministers are cloaking it in green but it is about generating electricity regardless of the cost to people, climate and the environment.” 

An application by Forth Energy for a similar biomass power station at Dundee was opposed by Dundee City Councillors later last June, on the basis of concerns about local air pollution and visual impacts. Forth Energy has yet to announce whether it will take this to a Public Local Inquiry.

Friends of the Earth Scotland spokesman Andrew Llanwarne, who campaigned against the Dundee proposal, also highlighted the blatant contradictions in Scottish Government policy.

“The Electricity Generation Policy Statement [5] was finalised only last June, and set out clearly the reasons why the Scottish Government wished biomass to be used ‘in small heat-only stations and those fitted with good quality CHP, off gas-grid where possible, the better to contribute to meeting the Scottish Government’s target of 11% of heat demand to be met from renewable sources by 2020′. Yet once again ministers are backing a project which satisfies none of these criteria and will provide expensive electricity rather than heat.

“The statement wishes to avoid the inefficiencies of burning biomass for electricity, yet that’s what the Government is prepared to support. Do ministers read their own policies? What is the point of a Policy Statement if ministers ignore it?

“What is the point of CO2 emission reduction targets if ministers are prepared to subsidise biomass power stations which would add to Scotland’s emissions over the coming decades?” [6]


Notes to Editors

1. http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Business-Industry/Energy/Infrastructur…

2. In Forth Energy’s planning application for the Rosyth plant, they showed that there was no single big heat customer available to utilise the heat generated from the plant, but that they’d rely on many of different users. The availability of a heat customer is vital to a CHP plant. With no existing heat network, there is no opportunity for heat supply from the plant at all. Furthermore, Forth Energy have said that even if heat users became connected to the plant from 2015 onwards, by 2023 they’d only reach a 33.5% conversion efficiency (http://www.forthenergy.co.uk/pdf/biomass-project-update-rosyth/06%20S36%… (Table 5.6)). Further still, the Scottish Government do not mention heat customers or even the need for them to exist in their approval statement.

3. US-based Dogwood Alliance have extensively documented the use of whole trees and destruction of ancient wetland forests in the southern US by pellet supplier Envia, who export to the UK. Forth Energy has said in the past that they could source from this area. For more information see Dogwood Alliance campaign “Our forests aren’t fuel” http://www.dogwoodalliance.org/campaigns/bioenergy/ and Biofuelwatch’s new report “Biomass: the Chain of Destruction” http://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/2013/chain-of-destruction/

4. Under the Scottish Government’s subsidy rules and energy policy, only ‘good quality combined heat and power’ biomass plants are supposed to receive support. Forth Energy have made no credible proposals for distributing any heat in Rosyth and their planning documents show that even if they were to find heat customers, the plants would still be less than 35% efficient. The quoted subsidy figure has been calculated using strike prices recently announced for the UK Government’s Contracts for Difference scheme, which the Rosyth plant would be eligible for.

5. The Scottish Government’s Electricity Generation Policy Statement was finalised and published on June 28 2013. It is available at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2013/06/5757. Paragraphs 57-60 cover Bioenergy. Paragraph 59 sets out the reasons why the Scottish Government would prefer to see biomass used in heat-only or good quality CHP schemes, off gas grid where appropriate, and at a scale appropriate to make the best use of both the available heat, and of local supply. These include the much greater efficiency of heat-only and CHP schemes, indicating a figure of 50-70% efficiency for CHP. The Rosyth and Grangemouth plants would get nowhere near this level of efficiency even if they produced the amount of heat proposed in Forth Energy’s application. Even where imported biomass is used, the Policy Statement argues ‘it should be used in plants that support maximum heat use and decentralised electricity production.’ This is not the case with Forth Energy’s proposed biomass power stations.

6. “Dirtier than Coal”, a report by RSPB and other NGOs in November 2012 demonstrated the “carbon debt” which burning trees for energy would incur, producing 50% higher emissions than burning coal. This “debt” would only be paid off over generations if replacement trees were allowed to mature. (See http://www.rspb.org.uk/Images/biomass_report_tcm9-326672.pdf)