We went to Peterhead to talk to people about the new gas-fired power station
On Thursday, we were in Peterhead speaking to local residents and passersby about their views on the potential for a new gas power station to be built in the area.
Despite the rain and wind, over a cuppa and some locally baked pastries, numerous people stopped to have a chat with us about the fossil fuel industry, local employment, the climate crisis and the history of the existing Peterhead Power Station.
Although a few people we chatted too had heard about the plans, many people were still surprised to hear that SSE and oil and gas company Equinor submitted an application in February to build a new gas fired power station.
The developers are predicting that it would not be operational until 2027 at the earliest but could be running for decades to come. The station will also be built at the same site as the existing one with the worrying potential to run at the same time as the current power station and potentially increase climate wrecking pollution.
Conversations about the power station
One person who kindly chatted to us despite the growing cold talked about the history of Peterhead noting that their grandad had helped build the current station and many people had family, friends or worked or previously worked in the oil and gas industry so had lots of personal insight.
Some people who had heard of the plans and who knew that Peterhead power station has for many years been Scotland’s single biggest polluter were surprised that the new station could also be run on gas.
One passerby who quickly chatted to us on their way through the town centre exclaimed “this always happens at this end of the country, it’s annoying!” after we got talking about SSE’s plans.
Many people who were out and about grabbing lunch who couldn’t engage in longer conversations still stopped to have a look at our flyers and to look at the information to email local councillors their thoughts and potential concerns about the project.
Need to move away from fossil fuels
One of the concerns we have is the potential for a new highly polluting gas station to keep us locked into using fossil fuels. This year people are seeing the effect of skyrocketing energy bills and worrying how to afford to heat their homes and keep warm over winter.
Instead we need to see fossil fuels like gas to be phased out and, for jobs to be funded and created in areas like renewable technologies and ensuring homes are retrofitted with energy efficiency measures. People should have affordable clean energy that doesn’t keep us locked into volatile price rises.
Many people shared this concern too, citing increase in gas prices as a reason not to fund more projects like Peterhead. However, like us there were people who were concerned about the potential difficulties for people to work in emerging industries like renewables.
That’s why we want to see the Scottish Government do far more to make it easier for people to transition from polluting industries into more climate-friendly sectors. The skils and experiences of people who have worked in oil and gas is vitally important as we build a new energy economy.
Scepticism about carbon capture claims
Lots of people we chatted with were also interested to learn more about the technology Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). CCS is especially relevant to this project as SSE has suggested that the new station could use CCS to potentially capture climate pollution from the station.
However, the historical evidence shows that the potential for this to actually work is very low. CCS technology has long been promised by oil and gas companies around the world but despite billions in funding we are yet to see a truly successful carbon capture project that actually reduces pollution.
You can read more about Carbon Capture in our short explainer
We also had a great discussion with someone who was disappointed about the lack of funding that was going towards CCS in the area and was interested in the potential for hydrogen to be generated in the North East of Scotland.
We shared our recent hydrogen report with him which looks at what sectors where hydrogen would be best suited for use in Scotland. One of the issues we have found with CCS concerning security of jobs is that many CCS that have been promised to be built never materialise and if they do, fail to properly capture pollution and end up being shut down.
In terms of an alternative vision, our Sea Change Report shows that with the right policies, clean industries like renewables could create more than three jobs for every North Sea oil job at risk which can enable an “equivalent job guarantee” for every oil worker.
What next for the Peterhead proposal?
The developers SSE submitted a planning application to the Aberdeenshire Council in February 2022 . They have also submitted documents to the Scottish Government’s Energy Consent Unit in March 2022.
Because this is a large energy generating proposal, the Scottish Government will make the final decision on whether it should be allowed to be constructed and we will be putting pressure on them when the time comes.
Members of the Buchan Area Committee will see it next – potentially within 3 to 8 weeks – then after that the Infrastructure Committee will look at it. Councillors have a duty to speak out against these dangerous proposals.
Friends of the Earth Scotland are encouraging people to contact members of these Committees to let them know your views and to object to these proposals.
If you live in the North East and want to get involved in the campaign to stop the Peterhead proposals – please get in touch.
Update: November 2023
Both of the Aberdeenshire Council committee failed to oppose the plans so the application has moved to the Scottish Government. Ministers now have the final say on whether this reckless project gets the green light.
We’ll need your help to support our campaigning to new Peterhead gas power plans in the coming weeks and months.