Bid to stop biomass plant gains some power

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THE campaign to block a controversial biomass plant at Leith Docks has been given a boost after the Scottish Government's Energy Minister said such power stations were not good for the planet or the economy.

&#149 An artist's impression of how Forth Energy's biomass plant at Leith Docks would look

Fergus Ewing's comments to MSPs were hailed as a more robust statement of policy than the Scottish Government has made up until now.

Critics said it suggested ministers were ready to reject Forth Energy's proposal for biomass at Leith.

A review of renewable energy subsidies is already under way, which could undermine the viability of the proposed Leith plant.

Under the current subsidy regime the proposed power plant would qualify for renewable energy subsidies, despite the fact that it would waste much of the heat it generates.

Unveiling the government's "route map for renewable energy" in the Scottish Parliament, Mr Ewing said: "We do not believe that large-scale biomass electricity-only plants, which require the transglobal shipment of wood, are good for the planet or the economy."

Edinburgh Northern and Leith Labour MSP Malcolm Chisholm hailed the comments as good news for opponents of the proposed plant.

He said: "It does seem to be a clearer statement of government policy than we have had in the past and certainly seems to suggest the Leith application would not find favour."

Before the election Mr Chisholm and other MSPs urged the previous energy minister Jim Mather to back a moratorium on building large-scale biomass plant.

Mr Chisholm said: "The standard answer at that time was they could not comment because they would be prejudicing their consideration of the application.

"These comments seem to be saying something very similar to what I was asking Jim Mather to do."

Mr Chisholm said if the review of subsidies, first announced last December, led to significant changes in the current system the proposed biomass plant at Leith would no longer make financial sense.

Forth Energy insisted its proposal was not electricity-only, but critics are sceptical about the heat element in its application.

Mr Chisholm said: "It is poorly developed as part of their plan and it is not clear how they would disseminate heat to anywhere other than the immediate area.

"You would need a big pipe network."

Rob Kirkwood, chairman of Leith Links Residents Association, said Mr Ewing's comments were in tune with what everyone in the community wanted.

He said: "This is very welcome. It's unusual for an energy minister to come out with such a robust statement."I can't imagine him making such a clear statement without knowing it's widely supported by those at the top."

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "It is Scottish Government policy to promote the use of biomass plants for heat-only or for combined heat and power. Relatively small new plants can bring the greatest benefits to communities and local supply chains and maximise efficient use of the fuel source.

"The Scottish Government will review support for large-scale electricity-only biomass plant as part of the wider banding review of the Renewables Obligation Scotland. Consultation will take place later this year."

Calum Wilson, managing director of Forth Energy, said: "Forth Energy are committed to bringing reliable, responsible, renewable heat and electricity to Scotland and we have an important part to play in supporting the Scottish Government achieve both its heat and electricity 2020 targets."

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