CITY council chiefs were under fire today over a decision to get the authority’s electricity supply from burning rubbish.
A new ten-year-contract will see Edinburgh and Midlothian councils purchase power from an energy-from-waste scheme centred on a treatment plant at Millerhill.
The council insists the deal, due to start in 2017, will boost recycling rates and reduce the amount of rubbish going to landfill.
But critics have said it is a case of moving from “clean power to dirty power” and one which seriously sets back the authorities’ green agendas.
Green environment spokesman Cllr Chas Booth said: “At present, the council gets 100 per cent of its electricity from renewables, like wind and water. Now we are being asked to sign up to a contract through to 2027 which commits us to buying electricity from burning rubbish. However much the council tries to dress it up, this is a setback for green energy.”
Dr Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said there was also a conflict of interest which removed any incentive to increase recycling.
He said: “The council is supplying waste to the plant and then using the generated electricity. These plants are waste-hungry monsters that you have to feed to get back electricity.
“There is a negative incentive to not improve recycling because we will be keen to continue sending plastic and paper, which creates high temperatures, to the incinerator.
“We lock ourselves into a high-waste, low-recycling future for cheap electricity.”
The city council spends about £10.8 million a year on electricity and believes the new contract could cut costs by 10 per cent.
Cllr Booth said the new contract was also a “stab in the back” for any effort to make dramatic improvements to energy efficiency in council buildings.
“By committing the city to buying a fixed amount of electricity, no matter the level of consumption, where is the incentive to reduce energy use in the long term?”
Electricity supplied under the contract will be used for council buildings, street lighting and schools. The council said it would not affect targets to recycle up to 70 per cent of waste reduce energy by 20 per cent by 2020. Three bidders – FCC Medio Ambiente, Urbaser and Viridor – have been invited to submit detailed proposals by July 2013 for the treatment of mixed, unsorted waste collected by both Edinburgh and Midlothian councils.
The Edinburgh environment convener Lesley Hinds said recycling levels in Edinburgh were already at an all-time high. The new waste treatment facilities at Millerhill will help us to recover even more recyclable materials but that still leaves a significant amount of non-recyclable and non-bio-degradable waste that needs to be disposed of.
“Using the residue from waste that has been fully treated to generate energy is a far more preferable alternative than sending it to landfill.”