Forth axes biomass plants after SSE’s about-turn

Controversial plans to create three biomass plants in Scotland have been scrapped after power supplier SSE decided to scale back its investments in renewable energy.
SSE has decided to scale back its investments in renewable energy. Picture: PASSE has decided to scale back its investments in renewable energy. Picture: PA
SSE has decided to scale back its investments in renewable energy. Picture: PA

The sites, in Dundee, Grangemouth and Rosyth, were planned as a £1.1 billion investment by Forth Energy – a joint venture between the Perth-based group and ports operator Forth Ports – and would have created more than 1,000 jobs during the construction phase.

However, environmental campaigners had attacked the proposals, which would have seen wood shipped in from overseas to be burnt to create heat and electricity.

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SSE, which announced on Wednesday that it would be cutting about 500 jobs as it seeks to save £100 million a year by March 2016, declined to comment on its withdrawal from the biomass projects.

The firm, which has pledged to freeze energy prices until the start of 2016, is also scaling back its investments in wind farms.

A spokeswoman for Forth Energy said that, with SSE deciding that biomass plants were no longer a core part of its activities, the partners would not be pressing ahead with the developments in Grangemouth and Rosyth.

Plans for a biomass plant in Leith were withdrawn in 2012.

The spokeswoman added: “Both projects have gained consent from the Scottish Government and Forth Energy is investigating options to attract other developers to take the projects forward. Forth Energy has withdrawn its application for the proposed plant at the Port of Dundee following an objection from Dundee City Council.”

The Dundee facility would have been capable of producing about 86 per cent of the city’s electricity needs, but this would involve burning one million tonnes of timber a year.

Andrew Llanwarne, co-ordinator for Friends of the Earth in Tayside, said: “We’re very pleased with the announcement.

“The biggest issue in Dundee was the impact on a city that already has high levels of air pollution – burning timber creates a lot of smoke and particulates.”

According to Forth Energy, the Grangemouth plant would have met 92 per cent of the Falkirk area’s electricity needs, with the Rosyth site powering 42 per cent of Fife.

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However, campaigners had said the plants would have received about £170m of public subsidies a year and criticised the decision to use timber shipped in from Scandinavia and the US.

Each site would have created between 300 and 500 construction jobs, with about 40 full-time staff on site once they became operational.

The Rosyth plant was given the green light by Scottish ministers in January, while Grangemouth was approved last year, despite Falkirk Council voting to reject the plans when they came before it in 2011.

Forth Energy has also been exploring the potential for wind projects at the Ports of Dundee and Grangemouth but has confirmed that masts in the area will be dismantled and removed and does not intend to progress these projects.

Its decision came on the same day as figures from the UK Department of Energy & Climate Change showed renewable energy delivered a record 46 per cent of Scotland’s gross energy consumption in 2013, putting the country on course to meet its 50 per cent target next year.

Energy minister Fergus Ewing, pictured, said: “The Scottish Government’s target is to generate the equivalent of 100 per cent of Scotland’s gross annual electricity consumption from renewable sources by 2020.

“These figures show that renewable generation in Scotland was at a record high last year, meeting around 46 per cent of our electricity demand at a time when Ofgem are warning of the tightening gap between peak electricity demand and electricity supply.