Councillor breaks silence on Forth Energy plant in Grangemouth

Angus MacDonald calls on planning committee to tell Scottish Ministers 'No massive energy plant here'

Grangemouth SNP Councillor Angus MacDonald, who is also a member of Falkirk Council’s Planning Committee today called on the Planning Committee to send a message ‘loud and clear’ to Scottish Ministers that the people of Grangemouth do not want a monstrous 100 megawatt Biomass Energy Plant on their doorstep.

Under the Councillors protocol, as Councillor MacDonald is a member of the Planning Committee he has been unable to make any public statement on the application until it was debated by the full committee today.  The final decision as to whether the application by Forth Energy (a joint venture by Forth Ports and Scottish & Southern Energy) will be made by Scottish Ministers, however Scottish Ministers have consulted Falkirk Council on the application.
energySpeaking this morning at the Planning Committee meeting, Councillor MacDonald, who is also the SNP’s candidate for Falkirk East at the forthcoming Scottish General Election said:

“There is no doubt that renewable energy does have a role to play in providing for Falkirk District’s future energy needs however I have concerns that this is the wrong scheme in the wrong location. There are strong critics of the proposals, and of course there are its supporters.

“I know that this application is to be determined by Scottish Ministers, however I also know that Scottish Ministers would much prefer to see small to medium-sized bio-mass plants utilised mainly for heat-only or for combined heat and power plants, but certainly not a biomass plant on the scale proposed for Grangemouth.

“I could go on at length Convener on this application however there are a number of specific concerns which I would wish to highlight:

I AM OF THE OPINION THAT THE LOCATION IS TOO CLOSE TO HOUSING AND A LARGE RETAIL OUTLET

THE WOOD IS TO BE IMPORTED FROM NORTH AMERICA WHICH IS HARDLY LOCALLY SOURCED (NOT THAT IT CAN BE SUPPLIED BY SCOTLAND AS WE DON’T HAVE THE CAPACITY TO SUPPLY LARGE SCALE BIOMASS FOR 25/30 YEARS) – A POWER PLANT THAT IMPORTS MUCH OF ITS BIO-MASS MATERIAL FORM NORTH AMERICA IS ABOUT AS FAR FROM LOCALLY SUSTAINABLE AS YOU CAN GET – IN ADDITION ALL THE PROPOSED BIOMASS PLANTS PLANNED FOR THE UK WOULD REQUIRE 27 MILLION TONNES  OF WOOD PER YEAR, WHICH IS THE CURRENT GLOBAL TRADE IN WOOD

THIS DEVELOPMENT OF ALL OF FORTH ENERGY’S LARGE SCALE BIOMASS PLANTS COULD THREATEN THE FEASIBILITY OF OTHER MARKETS WHO ALSO RELY ON TIMBER SUCH AS VERDO RENEWABLES IN GRANGEMOUTH, WHICH THE LEADER OF THE COUNCIL  AND  I VISITED JUST OVER A YEAR AGO,  AND THE NORBORD PLANT AT COWIE.  TO AVOID CREATING EXCESSIVE DEMAND FOR THE CORE MATERIAL THE UK GOVERNMENT MUST REVIEW ITS ‘RENEWABLE OBLIGATION SUBSIDY’ WHICH INCENTIVISES BIO-MASS PLANTS TO BURN THE SAME WOOD THAT WAS PREVIOUSLY AVAILABLE TO OTHER LOCAL INDUSTRIES RELIANT ON THE SAME WOOD. THIS SUBSIDY EFFECTIVELY ALLOWS BIOMASS ENERGY COMPANIES TO PAY MORE THAN DOUBLE THE PRICE OTHER FIRMS PAY, WHICH IN TURN PUTS OTHER INDUSTRIES AT RISK

THE PLANT COULD TAKE 30 to 40 YEARS TO BECOME CARBON NEUTRAL

AIR QUALITY IN GRANGEMOUTH MAY WORSEN IF THE PLANT GETS THE GO-AHEAD

INCREASED ROAD TRAFFIC COULD CAUSE SIGNIFICANT TRAFFIC CONGESTION IF THE CONTENTS IN PARA 7b.6 ARE ACCURATE

IT IS NOT ‘RENEWABLE ENERGY’ IF THE ENERGY PLANT IS NOT ADJACENT OR VERY CLOSE TO THE FUEL SOURCE

DISCUSSIONS WITH POTENTIAL USERS OF THE HEAT FROM THE PLANT HAVE NOT BEEN PRODUCTIVE

“Now, on that last point, a great deal is being made by Forth Energy of their plan to distribute heat to local users, which is one of their main selling points in their pitch to Government, however I know for a fact that provisional talks with major commercial operators in Grangemouth have come to nothing to date, therefore a main plank of the application is based on a false assumption and is therefore fundamentally flawed. I intend to write to the Cabinet Secretary tasked with making the decision, John Swinney, and the Energy Minsiter Jim Mather MSP to point this out.

“Members may also be aware that Shirley-Anne Sommerville, my SNP colleague and MSP for the Lothians has lodged a motion in the Scottish Parliament which calls for a moratorium on any decision and an independent assessment of biomass plants before Scottish Ministers make a decision.

“So Convener, while I’m pleased and encouraged to see an extensive list of conditions which would be imposed if Scottish Ministers grant approval, I am unable to agree to the content of the first paragraph in the recommendation and would move that it be amended to read:

FALKIRK COUNCIL IS, IN PRINCIPLE, OPPOSED TO THE DEVELOPMENT, AND CALLS ON SCOTTISH MINISTERS TO DEFER ANY DECISION UNTIL AN AIR QUALITY SURVEY SHOWS THERE WILL BE NO ADVERSE IMPACT ON AIR QUALITY, THERE IS A MORE DETAILED REPORT ON THE CARBON IMPACT OF THE PLANT AND  A MORE DETAILED TRANSPORT ASSESSMENT IS SUBMITTED SHOULD THERE BE A CHANGE IN THE EXPECTED DELIVERY OF MATERIAL RATIOS, HOWEVER SHOULD SCOTTISH MINISTERS APPROVE THE APPLICATION, IT SHOULD BE SUBJECT TO THE SUBMISSION AND ASSESSMENT OF ADDITIONAL INFORMATION IN RESPECT OF DETAILED DESIGN ……….etc.,etc

Copyright © Angus MacDonald MSP 2017

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