Friends of the Earth condemn Fife ‘green’ energy scheme

The proposed 400MW coal, waste and gas fired power plant at Westfield in Fife is "a green con," according to Friends of the Earth Scotland (FoE). The proposal has already been turned down by Fife Council and is now the subject of a Public Inquiry, which opened on April 6.

FoE has made a written submission to the Inquiry, calling for the proposal to be turned down. The environmental group’s main points are:

  The proposed plant should not be called a ‘Renewable Fuel Project’ because municipal waste is not a ‘renewable fuel’. FoE says municipal waste is a fossil fuel because its main energy content comes principally from its plastic and paper content. FoE say that figures supplied to them by the company concerned – Fife Electric Ltd, a subsidiary of US Global Energy – suggest that less than 20% of the energy from the plant will come from municipal waste, with the rest coming from coal and gas.

  FoE says the project will significantly increase carbon dioxide emissions. The plant, FoE claims, would produce roughly twice as much carbon dioxide per unit of output as a similarly sized plant running only on gas. The mixed and variable nature of municipal waste will also make air pollution emissions hard to control.

  The plant would destroy paper or plastic recycling over a large area of Scotland, the group claims, and would damage the business of paper mills in Fife and elsewhere which already collect and recycle paper. The annual quantity of municipal waste proposed for the plant is 386,000 tonnes – over twice that produced in the whole of Fife and close to the combined output of Fife and Edinburgh. Any shortfall in waste materials would make the plant even more dependent on fossil fuels. Contracts signed to guarantee waste to the plant would destroy any incentive for waste minimisation, say FoE.

  The impact of waste transport could be large, including over 100 lorry movements a day. FoE believes that the Environmental Impact Assessment does not consider the transportation of the waste, even though, they say, the company does not yet know where this waste will come from.

FoE’s Head of Research, Dr Richard Dixon, said, “Scotland’s domestic rubbish is already tied up in long-term deals with landfill sites and recyclers so where is the huge quantity needed for this plant to come from? This is nothing but a front for a new coal burning power station, at a time when we should be putting money into clean, renewable energy not more fossil dinosaurs.”

Currently the only major electricity generators in Scotland are Scottish Power, Scottish and Southern Electricity (formerly known as Scottish Hydro Electric) and British Energy (formerly known as Scottish Nuclear). Although other companies can sell electricity to businesses and homes in Scotland, they have to pay a charge for transferring power from England to Scotland. The Fife Electric Westfield plant would provide another medium-sized generator in Scotland.

Dr Dixon commented: “There is a danger that the Scottish Office may want to push this scheme through to allow fuller competition in the Scottish electricity market. We must not sacrifice our climate targets for the sake of market economics.”

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