Minister opens landfill gas generating station

John Battle, Minister for Energy and Industry, on 16 March 1999 opened a new 2.7MW plant at Whinney Hill in Accrington, Lancashire, which will generate electricity from landfill gas.

The plant has a contract under the Government’s fourth Non- Fossil Fuel Obligation order (NFFO-4), and will generate enough electricity to power up to 9,000 homes.

The plant, built and operated by Combined Landfill Projects (CLP), will generate electricity through decomposing waste with a high methane content. This form of generation can benefit the environment by reducing direct emissions and replacing traditional fossil-fuelled generation.

Battle commended the opening of the plant, saying: “Landfill gas will be a real source of energy for the future, as the landfill tax insists that waste is turned into potential energy.

“Whinney Hill is one of many successful NFFO projects up and down the country. Each is playing its part in helping the UK to meet its national and international commitments to safeguard the environment. “

The Electricity Act 1989 enables the Secretary of State to require Public Electricity Suppliers in England and Wales to secure a certain amount of electricity from non-fossil sources. NFFO provides a protected market with guaranteed contracts at premium prices. The purpose of NFFO is to secure additional generating capacity from renewables in order to help them enter the commercial generating market.

There have been five NFFO rounds to date. Contracts issued under the first two rounds (NFFO-1 and NFFO-2) ended on 31 December 1998.

Generating capacity supported under these two rounds is now competing in the open electricity market. Contracts issued under the third, fourth and fifth rounds (NFFO- 3, NFFO-4 and NFFO-5) are for fifteen years. NFFO-3, NFFO-4 and NFFO-5 schemes will continue to be supported until those contracts end. NFFO-5, the largest Non-Fossil Fuel Obligation (NFFO) order to date, was announced by Battle last autumn.

“The generation of electricity from landfill gas has been a particular success story,” said Battle. “To date, 99 schemes have been commissioned, with a total capacity of over 180 MW. Our landfill gas industry has demonstrated the ability both to bring on stream substantial new electricity generating capacity, and to consistently reduce the price of their generation in each successive Order.

“Some landfill gas schemes are so competitive that they have been built without support from the NFFO at all. Others, which received contracts under the first two NFFO rounds are now competing effectively in the open market. In addition, many are contracted to supply the generation for the green electricity tariffs that have been launched over the last couple of years.

“I see the landfill gas industry as a whole as demonstrating the success of the NFFO policy. The industry is delivering on its commitments under NFFO, and proves that the scheme provides a real

helping hand to such technologies.”

Arrangements similar to NFFO are running in Scotland and Northern Ireland – the Scottish renewables Obligation (SRO) and the Northern Ireland NFFO (NI-NFFO).

Prices have reduced under NFFO from a high of 6.4p/kWh under NFFO-1 to an average contract price of 2.73p/kWh under NFFO-5. This compares to the electricity Pool price of 2.67p/kWh.

While the immediate future for energy generation from landfill gas may look bright, alarm has been raised in the industry about the reduction of organic waste in landfills by 2009 under the proposed European Landfill Directive.

CLP’s chief executive, David Fitzherbert, admits that if the Landfill Directive comes into force, it could affect the long term production of landfill gas. But, he feels, this need not cause problems for operations such as Whinney Hill. Installations, he says, could be set up next to landfills to sort out organic matter and to digest it, thus producing landfill gas “in 30 days rather than in 30 years.” This, says Fitzherbert, is a viable option and one that his company is already exploring.

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