It looks as though Forth Ports are not putting all their energy generation eggs in one basket. Revised plans for “The Harbour, Leith Docks” development (that’s the first of the areas to be planned out in detail as part of the regeneration of the docks) were submitted to the council by Forth Ports on April 1st. And they still feature two, much smaller “energy centres”.
The two red rectangles in the Land Use plan above are the designated “Energy Centres.” Is this significant? Well it does seem odd. When we met with the Director of Forth Energy in February, he told us that Forth Ports had come to the conclusion that smaller CHP plants were not viable because of the cost. Whilst there are plently of smaller CHP plants operating elsewhere in the UK, this was part of their justification for proposing the much larger biomass plant on an area currently zoned as park land in the Local Plan – rather than siting it further East on land already zoned for industrial use.
Forth Energy claim that they need it to be close to the likely end users of the heat in order to operate the plant at maximum efficiency. But, if they’ve still got these smaller energy centres in the Harbour plans who’s going to use the heat? Indeed, the documentation submitted by Forth Ports in their revised application acknowledges that biomass is unlikely to be the fuel used in the Energy Centres, even though it mentions the plans for the large biomass plant.
In this document it says:
“Of the technologies considered, only Gas Fired CHP and Water Source Heating/Cooling were identified to be both potentially viable in the development location, of proven reliability, and to offer significant carbon savings potential.”
It then goes on to describe the amount of energy that would be produced by the giant biomass plant:
“…which could generate around 300MW of heat and 100MW of electricity.”
If Forth Ports don’t intend to supply the new developments in the Harbour with this heat, then where else will that 300MW of heat go? Will they really dump three quarters of all the energy produced into the Forth? And if so, is it reasonable to describe the giant Biomass plant as generating ‘low carbon energy?’
The document quoted above aims to demonstrate to the City of Edinburgh council that achieving complete carbon neutrality throughout the development is financially impossible. Instead, the report suggests that by using a mixture of improved insulation, water source heat pumps and natural gas CHP from those small energy centres, it is more realistic to aim for a carbon emissions reduction of around 30%. The graphic below summarises how they reached their findings:
Isn’t it interesting to note that there is no data against that last option, of establishing a local ‘ESCO’ (Energy Services Company) and fuel supply chain? That’s a shame – as there is evidence out there that this approach can deliver carbon savings cost effectively. The classic example is Woking Borough Council who claim 82% carbon reductions.
You can read about the other changes that Forth Ports have made to the Harbour proposals in this letter here or you can find all the planning documents relating to the Harbour development here. Forth Ports have made some other positive improvements to the original plans. For example, alongside Leith Links Community Council, and Leith Central Community Council, Greener Leith called for Forth Ports to lower the heights of some of the buildings. The revised proposals have reduced the heights of some of the buildings, albeit not by much – and they have also reduced the numbers of car parking spaces incorporated into the plans too.
Whilst everyone waits to see whether Forth Energy will actually submit a full planning application for the massive Biomass plant that they’ve proposed for Leith Docks, we are hearing more evidence of growing opposition to the plans. A number of local residents associations have begun working to raise awareness of the proposals in their patch. Local MSP’s are also keen to hear your views, with some circulating questionaires.
If you have concerns about the proposals then we’d recommend that you save time by using www.writetothem.com to send your message to all your local elected representatives, rather than filling out separate forms sent by different politicians.
Soon you’ll be able to see exactly what your Westminster candidates views on the Forth Energy proposals are because they’ve all been sent a questionaire by Democracy club, that includes a question on the biomass proposals. You can see the answers the candidates give for Edinburgh North & Leith here, and Edinburgh East here.
However, we already know that there’s cross party concerns over the proposals. According to Fay Young who attended the recent “Ask the Climate Question Hustings,” there was unanimous agreement amongst all the candidates standing in Edinburgh North and Leith that the Biomass plant, as it has been outlined so far, should not go ahead. There are those out there who think all of this talk of large Biomass plants is designed only to boost the share price of Forth Ports, so that they can avoid being taken over. Meanwhile, we’re informed it will only take an objection from the City of Edinburgh council to send the plans to a public enquiry – and goodness knows how long that will take.
Perhaps it’s a good idea from Forth Ports to keep those small CHP centres in this proposal afterall?