Green MSP Alison Johnstone has attacked the Scottish Government’s “poor decision” to grant planning permission for a massive biomass plant on the shores of the Firth of Forth.
According to Ms Johnstone, the Grangemouth facility will burn up to 1.5 million tonnes of imported wood a year.
The Green MSP for Lothian and a member of Holyrood’s economy and energy committee, said the plan, which will she claimed see “swathes of foreign forest” chopped down to be burnt was “plain daft”.
Commenting on the decision, she said: “The Scottish Government has made a poor decision, and should instead be supporting genuinely sustainable heat and power at a local level.
“Forth Energy wisely backed away from a similar proposal at Leith so it’s extremely disappointing they are being allowed to develop further along the coast. The Scottish Government now has zero environmental credibility.
“They’ve missed their carbon reduction targets, they support extending the life of nuclear plants, they’re gung-ho for coal, oil and gas, and now they’re foolishly backing big biomass.”
The plant is expected to generate up to 120MW of renewable electricity – the equivalent of the amount needed to power around 130,000 homes. The plant will also supply local businesses and industry with up to 200 megawatts thermal (MWth) of renewable heat. The Scottish government insists it will therefore make a valuable contribution to Scotland’s ambitions to decarbonise electricity generation.
The plant will bring up to 500 jobs to the area during construction, and 70 permanent jobs. Forth Energy said the site could be operating by 2017, burning wood which it said would be mostly shipped from overseas.
Commenting on the decision, Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said: “The construction of the combined heat and power plant at the Port of Grangemouth will create up to 500 jobs during construction and 70 permanent jobs, as well as generating up to 120MW of renewable electricity and 200MWth of renewable heat for local business and industry.
“In consenting this application I have put in place a series of conditions to protect local residents from inconvenience, safeguard the appearance of the area, and protect the environment and air quality. The conditions to the consent also ensure that the fuel used in the biomass is from sustainable and responsible sources.”
However local campaigners condemned the decision, calling it a “bad day for the people of Grangemouth”.
Walter Inglis, Grangemouth resident and Chairperson of Grangemouth community Council said: “This is a bad day for the people of Grangemouth who have worsening air quality to look forward to, but it’s also a bad day for the people of Scotland because of the wider issues that affect us all. The First Minister has made commitments to climate justice that are now entirely contradicted by the decision from the Energy Minister today.”
Campaigners say that contrary to claims the plant will be low carbon, it will be responsible for vast carbon dioxide emissions which will also worsen air quality in Grangemouth.
Richard Dixon, Director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “This decision reveals major confusion within the Scottish Government. Only a year ago it issued its Energy Generating Policy Statement setting out clear, strong reasons not to use biomass for large scale projects such as this.
“It claims to have a policy favouring use of biomass in small-scale plants, off the gas grid, using primarily local sources of supply. Now it approves a massive power station importing over a million tonnes of trees a year to burn for electricity, with no guarantee that Forth Energy will find customers for the heat it produces.”