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RES abandons work on £300m North Blyth biomass power station

Work on a £300m biomass power station in Northumberland has ceased after uncertainty in UK energy policy caused the withdrawal of a key project partner, the developer has announced.

A company statement from renewable energy developer RES said: “The Government’s inconsistent support for dedicated biomass energy over the last two years - as well as increased uncertainty over the UK’s energy policy under the Government’s Electricity Market Reform process - has critically undermined the investment case for the North Blyth Biomass Power Station.”

RES said a key project partner pulled out of the Port of Blyth project in late 2013.

The decision to end the scheme loses hundreds of millions of pounds of investment into the Blyth estuary and wider Northumberland economy.

It also means the loss of 300 construction job opportunities and 50 full time, long-term operational jobs at the plant along with the loss of an annual Community Benefit Fund.

RES claims the project would also have provided a magnet for economic growth in the region.

RES chief operating officer for the UK, Gordon MacDougall said: “The North Blyth Biomass Power Station currently faces insurmountable investment barriers due to uncertain Government energy policy.

“The gradual erosion of support for dedicated biomass leaves us with no other option.”

“This is a reminder to Government that, without a consistent approach to energy policy, investors and developers will be deterred from delivering the billions of pounds needed to ensure the nation’s energy infrastructure is able to keep the lights on and secure cost effective electricity for British homes and businesses.”

A company statement questioned Government support for fossil fuels.

It said: “The Government’s preference for the conversion of existing coal fired power stations to biomass over dedicated biomass generating capacity is at odds with the urgent need to bridge the looming capacity crunch in the UK energy system.”

RES has called upon the Government to clarify its support for renewable energy as a vital part of the UK energy mix, in order to ensure that independent generators and major investors alike have the certainty needed to continue investing in UK infrastructure.

The Renewable Energy Association (REA) chief executive Dr Nina Skorupska said: “This is a bitter blow for RES, for the Northumberland economy, for our energy security and for climate change objectives.

“Recent Government actions have eroded investor confidence in the biomass sector. The result is project cancellations totalling hundreds of MWs and millions of pounds of inward investment.

“The Government now must move swiftly to protect both existing and future investment, by giving a strong, clear and positive message that the UK is still open for business for biomass.”

Readers' comments (1)

  • This announcement is good news for forests, climate and communities.

    Whilst RES are painting this story as a failure of Government to adequately support renewable energy, let's look at the facts. The plant would have needed some 1 million tonnes of wood each year, mostly imported, and contributing to the already unsustainable demand for pellets the UK currently creates. There is widespread evidence that UK demand for wood for biomass electricity is being increasingly sourced from cleared wetland forests and important ecosystems in North America. Further still, study after study has shown that far from reducing carbon emissions, burning biomass can actually be more polluting than burning coal. On top of this, biomass power stations negatively affect air quality and therefore the communities around them.

    Big biomass electricity is not sustainable, renewable energy. On the contrary, it is highly polluting and destructive.

    On the issue of Government support, had RES built this plant by 2017, they would have been eligible for up to £50 million a year in subsidies under ROCs, and would still be eligible for support under the new regime, with minimal heat use and low efficiency. Government support for dirty big biomass has been nothing but consistent, and provides lucrative financial support at the expense of the bill-payer. This announcement is actually a victory for common sense and the communities that opposed the plant.

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