Green Party disputes benefits of planned waste-baking power plant in Northampton

Tony Clarke.
Tony Clarke.

The Green Party has re-stated its pledge to campaign against a new “waste-to-energy” power plant in St James after disputing some of the developers claims it will provide clean, cheap energy.

Last week the developers hoping to build the “gasification” plant at the site of the Westbridge depot in St James, Rolton Kilbride, held a press launch on the scheme alongside the board of the Caring Community Energy Company, a not-for-profit company which will ultimately sell the energy created at a wholesale price to Northampton.

Peter Rolton, Brian Binley and  David Rolton at the site of the Westbridge depot in St James, where Rolton Kilbride is hoping to build a waste-to-energy power plant.

Peter Rolton, Brian Binley and David Rolton at the site of the Westbridge depot in St James, where Rolton Kilbride is hoping to build a waste-to-energy power plant.

At the launch it was claimed the facility, which would create energy by “baking” no-recyclable waste, would pump around £4 million of benefits into the Northampton community every year and provide cheaper heating to areas of “sizeable fuel poverty.”

It was also claimed the plant would only produce minimal emissions that were well within the safe level for a built-up area and claims the plant would be a waste “incinerator” were vehemently denied.

But former Northampton South MP Tony Clarke, now the environment spokesman for the Green Party, has said the press launch has done little to change the Green Party’s view on the power plant.

“The developers and the board have repeatedly claimed that their plant is clean, that there are no ‘bad particles going into the atmosphere’, and that it is not an incinerator,” he said.

“However, whilst the emissions from a pyrolysis plant will be less than from a traditional incinerator, it is still, according to the EU directive on waste incineration and UK planning guidance, an incinerator.

“We ask all those who have stated previously that it is not an incinerator to correct their statements and apologise for misleading the public.”

Mr Clarke also disputed the claim that a new “off-grid” power plant scheme would address fuel poverty in Northampton, when plans are to wire most of the electricity to industry and Northampton’s hospitals.

He said: “The company claims that they are going to address fuel poverty in the local area, but it also notes that most of the electricity generated will be supplied direct to large users within the town, at a discounted rate.

“While we applaud the idea of community energy and local energy generation, it is disingenuous to claim that (it is) going to address local fuel poverty when (its) plan seems to focus on maximising revenue by focussing on large users of power.”

Mr Clarke also said Northampton should be looking to solar community energy schemes rather than an “unsightly” power plant.

He said: “This is the technology that we should be using to reduce our reliance on traditional fossil fuels, and we call upon Northampton Borough Council to investigate how they can use this to generate true local energy without the impact that this plant will obviously have.”

A Rolton Kilbride spokeswoman said the new power plant would the amount of waste sent to landfill in Northampton and the costs associated with it.

On Mr Clarke’s claims that the plant would be a de-facto incinerator, the spokeswoman said: “The Northampton Community Energy Scheme centres on a gasification facility, which would operate using advanced conversion technology and is not an incinerator.

“As part of the process, waste products are heated or ‘baked’ at high temperatures. Unlike incineration, oxygen is removed from the process which prevents burning and emissions are therefore significantly reduced.”

She added: “Emissions are heavily regulated and subject to the Industrial Emissions Directive and overseen by the Environment Agency. The planning process will include a full Environmental Impact Assessment report covering emissions including air modelling.

“If heat from the centre is used by local households, there would be the additional benefit of reduced emissions as local householders switch off their own boilers.”

And over claims the power plant would not help alleviate fuel poverty, the spokeswoman said, while electricity would go to industrial units such as nearby Carlsberg, it is intended to deliver the excess heat to households at a low cost.

She said: “Heat is intended to be used to combat fuel poverty. This heat would be delivered at a seasonably lower cost to local homes by means of district heating infrastructure. The government has committed significant funds nationally for the development of heat networks.”

Finally the spokeswoman said the proposed power plant would create the same amount of energy created by 1,100 acres of PV solar panels.

Rolton Kilbride will begin running public consultations in early 2016.