The Leith Biomass Plant and the downside of wood burning biomass plants
Questions on the planned Leith Biomass Plant Malcolm Chisholm (Edinburgh North and Leith) (Lab):
To ask the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body what discussions Forth Energy has had with it regarding the supply of heat energy.

Alex Johnstone(The Scottish Government):
The Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body has had no discussions with Forth Energy regarding the supply of heat energy.

Question asked and answered on November 17th 2011 Malcolm Chisholm (Edinburgh North and Leith) (Lab):
I welcome the Scottish Government’s proposals to remove the subsidy from large-scale, electricity-only biomass. However, will the minister clarify the Scottish Government’s proposals for large-scale electricity biomass where a small, but not insubstantial, amount of the heat is also used? )

The Minister for Enterprise, Energy and Tourism (Fergus Ewing):
As Malcolm Chisholm knows, our policy position on biomass is clear, and is covered in the draft electricity generation policy statement, in the national planning framework 2 and in planning guidance. We believe that large-scale biomass plants that produce only electricity are not the best use of biomass, which is a valuable product.

We acknowledge that biomass has a place, especially in local community projects that use a local supply. Such projects often provide additional income to tree-growers when no other use of the material would be possible. We support local use, but we do not believe that large-scale use for electricity only is the most effective use of biomass. As Malcolm Chisholm knows, that has been our policy for a considerable time.

Malcolm Chisholm (Edinburgh North and Leith) (Lab):
 I accept that the minister cannot give a view on the proposal, but I am sure that, if the future energy minister is sitting in the chamber, he or she will recognise the massive local opposition to the proposal. However, the current minister could give a view on a policy on large-scale biomass plants. Will he support, as a policy, a moratorium on developing such plants, on the ground that they will contribute nothing towards meeting our vital 2050 climate change objectives?

The Minister for Enterprise, Energy and Tourism (Jim Mather):
I note Malcolm Chisholm’s comments. We are working closely with the United Kingdom Government to help it to develop its biomass strategy. As he properly said, I cannot comment on live planning applications. It is obvious that I cannot comment on any call for a moratorium on applications for large-scale biomass plants when ministers are involved in determining the process for such schemes.
Question asked and answered on March 22nd 2011 Malcolm Chisholm (Edinburgh North and Leith) (Lab):
To ask the First Minister what assessment the Scottish Government has made of the impact of large-scale biomass plants on its climate change objectives. (S3F-2808)

Alex Salmond (The First Minister):
Biomass, particularly renewable heat, can help to meet the emissions reduction targets in the Scottish Government's world-leading Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009. Our policy is to promote the use of biomass plants for heat only or for combined heat and power. Relatively small new plants can bring the greatest benefits to communities and local supply chains and maximise efficient use of the fuel source. Individual applications for the smaller plants are, of course, considered locally.

Malcolm Chisholm (Edinburgh North and Leith) (Lab):
I commend the First Minister's enthusiasm for renewable energy in general. However, does he agree that large-scale biomass plants such as the one that is proposed for Leith docks, in my constituency, emit a substantial amount of greenhouse gases - more than coal-fired plants, according to a recent study - and incur a massive carbon debt that can be repaid only after decades, if ever?

Will he support the call from Greener Leith, No Leith Biomass, the Leith Links residents association, me and several of his back-bench colleagues for a moratorium on the construction of such large-scale biomass plants pending further research into their consequences for climate change?

Alex Salmond (The First Minister):
As a former minister, Malcolm Chisholm is well aware that I cannot comment on the detail of any individual application that we are likely to receive for determination. We have not yet formally received the application for the biomass generating station at Leith. The application is currently undergoing a check versus a scoping opinion to ensure that all elements requested by the consultees have been considered.

The research that we have indicates that biomass can achieve 80 to 90 per cent energy efficiency, which is pretty impressive. Nevertheless, I agree with the conclusion in the research that was carried out for WWF Scotland and Friends of the Earth Scotland by Garrad Hassan last month, which is that the most logical use of Scottish biomass is for small-scale heating or combined heat and power systems, according to local heat demand.

Question asked and answered on December 23rd 2010 Malcolm Chisholm (Edinburgh North and Leith) (Lab):
To ask the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body what discussions Forth Energy has had with it regarding the supply of heat energy.

Alex Johnstone(The Scottish Government):
The Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body has had no discussions with Forth Energy regarding the supply of heat energy.

Question asked and answered on November 26th 2010 Malcolm Chisholm (Edinburgh North and Leith) (Lab):
To ask the Scottish Executive what the estimated cost is to the (a) public purse and (b) electricity consumer of the biomass developments proposed by Forth Energy at Leith and elsewhere in Scotland. (S3W-36591)

Jim Mather (The Scottish Government):
In Scotland, applications to build and operate power stations in excess of 50 megawatts (MW) are made to the Scottish ministers for consent using the Section 36 application process.

Developers wishing to make a Section 36 application are required to pay a handling fee to the Scottish Government, this fee is split between the local planning authority and the Scottish Government; such applications are processed by the Scottish Governments Energy Consents Team who currently handle anything between 30 and 40 applications at a given time.

(a) Each application is unique and will involve submission to the Scottish Government and its consultees of a site-specific Environmental Impact Assessment, which means that the time and public resource taken to process each application is different. Given this context, it is therefore not possible to accurately account for the cost to the public purse of handling individual applications. However, developers wishing to make an application under Section 36 of the Electricity Act are required to pay a handling fee to the Scottish Government, which is based on the size of the development and split between the local planning authority and the Scottish Government.

(b) Due to the complex and highly regulated nature of electricity markets in the UK it is not possible to estimate the cost to the consumer of individual electricity generating stations.

Question asked and answered on October 15th 2010 Malcolm Chisholm (Edinburgh North and Leith) (Lab):
To ask the Scottish Executive what statements concerning biomass plants have been made recently by the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment and the Minister for Environment. (S3O-11160)

Roseanna Cunningham (The Minister for Environment):
On 2 June, at a conference on forestry in the low-carbon economy, the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment highlighted the contribution that biomass can make to renewable energy targets and recognised the particularly important role of relatively small-scale biomass plants that produce heat or combined heat and power. The full text of the speech is available on the Scottish Government's website.

Currently more than 90 per cent of renewable heat is generated from woody biomass. Wood fuel use is rising substantially year on year and will be a key element in meeting our 11 per cent renewable heat target in 2020. Of course, wood supplies from existing forests are finite, so we are keen for Scotland-produced biomass to be utilised mainly for relatively small-scale, heat-only or CHP plants.

The Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism and I met representatives of the wood processing industries on 9 June and released a statement in which we acknowledged the important role that Scotland's forests can make to a low-carbon economy.

Malcolm Chisholm (Edinburgh North and Leith) (Lab):
I agree that small-scale biomass for heat or combined heat and power is acceptable. Will the minister urge her ministerial colleagues to reconsider their enthusiasm for large-scale biomass electricity plants such as the one that is proposed for Leith docks, in my constituency?

Is the minister aware of recent American research by the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences, which shows that electricity from biomass would result in even more greenhouse gas emissions than coal-fired electricity would do by 2050? Will she ensure that the summary of the research, which I have sent to the Scottish Government, is read by all her colleagues who have responsibility for energy and by the First Minister?

Roseanna Cunningham (The Minister for Environment):
All members of the Scottish Government are aware of the challenges that we face with respect to wood supply and we are aware of a variety of pieces of research on the matter.

We are actively involved in the development of United Kingdom sustainability criteria for biomass for heat and electricity. The working group, which includes stakeholders from the Scottish Government, other Administrations in the UK, industry and non-governmental organisations, is considering mandatory criteria for large-scale biomass plants, including a minimum greenhouse gas emissions savings threshold.

The member will not, of course, expect me to comment on individual planning applications.

July 1st 2010 (Column 28167-8)
Malcolm Chisholm (Edinburgh North and Leith) (Lab):
To ask the Scottish Executive what contact there has been between its officials and Forth Energy in relation to the proposed biomass plant at Leith docks. (S3W-33941

Malcolm Chisholm (Edinburgh North and Leith) (Lab):
To ask the Scottish Executive what contact there has been between its officials and Forth Energy in relation to the proposed biomass plant at Leith docks. (S3W-33942

Jim Mather (The Scottish Government):
Officials from the Scottish Governments Renewable Energy Division receive regular updates from Forth Energy on the status of their proposals and have provided guidance on procedures. Scottish Government officials also chair the Biomass Stakeholder Engagement Group made up of Forth Energy, Edinburgh City Council, Dundee City Council, Falkirk Council, Fife Council, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency.

Malcolm Chisholm (Edinburgh North and Leith) (Lab):
To ask the Scottish Executive how many people submitted views to its Energy Consents Unit following the environmental scoping study for the proposed biomass plant at Leith docks. (S3W-33943)

Jim Mather (The Scottish Government):
Thirty-one organisations submitted comments on the proposed plant at Leith. The full Scottish Government Scoping Opinion incorporating these comments was published on 26 April 2010 and can be accessed at:

http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Business-Industry/Energy/Infrastructure/Energy-Consents/Applications-Database/Biomass

Malcolm Chisholm (Edinburgh North and Leith) (Lab):
To ask the Scottish Executive when it will make a decision on the proposed biomass plant at Leith docks if an application is submitted by Forth Energy in summer 2010. (S3W-33944)

Jim Mather (The Scottish Government):
Due to the size and complexity of large-scale s36 applications it is difficult to accurately predict processing timescales however, Scottish ministers have set an aspirational target to determine any new application submitted under s36 of The Electricity Act within nine months. Given this Scottish ministers would expect to be in a position to either make a determination or call a Public Inquiry some time in the second quarter of 2011.

Questions asked and answered on June 9th 2010