Thursday, 7 April 2016

Cabinet Office joins Borders councillors on the naughty step

EWAN LAMB watches more dunces caps being handed out

There was a soupcon of much needed relief this week for those members of Scottish Borders Council who signed up for a useless form of waste disposal by incineration when the equally gullible Westminster Cabinet Office found itself embarrassed and out of pocket as another "revolutionary" form of thermal technology bit the dust.

While Scottish Borders Council [SBC] - or should that be local residents - had their fingers burned to the tune of at least £2.5 million after elected members fell for untested gasification and pyrolysis techniques, it has emerged that an American corporation revelling in the name Air Products has been forced to exit the largest energy from waste project in the world, nursing losses of a billion dollars.

The partly built treatment complex on Teesside is being abandoned and sold off after the operators encountered insuperable technological difficulties. It seems this highly controversial method of dealing with municipal rubbish remains unworkable in 2016, three years AFTER Borders councillors opted for it.

The disastrous end to this UK Government-backed venture will rekindle painful memories for all those involved in the Borders own version of 'Advanced Thermal Technology' [ATT] which ended in tears and a financial millstone for taxpayers in February 2015 when a 24-year contract between the council and New Earth Solutions had to be abandoned.

A waste treatment plant planned for Easter Langlee, Galashiels, was undeliverable, again due to technological difficulties and the inability of the NES financial backers to put up the cash.

The Borders plant was to have been based on the (falsely) acclaimed NES facility at Avonmouth, Bristol which certainly impressed former Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Davey. He declared in 2013: "The 13MW Advanced Thermal Conversion project in Avonmouth delivered by New Earth Solutions is an example of the excellent renewable energy projects being built in the south west of England".

Oops! We can only assume Mr. Davey is blissfully unaware that the problematic Avonmouth incinerator, which also left Borders councilors gobsmacked, has had to be offloaded by NES because it was so costly, and under-performed on a regular basis.

Just like Borders elected members, Mr Davey and his Coalition Cabinet colleagues fell for gasification hook line and sinker in 2013.

In an extremely upbeat news release Tory minister Francis Maude announced: "A new deal was agreed today that will significantly lower the cost government pays for energy and create hundreds of local jobs."

He was telling the electorate how a 20-year contract (sound familiar?) with Air Products was expected to deliver £84 million in savings through an 'innovative fixed agreement that will provide stability in what the public sector pays for energy'.

So how is Mr. Maude feeling now that all of his grand plans for savings from burning garbage lie in tatters? Will he be any more apologetic than SBC after falling for a parallel version of snake oil salesmanship, a technique involving generous helpings of hype linked to claims of miraculous powers? Why does it always seem to be the public sector which falls for this type of hokum? I think we should be told...

In an article about the latest ATT disaster, Shlomo Dowen, national co-ordinator of the United Kingdom Without Incinerators' Network (UKWIN) says it appears a great deal of money has been wasted on a scheme that the Government expected would save money.

This called into question the wisdom of the UK depending on such unreliable facilities for either energy generation or waste management, said Mr. Dowen.

He added: "Air Products' decision to ditch gasification is reminiscent of New Earth Solutions, who decided in July 2015 to ditch their gasification business because, after years of trying, they could not get their technology to work. Many other gasification and pyrolysis have involved companies with less diverse portfolios, and simply ended with the company going bankrupt".

In a hard hitting comment published in a specialist magazine Mr Dowen warns: "Gasification and pyrolysis are synonymous with technology failures, bankruptcies and broken promises. We hope this latest admission of defeat acts as a wake up call for the Government who have been unwisely stoking the whole misadventure with environmentally harmful subsidies and other unwarranted financial support."

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