Tuesday, 13 December 2016

"Due diligence" claim fails data test


Damning evidence that the Avonmouth Energy from Waste facility, inspected during a two-day "due diligence" visit by a Scottish Borders Council delegation, was performing badly before, during and after the jaunt appears to have been missed or ignored by eight councillors and a team of top officials.

Regular readers of Not Just Sheep & Rugby will be aware that the sixteen strong deputation who made the 700-mile round trip in October 2014 at a cost to taxpayers of £4,000, returned from the New Earth Solutions (NES) treatment plant near Bristol mightily impressed by what they had seen.

Council leader David Parker described the Avonmouth trip as “valuable and illuminating”.

“The integrated WTF is a really big deal for our council as it will transform the way we deal with our waste and help us comply with our zero waste obligations,” he told the Border Telegraph.
“It also involves a major investment, in partnership with NES, which requires councillors to carry out due diligence and, in that respect, the trip was necessary. I am satisfied after our visit that we are on the right track and confident that the WTF will be up and running before the 2019 contract deadline, hopefully by mid-2017.”

But just four months later the plans for a scaled down version of Avonmouth at Easter Langlee, Galashiels, at an estimated cost of £21 million, were scrapped in chaos because the technology did not work and the funding could not be secured. At this point SBC had squandered at least £2.4 million: so much for "due diligence".

Statistics available from energy watchdog Ofgem would have shown the eight Borders councillors - Parker, Edgar, Brown, Paterson and Davidson from the ruling group, and Ballantyne, Mountford and Scott from the Tory opposition - just how poorly Avonmouth was functioning when compared to other fuelled stations.

Throughout 2014 the NES facility never operated at more than 22 per cent of its capacity measured in so-called Megawatt Hours (MWH) and averaged a meagre 15.91% over the calendar year. At the same time the average capacity achieved by fuelled stations in the UK stood at 52.08%, up from 48.25% in 2013.

Here are the monthly capacity percentages for 2014 for the Avonmouth energy facility, operated by New Earth Energy (West) Operations Ltd at the time. The facility was later "sold" for no monetary consideration to Avonmouth Bio Power Energy Ltd, the business which continues to run the plant.

January 2014 9.46%; February 13.99%; March 17.62%; April 14.71%; May 9.11%; June 16.066%; July 21.26%; August 18.69%; September 13.35%; October 20.57%; November 20.41%; December 15.72%.

According to the published data Avonmouth, which was commissioned in April 2013, registered an average production capacity of 11.89% between October 2015 and June of this year. In February 2015 - the month in which SBC and NES tore up their "revolutionary" contract the percentage was an equally unimpressive 18.78; it had slumped to 13.55% in August 2015 with the percentage recorded at an all time low of 4.36% in June 2016.

Did the council delegation ask for or seek to obtain these depressing statistics? After all Avonmouth was regarded as the cutting edge waste treatment centre which would propel SBC to the top of Scotland's recycling/energy from waste league tables.

As we reported recently, sections of confidential documents obtained via a Freedom of Information investigation conducted by the Scottish Information Commissioner, revealed the conclusions of in-house 'post mortems' conducted into the SBC/NES fiasco.

Apparently the delegation toured the wrong NES facility, and should have gone to NES Canford, more than 100 miles from Avonmouth. The report covering "lessons learned" tells us: "The visit was to demonstrate how a site worked. However Avonmouth did not show this in balance; instead it was being over positive".

It may be difficult to understand how the Ofgen data for Avonmouth could ever be construed as "over positive". And the figures certainly seem to provide conclusive proof that members of the SBC delegation failed in their "due diligence" mission.

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