Falkirk energy project holds key to jobs

Artistic impression of the proposed biomass power station at Grangemouth Docks
Artistic impression of the proposed biomass power station at Grangemouth Docks

Falkirk Council is fired up about an ambitious energy project which could provide a vital boost to industry and employment.

The initiative could see the council and its partners harness heat lost in Grangemouth’s industrial processes to safeguard and create thousands of jobs and potentially provide local homes with cheap fuel.

The council’s executive committee last week told officers to begin developing the project.

Development services director Rhona Geisler said: “The project’s primary aim is to assist Grangemouth industry with power sources and allow them to be sustainable through easy access to energy.”

The council will now work alongside Scottish Enterprise and Chinese company Chinaway Energy Ltd to see how feasible the massive undertaking is.

Council leader Craig Martin said: “This project grew out of the Ineos situation and now the links we have worked to establish with China have the potential for massive investment.”

In the wake of the strike and subsequent shutdown crisis at Ineos in Grangemouth in 2013, the council began consulting businesses and local stakeholders.

These meetings highlighted high energy costs as a common concern for firms operating in the area, with bosses stating it was hindering investment, employment and the long-term viability of some operations.

Mrs Geisler added: “I’m not saying there is going to be a new power station. I don’t know whether or not there needs to be a new plant - we are at the very beginning of this.

“This is a project that will be many years in the delivery. We are not yet at a stage where we even know it will go ahead.

“Then we can explore the possibility of it benefitting the wider area of Grangemouth.”

Councillor Craig R Martin said: “This is about trying to sustain the jobs that are there and create more jobs. At the same time, rather than being lost to the air any heat produced can be used to heat homes.”

The consultation also identified the possible formation of a local energy service company, or ESCo, which would have the role of facilitating the delivery of energy efficient low carbon and renewable energy projects in Falkirk and Grangemouth.

The report stated: “Esco’s are being developed by several councils across the UK, with an active Esco in Aberdeen and developments in Glasgow anbd Edinburgh.”

Under the TIF scheme, £67 million is being spent on major infrastructure projects in the area, but this project could be even bigger.

Councillor Dennis Goldie said: “This is a massive project, bigger than Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) and more complex. We need a framework of how the council will be involved.

“We would try and channel this heat into homes and Grangemouth would be the first place we would look to do that as the industry is on their doorstep.”

Officers will now work with Scottish Enterprise, who are taking the lead on the project, to develop a feasible business case.

During last week’s meeting Councillor Robert Spears said there was already huge power generation in Grangemouth and questioned the need for another power plant there.