RES ceases development of proposed biomass plant in the UK

By Erin Voegele | March 11, 2014

U.K.-based renewable energy developer Renewable Energy Systems Ltd. recently announced it is ceasing development of its proposed biomass power plant at the Port of Blyth in Northumberland, England. According to RES, the decision follows the withdrawal of a key project partner late in 2013 due to ongoing uncertainty in U.K. energy policy.

“The government’s inconsistent support for dedicated biomass energy over the last two years—as well as increased uncertainty over the U.K.’s energy policy under the government’s Electricity Market Reform process—has critically undermined the investment case for the North Blyth Power Station,” said the company in a statement.

RES has been working on the 100-MW project for several years. In May 2009, the company announced the Port of Blyth had selected it as the preferred developer for the project. RES filed an application for the project with the Infrastructure Planning Commission in March 2012, and the U.K. government approved construction of the plant in July 2013. Construction was expected to begin this year and take approximately 30 months to complete. 

In announcing the its decision to cease development of the plan, RES noted hundreds of millions of pounds in investment will be lost, along with 300 construction jobs and 50 full-time long-term operational jobs.

“Despite the support the project enjoys locally due to the significant benefits it would bring to the local and regional economy, the North Blyth Biomass Power Station currently faces insurmountable investment barriers due to uncertain Government energy policy,” said Gordon MacDougall, chief operating officer of RES in a statement.  “It’s bitterly disappointing for RES that we are unable to bring this exciting project forward, and deliver the significant boost it would have represented for the Blyth and Northumberland economy.  However, the gradual erosion of support for dedicated biomass leaves us with no other option.”

Nina Skorupska, chief executive of the U.K-based Renewable Energy Association, called the decision a bitter blow for RES, the Northumberland economy, U.K. energy security and climate change. “The government used to have a clear policy of supporting the most affordable low carbon technologies, which saw biomass projects attract healthy investment,” Skorupska said. “However, recent government actions have eroded investor confidence in the biomass sector. The result is project cancellations totaling hundreds of MWs and millions of pounds of inward investment. This row-back on biomass leaves a huge hole in the Government’s plans to keep the lights on with low carbon technology. It is also a missed opportunity for cost-effective emissions savings and thousands of new jobs. The government now must move swiftly to protect both existing and future investment, by giving a strong, clear and positive message that the UK is still open for business for biomass.”