Fife gas plant wins bid to increase power output despite councillors’ opposition

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Plans to increase the power output at a gas fired peaking plant in Fife have gone ahead despite the Council’s 2019 climate emergency declaration.

The permission for a gas-fired peaking plant at Inverkeithing’s Belleknowes Industrial Estate has been granted for years, but now developers have tweaked their plans - allowing them to produce more energy.

Blackshed Generation Ltd already had permission to build a gas-fired electricity generating facility at Inverkeithing’s Belleknowes Industrial Estate - West and Central planning councillors approved those plans in 2020. In December 2022, the Greenock based energy company tweaked their plans and gained permission to extend the lifetime of the gas plant from 20 to 25 years. On Wednesday councillors approved the latest plans to expand the plant’s energy output from 19.9 megawatts (MW) to 20.7MW.

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“There is existing, extant planning permission that can be implemented for development,” planning officers explained. “The current proposals are for an increase in capacity for output from the plant. That stems from technological advances which can increase the efficiency of the plant. "

Inverkeithing’s Belleknowes Industrial Estate (Pic: Submitted)Inverkeithing’s Belleknowes Industrial Estate (Pic: Submitted)
Inverkeithing’s Belleknowes Industrial Estate (Pic: Submitted)

Councillor Lesley Backhouse (SNP for Burntisland, Kinghorn and Western Kirkcaldy) staunchly opposed the expansion..

“We’re meant to be transitioning away from gas. We demolished the Longannet power station but now we want to put a gas unit in the middle of an industrial unit not that far from a residential area,” she argued.

“I’m surprised this has already got permission given the amount of renewables we already have in Fife. I’m dismayed actually. This is not even creating employment in the local area.”

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She continued: “I’m mainly concerned about the environmental impact of gas fired power plants to balance the grid when Scotland is exporting the majority of excess electricity [in the UK]. It’s not needed up here.”

Council officers responded to her concerns, emphasising that the plant will only be turned on in the event that it is needed to balance the grid.

“The point would be that in times when there are high levels of demand and low levels of renewables, the gas fired plant would kick in to avoid situations where consumers are left with an absence of supply,” officers said.

“Ultimately I would expect there to be a shift towards battery storage [of renewable energy to sustain the grid] but we don’t have that capacity in the network at present. If we never require additional supply, then this gas powered plant will never kick in.”

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Officers continued: “We’ve had a number of applications coming through where battery storage is proposed but those facilities are not there yet. We have before us an application for something which already has consent in a less efficient format. The current proposals would see reduction in the amount of gas used to produce a greater amount of energy. I would say that’s a positive.”

Councillor Alie Bain (SNP for Cowdenbeath) was also critical of the plans, calling the use of gas "nonsense."

“At some point we have to accept that battery storage is the future. We should not be building any new gas fired power stations,” he said.

However, Councillor John Beare (SNP for Glenrothes North, Leslie and Markinch) argued that the council had no choice but to approve the updated gas plant proposals.

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“The reality is that there is a planning application already extant. This is just a refinement of what’s already there. Do I particularly want to see more peaking plants or gas use? No, I don’t, but I think we are in a transitional period. I think there are no sustainable grounds to refuse this. We have no option but to approve,” Cllr Beare said.

Following council approval on Wednesday, Blackshed Generation Ltd has permission to build a 20.7MW gas fired peaking plant at Inverkeithing’s Belleknowes Industrial Estate. That plant has permission to exist for 25 years.

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