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Highland Council agrees £2.8 million for expert team to scope an energy from waste plant on the Longman that could save millions on landfill taxes


By Scott Maclennan

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The former Longman dump stretching along the Firth coastline which is now earmarked for an energy from waste plant.
The former Longman dump stretching along the Firth coastline which is now earmarked for an energy from waste plant.

A GREEN energy hub for the Highland capital, which could cost up to £190 million, has moved a step closer.

Highland councillors agreed to spend £2.8 million on a scoping exercise for the creation of an energy from waste plant in the Longman.

The project would help cut costs spent on sending waste to landfill – around £11 million to dispose of 80,000 tonnes of rubbish each year.

The plans for an expert review of options were agreed at a full meeting of the council.

The long-awaited energy plant could cost anything from £95 million to £190 million.

The £2.8 million will be spent on legal, technical, financial, procurement, insurance, engineering, architectural and ecological requirements as well as public and partner engagement.

“It is something that has been a long time in gestation, but probably there has never been a better time than now, due to the sheer cost to the council of the landfill tax, the green agenda and the opportunities that are now afforded to turn waste into hydrogen.” – Cllr Alan Henderson

Councillors welcomed the move, with Inverness South’s Andrew Jarvie believing it opens a whole host of opportunities for the north ranging from crypto currencies to data centres.

“In 2012, councils were given nine years to cease sending waste to landfill and the landfill tax has tripled since 2008 – the council’s annual bill is around £8 million,” he said.

“Since 2012, the council has paid in the region of £60 million in landfill tax, this is the same as the build costs of a small energy from waste plant at the time.

“So with all this dithering, we could have built and paid off one by now – before any profits from energy generation are considered.

“I’ve spent years just trying to get the council to build what we know needs to be built, it would have to cost a staggering £8 million per year to not break even, it is a clear spend to save, and construction costs will have doubled in a decade.

“Too much time has been spent talking about partnerships, which haven’t yet resulted in a firm proposal, and too many issues viewed as an immovable barrier.

“However, one of the key issues the council has faced with energy generation is that permission for grid connection has been turned down.

“There is a huge part of the technology industry that needs power, and either build their own sites or buy direct from an energy generation plant.

“These are large energy consumers for whom getting electricity at even 10 per cent below grid prices from a direct supplier, who also avoids grid charges, is a significant saving.”

Such energy consumers include data centres run by internet giants like Microsoft, which believes that locating them underwater is an asset to cooling, making the Longman site potentially viable.

But with the UK Treasury planning a UK Central Bank Digital Currency, Cllr Jarvie believes crypto currencies could also be an option.

“What I am most keen to explore is providing electricity directly to crypto asset miners, the most common being Bitcoin,” he said.

“I would pour every ounce of my energy into making the Highlands the crypto asset capital of the UK, the opportunities are significant and profound, and this energy from waste plant is just one thing.”

Alan Henderson, chairman of the council’s communities and place committee, who has long called for a better waste strategy for the Highlands, welcomed the step forward.

“It is something that has been a long time in gestation, but probably there has never been a better time than now, due to the sheer cost to the council of the landfill tax, the green agenda and the opportunities that are now afforded to turn waste into hydrogen,” he said.

“Down on the Longman there is a great opportunity to turn that into a green energy hub, and that is what the country is looking for.

“Estimate costs could be anywhere from £95 million to £190 million, but that entirely depends on how far you develop the scheme.

“There are so many different combinations involved, and that is why we were asking for the £2.8 million so we can bring in that expertise that can help with that. Excellent [council] officers have been working on this for many years, but they have taken it as far as they can.

“It is not that we don’t have the waste, so we have that energy source, and it costs £8 million to go to landfill and it costs £3 million to take it elsewhere ,and that is money that can actually be spent elsewhere to help the Highlands on the green agenda.”


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