Incinerator’s future to come under scrutiny

Councillors will this year be asked to consider how best to deal with the ageing waste to heat energy plant which fuels the town’s district heating system.

The key decision will come amid growing concerns that the long-running Rova Head plant is approaching the end of its natural life, and is in need of upgrading or replacement.

SIC officials have been prompted to prepare a range of possible options for elected members to debate this summer.

Councillors will this year be asked to consider how best to deal with the ageing waste to heat energy plant
Councillors will this year be asked to consider how best to deal with the ageing waste to heat energy plant

The question of possibly replacing the plant forms part of a 50-year investment plan within the SIC, which examines where big spikes in spending may be required over the coming decades.Also in the mix is a draft code of practice on recycling, which is being worked up by Scottish government officials.

Also in the mix is a draft code of practice on recycling, which is being worked up by Scottish government officials.
Among its aims is an ambition to ensure all of Scotland’s 32 local authorities recycle the same things in the same way.

SIC staff have been working alongside Holyrood officials to examine the best means of waste disposal in the isles and ensure the challenges of dealing with waste in small and rural communities such as Shetland are recognised at Edinburgh-level.

Head of infrastructure Maggie Sandison said work had already started to determine all possible options, which will go before councillors at some point during the summer.

“I really think by this summer we will have a greater sense of what the solution will be. The bit that’s changed is we are now working more closely with the government. I went to see them in November with Sheap and the charitable trust.

“We need to understand what legislation changes are going to do.

“We need to understand what the energy mix for Shetland is going to be in the future, and is energy recovery still part of that? We can’t do that work without some involvement from national government.”

She said the energy recovery plant was originally designed for a 25-year lifespan and would require replacement burners in time.

“So we need to make a decision… whether or not that future investment is appropriate.”

Mrs Sandison said part of the question stemmed from changes in attitudes to waste. At its conception, the main driver from government was to prevent waste going to landfill, whereas nowadays the focus is more on recycling.

“The government are very clear that their preference is that they would rather see recycling than incineration of waste” – although she stressed that the energy plant was “entirely acceptable” to the Scottish government for now, and meets the environmental objectives for the isles.

“Incineration is more sensible for people heating their homes than using oil.”

But she said waste was reducing, citing the recent introduction of the 5p charge on plastic bags which has “completely wiped out” a large degree of plastics in waste.

The energy plant forms one part of Shetland’s power sources, with much of the focus in the last year or two being on the new power station planned for nearby.

In 2014 the electricity watchdog Ofgem forced a delay on Scottish Hydro Electric Power Distribution’s plans to replace Lerwick’s old and out-dated power station.

The watchdog had argued SHEPD had “not sufficiently tested the market” and demanded a “market-based solution” through competitive tendering.

Speaking to The Shetland Times on Wednesday, SHEPD’s corporate affairs spokesman, Gavin Steel, said the project was still going through the tendering process. But he said the company hoped to offer an update on the project within the next two to three weeks.

“The tendering process has come about as a result of Ofgem’s decision not to accept the plan we originally submitted. Essentially we’ve been working closely with them at each stage of the way, and are hopeful we will be providing an update shortly with final details of the invitation to tender and the programme for the rest of the process.”


Add Your Comment
  • Paul O'Brien

    • January 8th, 2016 11:01

    When the Lerwick district heating system was first set up it was a flagship project for Shetland and Scotland. SIC should be looking to replace the current system with a project of similar vision.
    Given Shetland’s excellent wind resource one possible option would be a wind-to-ammonia project that could be sized to replace the incineration plant for the district heating system and the SSE Lerwick power station.
    Building a Phase one of the existing planned Viking project scaled to provide enough power to deliver the replacement of the SSE power station and the incineration plant would make a great deal of sense. The ammonia can be stored and provide the necessary energy storage to deliver when the wind is low or not available through a gas turbine plant as part of a CHP plant to serve Lerwick district heating supply power to the whole of Shetland. This would be a project that would put Shetland at the forefront of zero carbon innovation but with tried and tested technology.

    • John Tulloch

      • January 8th, 2016 13:59

      Paul O’Brien,

      Anybody can “lead the world” in “zero carbon” energy provided they’re also prepared to “lead the world” in the most expensive energy table, too.

      The price of wind energy is already 2-3 times the price of conventional energy, even before you start installing ammonia plant.

      It’s all very well and good but SOMEBODY has to pay for it.

  • John Tulloch

    • January 8th, 2016 13:53

    This is typical of the kind of meddling tosh that comes from Holyrood and – in equal measure – from Ofgem/Westminster.

    There is a huge gas plant on Lerwick’s doorstep which can and should supply the new power station with gas, via a pipline of aufficient size to supply Lerwick with gas directly and a distribution/bottling plant to supply gas to the remaknder of Shetland.

    The SHEAP district heating system is currently far too expensive and if, instead of supplementing waste incineration by the most expensive electricity available, wind energy, and oil, it used gas-firing to boost its output, Shetland’s energy could be far cheaper.

    The SIC thinks the latest fuel poverty estimate of 40 percent of Shetland households is understating the problem and a huge reduction in cost could be achieved by implementation of the above suggestion, not to mention, a low risk project for Shetland Charitable Trust to invest in.

    This would be easily implemented in an autonomous Shetland.

    • John N Hunter

      • January 8th, 2016 15:44

      The plans for the new Lerwick power station include an option for a gas pipeline from Sullom Voe.

      Historically SHEAP charges for district heating were set to undercut oil. However the plunge in oil prices must make that difficult. They have plans to use other sources of heat such as a biomas plant and a wind turbine. Use of waste heat from the new power station is a distinct possibility.

    • Johan Adamson

      • January 11th, 2016 8:56

      Nobody now knows yet what the new power station will be since the proposed one was not approved but we should know in the next few weeks according to SSE

      • John Tulloch

        • January 11th, 2016 15:31

        We ken what it’ll no be Johan, gas-fired – because the gas pipeline wis ruled out unless Viking Energy is ditched?

        Why are these folk in London interfering in what is Shetland’s business?

  • John Tulloch

    • January 9th, 2016 21:34


    Thanks for that info.

    If the incinerator was designed to “undercut the price of oil” then the price of oil twenty years ago was around $30/barrel, cheaper than it is now. So what happened?

    The oil price should be insignificant except insofar as oil-fired heating is used to supplement the available heat from waste incineration.

    If the oil price is a significant factor then the price of heat should, surely, be tumbling, too?

    Apart from waste heat from the new power station, which will only be available if the Viking Energy project is abandoned, the options you mention are all twice the price (plus) of conventional energy and much dearer than gas supplied direct from a pipeline would be.

    The viability of power station waste heat will depend primarily on the cost of the associated installation, the extent of losses from the system – Rova Head is a fair distance – and the price paid per unit of heat.

    As long as it’s competitive with gas, waste heat will be fine and should be used.

    • John N Hunter

      • January 10th, 2016 14:02

      A limited company like SHEAP has to cover its costs so it can only reduce its prices so far.

      • John Tulloch

        • January 11th, 2016 9:39

        Then it’s valid to question whether it’s a wise investment and given that the hot water system is rumoured to be in poor condition, needing over three tonnes of make-up water per day to compensate for leaks, whether it would not be better to use the money to install gas mains around Lerwick as I suggested above?

        Ultimately, if oil and gas remain cheap, consumers will ditch their district heating and switch back to oil.

        Shale gas and oil fields are not restricted to the United States, vast resources of both lie situated around the globe.

        With a huge gas terminal at Sullom Voe it’s crazy not to benefit from its product which is, otherwise, shipped south and then back up again, in tankers!

  • John Tulloch

    • January 10th, 2016 22:37

    More bad news for North Sea oil – and renewable energy! – if the following article based on a report by Norwegian oil consultancy Rystad is accurate:

    Oil and gas, it seems, will be very cheap for quite a while, exactly what Shetland needs to power wir future.

  • iantinkler

    • January 11th, 2016 10:22

    All pollutants from burning domestic waste, a simple fact.”Hydrocarbons, chlorinated materials and pesticide compounds and a wide range toxic gases harmful to the environment and public health.
    These gases contain dioxins / furans, volatile organic compounds, particulate matter (PM),
    hydrogen chloride (HCl), carbon monoxide (CO) and oxides of sulfur and nitrogen and liberate
    metals including antimony, arsenic, barium, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, lead, manganese,
    mercury, phosphorus and titanium. ” All from burning domestic waste. These are just the toxins we are breathing. CO2 is an obvious gas produced by burning and we have the idiocy of having to import waste by sea. Money wasted on a wood pelleting, strange we have to import pellets and wood from the USA into Scotland to keep the furnaces fuelled, just what CO2 footprint does that give. Now gas from Sullom would be far cleaner, far cheaper. Green lunacy rules!! and a few directors et al earn their crust!!!

    • Johan Adamson

      • January 12th, 2016 9:02

      I wis wondering about the plastic bag burning, glad its not happening any more. What is Orkney going to do with all its waste if no heat to energy?


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