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Powerfuel submits planning application for Dorset EfW facility

Powerfuel has submitted a planning application to Dorset Council for the development of an Energy Recovery Facility (ERF) at Portland Port.

The facility will receive up to 202,000 tonnes of refuse derived fuel (RDF) to produce 15 megawatts of low carbon energy, enough to power around 30,000 homes.

The application is now awaiting authorisation from Dorset Council and will then be subject to a period of consultation before it goes to the Dorset planning committee.

Artist's impression of the proposed ERFThe proposed ERF – or Energy-from-Waste (EfW) facility – will be developed on an existing brownfield site that has previously been consented for a facility to incinerate rubber crumb. If granted planning consent the facility will also need an Environmental Permit from the Environment Agency (EA) before it can operate.

EfW makes energy by burning waste to generate electricity and heat through advanced incineration and capture technology.

The proposed Portland facility will see an investment of more than £100 million in Portland, creating around 300 jobs during the construction phase and then 30 direct jobs and around 60 indirect jobs after completion.

In addition, Powerfuel has held preliminary discussions with Weymouth College to establish apprenticeships for local young people. It is anticipated that the proposed ERF will offer two apprenticeship positions, ongoing during its operation.

Steve McNab, Director at Powerfuel, said: “This application is the result of months of work to deliver a sustainable solution to Dorset’s and the UK’s waste problem. There is major under-capacity in the UK for ERFs, with 2.7 million tonnes of waste exported to the EU every year and 14.5 million tonnes still being sent to landfill. 

“All of Dorset’s residual waste (after recycling) is currently sent out of the county and/or country for processing. The Portland ERF will take up to 202,000 tonnes per annum of RDF and use it to generate low carbon energy, reducing the need to use fossil fuels such as coal and gas.

“In the era of climate emergency, we need to manage our waste better and increase our use of low carbon sources to generate electricity. We are really proud that Powerfuel Portland will be a net zero carbon project as any carbon produced from the process will be offset.” 

Powerfuel is aware of several concerns about the project raised by local residents and has sought to clarify what it calls ‘misinformation’ around EfW facilities, claiming that such facilities do not reduce recycling rates and that traffic increases will be minimal, while the ERF will provide heating for local communities and will provide power for ships docked in Portland Port.

The Portland ERF follows a pattern of numerous EfW plants being built or granted building permits in recent months. These facilities are popping up all over England with new sites announced in Kemsley, Wiltshire, London, Drakelow and Hampshire.

Debates over EfW are rife in the environmental and resource sectors. Despite UK think tank Policy Connect arguing that EfW plants are the answer to the national waste crisis, the Environmental Services Association (ESA) has kicked back at criticism over the environmental impact of EfWs, demanding that media outlets such as the Guardian and Greenpeace’s Unearthed stop demonising EfW following claims that incinerators are three times more likely to be built in poor areas than rich areas disproportionately affect BAME communities.

Furthermore, in 2018, the Chief Scientific Advisor to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) warned against further investment in EfW capacity in the UK, saying it would limit innovation in recycling and a 2017 report from Eunomia claimed that increased EfW reliance could harm future recycling figures.

The ESA has rebuffed these claims and said that failing to increase EfW capacity could see the UK sleepwalk into a residual waste capacity crisis.

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