Government intervenes on Uskmouth EfW

The Welsh Government will take over the review process of an energy from waste (EfW) plant application in Newport after ordering Natural Resources Wales (NRW) to transfer it.

The application to convert the power station was first put forward in 2019

The application by energy company Simec Atlantic Energy (SAE) was first submitted to NRW in 2019.

SAE’s application proposes changes to a power station in Uskmouth, that would see it processing 900,00 tonnes per year of refuse derived fuel (RDF), rather than coal.

In an update published on Wednesday (6 October), NRW says it has been completing a “detailed technical assessment” of the application, however this has now “ceased with immediate effect” after the Welsh Government stepped in.

The NRW statement said: “On 06/10/21 we received a direction from Welsh minister for climate change, Julie James, directing NRW to refer the application by Simec Uskmouth Power Limited – to vary an environmental permit in relation to Uskmouth Power station – to the Welsh ministers for determination.

“Following this direction, our determination of the variation application has ceased with immediate effect, and the case will be determined by the Welsh ministers.”

A Welsh Government spokesperson told letsrecycle.com: “The Welsh ministers have directed Natural Resources Wales to refer the application to vary the environmental permit for Uskmouth Power Station to them for determination. It would not be appropriate to comment further on that application at this stage.”

‘Legal options’

In response to the Welsh government, a spokesperson from SAE said the company will consider “all available legal options to ensure that the Welsh Government understands how critical this project is to South Wales”.

The Welsh government announced a moratorium on EfW earlier this year

The company said NRW had previously indicated that it was minded to award the variation to the existing permit, subject to conditions after a further round of public consultation, initially scheduled for September.

SAE said the “direction has been left to the very end of the NRW process and follows over a year of detailed information sharing between SAE and NRW, which included experts from across Wales, the UK, Europe, and Japan feeding in to demonstrate how the conversion meets all requirements set out by the relevant legislation”.

The statement also said the decision comes as  “blow to South Wales and this vital green energy project at a time when the country is facing an energy crisis with intermittent renewables and a dependency on imported gas causing unsustainable price rises for homes and industries across the UK”.

The company added: “The conversion will be powered by fuel pellets that are derived from non-recyclable waste, destined for landfills and the oceans. A delay to this project will not reduce the production of this waste but instead result in the continued shipping of plastic waste to other countries for it to be burned or the digging of deeper holes in which it will be buried.”

The company released the below video on YouTube about the plant.

Moratorium

This move comes as  the Welsh government unveiled its first circular economy strategy in March, which included plans for a moratorium on EfW (see letsrecycle.com story).

The plan outlines efforts for Wales to become “the best country in the world” at recycling.

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