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Energy / Call to move ownership of incinerator away from the council

SHEAP director says there are ‘tremendous opportunities’ in waste incineration

SHEAP interim managing director Derek Leask (left) and operations manager Matt Chattell. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

THE COMPANY behind the Lerwick district heating scheme says it would like a greater say in how the council owned energy recovery plant (ERP) is being run in order to grow its business and maximise opportunities in waste incineration.

Shetland Heat Energy and Power Ltd (SHEAP) is joined at the hip to the Greenhead based incinerator which provides about 95 per cent of the hot water that heats around 1,000 houses and a further 200 non-domestic properties including schools and the leisure centre in Lerwick.

But with the incinerator now in its 21styear of a 20 to 25 year long lifespan, Shetland Islands Council is undertaking a review into the future of the 6.3 MW energy recovery plant within an isles-wide zero waste strategy that would see more domestic waste recycled rather than burnt.

Chairman of the environment and transportation committee, councillor Ryan Thomson, said the review would look at all options conceivable and is expected to report back before the end of the year.

Interim manager at SHEAP Derek Leask, meanwhile, is promoting the idea to move ownership of the ERP away from the council to an arms length organisation to create the economic conditions that would allow the district heating scheme to expand its business.

Leask, who has been a SHEAP director for the last three years and has now been seconded from Ocean Kinetics to provide management support to the Shetland Charitable Trust owned company, believes that a merger of some kind would allow SHEAP to attract finance to upgrade the ERP without the need of hard-to-get local authority funding.

He said such a move would allow for much needed investment and upgrade of the ERP in order to expand the district heating scheme’s network to allow more people to benefit from affordable heat (at a cost of 6.9 pence per kw/h rather than 17 pence per kw/h for electricity) and thus help reduce fuel poverty.

Leask said that with the ban on landfill for biodegradable municipal waste coming into force in little more than a year and a half, Lerwick’s incinerator will be well placed to accept domestic waste from other local authority areas despite the national target of a 70 per cent recycling rate by 2025.

“There is an opportunity for us out there,” he said. “We would like to expand, develop and utilise the waste resource that is out there.

“We are still ahead in the game and we should grab that opportunity.

“If we could have direct control of the ERP, we could run it more efficiently and invest into the plant.”

Earlier this year, the Lerwick ERP came to the rescue of NHS Scotland when it took in low grade NHS waste such as soiled dressings and swabs to ease a national backlog that was created by the clinical waste firm Healthcare Environmental Services going out of business.

Leask said with Scottish local authorities way behind in preparing for the ban on landfill, Lerwick’s ERP could become a vital national asset.

“We want to grow the company and believe there is an urgency for this to be resolved so that we can take advantage of this tremendous opportunity,” he said.

Councillor Thomson said he could not comment on SHEAP’s proposal due to the commercial nature of the ERP review, but added: “Derek and his team have kindly invited me to a meeting to discuss the future challenges, and I look forward to doing so in the near future.”

SHEAP is in discussion with Hjaltland Housing Association with a view to connecting up to 300 new houses planned at the Staney Hill. The company also has the idea of providing localised district heating set-ups in rural housing schemes.

“SHEAP is a community asset and we would like to develop it further; there is no requirement to generate a large profit, any surplus goes to the Shetland Charitable Trust,” Leask said.