Incinerator energy to power paper mill

Electricity produced by a controversial incinerator on the edge of King's Lynn will be used to power the neighbouring Palm Paper mill and not homes in the area councillors were told yesterday.

Members of Norfolk County Council's environment, transport, and development review panel yesterday recommended the ruling cabinet should approve awarding the contract to build the �500m scheme to Anglo-US firm Cory Wheelabrator.

Backers of the incinerator scheme say the plant will cut the cost of treating waste by �8m a year and it will play a key part in cutting Norfolk's waste mountain by treating 170,000 tonnes of household waste currently sent to landfill and helping to boost recycling rates from 43pc to 63pc. A further 98,000 tonnes of commercial waste would also be handled at the plant.

But questions were raised about whether officials had downplayed the amount of traffic going in and out of the proposed incinerator site, and there were concerns about the frequency of monitoring dioxin levels on the site.

The scheme at the Saddlebow industrial estate near King's Lynn has sparked concerns about a legal convenant on the site which forbids the generation of electricity, and a clause in the proposed contract which could see council tax-payers faced with a �20m bill if the scheme falls at the planning stage.

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Lib Dem councillor Tim East said some of the council information surrounding the proposals was misleading and he asked if the council would drop the plans if a proposed referendum showed overwhelming opposition.

'Don't you think it's rather disingenuous and inaccurate to say that electricity generation will power 36,000 homes?' Mr East said. 'You well know that the electricity generated by this plant won't be going to power the homes in this vicinity, it will going be going into the large facility that lies adjacent called Palm Paper. To say it provides power to 36,000 homes is very confusing because it doesn't.'

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Joel Hull, the council's project director for the scheme, said the figure had been used as a illustration of the scale of the facility. 'Part of the challenge is some of the benefits of this are so huge we have to use examples like this to make them easier to grasp,' Mr Hull said. 'The amount of electricity is 20 megawatts which is equivalent to the needs of 36,000 homes; it's there to give people a feel for the massive scale that this proposal will be able to deliver.'

Green councillor Andrew Boswell said he had concerns about how the carbon footprint had been calculated.

'The incinerator is being sold to the public as a renewable energy source, but the carbon intensity of the burning process is going to remain constant until 2040,' Dr Boswell said 'This dash for ash is going to be contributing to real percentage point rises in our carbon emissions.'

The meeting also heard that a delay in getting the project up and running would cost the authority �200,000 a week in landfill costs, taxes and fines.

Ann Steward, cabinet member for environment and development, stressed the scheme was not a done deal. 'The award of the contract doesn't mean it automatically goes ahead,' she said. 'There's much more scrutiny and there are statutory processes that have to be concluded before the plant can be built or operate.'

A Cory Wheelabrator spokesman said: 'The facility will generate enough electricity to power the equivalent of 36,000 homes. This electricity will be sold to the National Grid. The facility will also be able to export heat and discussions are being held with potential heat users, including Palm Paper.'

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