Plans for a controversial coal-fired power station in Hunterston, Scotland, have been shelved after months of protests and fierce opposition.
Company chiefs at Ayrshire Power Limited (APL), which is owned by Peel Energy, this afternoon confirmed the decision to axe the scheme blaming uncertainty about securing the required financial investment.
In a statement, the company announced that it is withdrawing its planning application for the fiercely opposed power plant in North Ayrshire and were withdrawing from the current CCS demonstration project funding competitions.
Campaigners from the Say No to Hunterston Coalition, which included the Church of Scotland, Christian Aid Scotland, Greenpeace and Scottish Wildlife Trust, have reacted with delight at the news.
Dr Richard Dixon, Director of WWF Scotland, said: "Peel have finally seen sense over the most unpopular planning application ever in Scotland. With the local community and North Ayrshire Council against it, over 22,000 objections and no chance of winning the public inquiry, walking away was the only sensible option.
"This was always the wrong application in the wrong place. Scotland has huge renewable energy resources and several promising sites to try out carbon capture. The last thing we need is a new coal-fired power station hiding behind a green figleaf.
“At a time when we are supposed to be meeting tough climate and ambitious renewable energy targets the Hunterston proposal would have increased Scotland's climate emissions and trashed valuable local wildlife sites. Let's hope a proposal like this never sees the light of day again."
And Aedán Smith, Head of Planning and Development at RSPB Scotland added: “This is absolutely fantastic news. This unnecessary and hugely unpopular proposal would have completely destroyed part of a nationally important wildlife site and seriously undermined Scotland’s ambitions to be a world leader on climate change.
“Although it is disappointing that any developer would even consider such a damaging proposal, we are pleased that Peel have finally recognised the absurdity of these plans and made a sound decision that will save everybody the further time and expense of fighting them. Hopefully we can now focus on delivering the cuts in greenhouse gas emissions we urgently require instead of arguing about this outdated project.
“We would be happy to work with Peel and others to ensure that Scotland’s energy needs can be met through developing energy sustainably and in the right places, and the important wildlife of the Hunterston site can be safeguarded in future.”
Commenting on today's decision, Muir Miller, APL’s project director, said: “Whilst we believe we have a strong case to succeed in the planning inquiry, we cannot proceed with the significant risk that the current power station design and fuel mix could not be funded and built in the necessary timetable following the grant of consent.
“However, we remain convinced that this project could give Scotland a superb opportunity to lead the development of full-scale carbon capture and storage, which will be vital in reducing global emissions and accords with Scottish Government policy to cut carbon emission and back-up intermittent renewable energy supplies.
“The project would also bring a large number of new jobs and new economic opportunities to a hard-pressed area which has been impacted particularly badly by the recession. The opportunity to develop a CCS cluster on the west coast of the UK that could store over one billion tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2050 remains an exciting prospect.
“We still believe that new coal-fired power stations fitted with carbon capture and storage will play an important part in plugging the energy gap until alternative sources of low carbon energy can replace fossil fuels. Hunterston remains an ideal location for such a power station.
“However, the timing of the economic slowdown and funding uncertainty have not worked in our favour. We will now take some time to consider our options and determine under what circumstances we will revisit our proposals.”
The climbdown by APL has also been welcomed by the Scottish Greens.
Patrick Harvie, Green MSP for Glasgow, said: "Ayrshire Power had so far failed to justify the need for a new fossil fuel power station so their climbdown is welcome, if extremely overdue. The communities nearby have been needlessly put through a stressful process, with public health and important wildlife habitats placed under threat.
"Carbon capture was often cited by promoters of the scheme but it is widely accepted that such technology is a distant dream. I hope today's U-turn sends a clear signal that the arguments for fossil fuels simply don't stack up, allowing us to pursue Scotland's renewables potential with vigour."