The Peterhead Power Station

The Peterhead Power Station

Equinor is working with Scottish energy company SSE to build the Peterhead Power Station, a new gas burning power station in Peterhead, in the North East of Scotland. They are currently applying for planning permission from the Scottish Government to go ahead with the project. An existing gas power station in the area is already the biggest polluter in Scotland, and this development threatens to make these emissions even worse. The new Peterhead Power Station will lock people in the UK into reliance on expensive and polluting gas for decades to come. Plans to fit carbon capture and storage (css) technology to the new plant are unrealistic and dangerous as they risk legitimising the continued extraction and burning of fossil fuels.

New gas burning power stations will lock in reliance on fossil fuels

With their plans to build the new Peterhead gas power station, Equinor and SSE are claiming to be trying to guarantee future demand for gas from the North Sea. Equinor makes huge profits from supplying gas to the UK and therefore has a big vested interest in the continuation of this industry. A brand new Peterhead power station would guarantee demand for gas for decades, long past the Scottish Government’s 2045 Net Zero target. Building new fossil fuel infrastructure now slows down the vital transition to renewable energy.

Burning gas for electricity is expensive and polluting

Not only is burning gas to produce electricity hugely polluting – the existing gas burning power station in Peterhead is Scotland’s no. 1 polluter – it is also expensive. The price of gas has spiked in the last few years, plunging millions of people in the UK into fuel poverty. Gas prices are notoriously volatile and prone to spikes like this, meaning that the longer we rely on the fossil fuel, the longer people will be vulnerable to falling into fuel poverty. Gas with carbon capture (CCS) attached is even more expensive, and what’s more, CCS technology is funded with taxpayer money, so people will be paying for it twice – in tax and in higher energy bills.

Renewables are more reliable

On the other hand, renewable energy has been proved to be 9 times cheaper than gas to produce, and the cost is becoming lower all the time. The price is also much more reliable and less prone to fluctuating, providing more security for consumers. Currently, the price of renewable energy is tied to the price of gas, pushing the price artificially high, but if this was decoupled the price would be drastically lower. In Scotland, we already generate more renewable energy than we use – instead of investing in new fossil fuel infrastructure like the Peterhead power station we should be focusing on ramping up renewables including upgrading the grid and developing storage solutions.

Peterhead Carbon Capture Power Station = Greenwash

Equinor and SSE claim that the new Peterhead power station will be fitted with CCS technology that would capture over 90% of the emissions from the plant and store the carbon deep under the North Sea. In reality, there is no precedent for this rate of carbon capture across the entire world – in fact, the highest recorded rates of capture have been more like 60%, meaning that even in the best case scenario the plant would still be a huge polluter. There are also no examples of CCS working on a gas burning power station anywhere in the world, and no evidence to suggest that the Peterhead power station will be any different. Oil and gas companies like Equinor are using the promise of CCS as an excuse to carry on extracting and burning fossil fuels without any consequences.

New gas is not a Just Transition

Due to the unreliable nature of CCS technology and the funding attached to it, the jobs that are provided by it are often short term and unstable. Workers in the oil and gas industry in Scotland have set out demands for a Just Transition away from fossil fuels, and job security features prominently in these demands. The number of jobs provided by the new Peterhead power station will be, by the developers’ own admission, ‘not significant’. For a truly Just Transition, workers and communities must be at the heart of decision making around the transition, and must be provided with secure and viable alternatives to working in the fossil fuel industry.

Resistance to the new Peterhead power station

The plans for the new Peterhead power station have already met with significant resistance from climate, conservation and fuel poverty groups. 44 organisations across Scotland signed an open letter urging the Scottish Government to reject the plans, and activists have staged protests outside Equinor’s Aberdeen offices and SSE’s headquarters in Perth. Resisting this new piece of fossil fuel infrastructure is key to the anti-fossil fuel movement in Scotland, as unlike offshore infrastructure it comes under the Scottish Government’s jurisdiction.

Keep up to date with the campaign on Friends of the Earth Scotland's website here.