THE fate of Southampton’s proposed biomass plant could rest in the hands of the city council.

Anti-biomass campaigners say Helius, the firm behind the proposed 100 mega watt dock plant, needs to find a local demand for the energy produced if it is to take advantage of vital Government funding.

And they say the city council is the only potential source available for the energy created at the plant – and have urged civic chiefs to reject using it and therefore sink the entire project.

The proposed plant in Freemantle has generated a furious backlash among the community since plans were first unveiled in 2011.

The No Southampton Biomass (NSB) group was formed to battle the scheme, and the group has won broad backing from politicians in the city.

But, just weeks after it was revealed that discussions have taken place about locating a second plant in Portsmouth, a new cap on Government subsidies threw fresh doubt on the scheme.

The cap, which has been introduced by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), means that only new biomass stations registered before the 400MW cap is reached will definitely get subsidies.

Firms wanting DECC support need to be fully accredited under the Combined Heat and Power Quality Assurance (CHPQA) scheme, which dictates that plants must meet a genuine demand for heat or replace a need for new gas boilers.

NSB believe that unless Helius can find that demand to get the accreditation, the company will not get Government subsidies and the plans will collapse.

Group member Steven Galton said: “In this case the city council are surely the only people that could provide a large enough end user for Helius to gain CHPQA compliance.

“By the council categorically telling Helius we will never buy your heat Helius could be left with no way to utilise their heat element and therefore the power station would be completely financially unworkable under the new Government subsidy schemes.”

Cllr Warwick Payne, the council’s Cabinet member for housing and sustainability, said the authority is not factoring energy produced from Helius into its plans on how energy is provided in the future. He said: “I am not having any talks with Helius over the energy that may be provided from their plant.

“It was perhaps shortsighted to put any faith in energy coming forward from a plant that isn’t guaranteed to be built.

“We are not factoring any energy from Helius into our plans for how we provide energy for the council estates and other council buildings.

“We are drawing up plans to provide our own district energy scheme and are looking for partners in the city, who may wish to join us and improve the economies of scale.”

A spokesman for Helius said: “The proposed scheme is still in the pre-application stage of the development consent process and investigations regarding potential commercially viable heat users are ongoing.

“It is anticipated that, once in operation, the proposed scheme will comply with the necessary requirements to receive support through the Contract for Difference scheme.”

  • Additional reporting by Rory McKeown.