A planned energy-from-waste combined heat and power (CHP) plant in the UK has been downgraded to power-only after its developers found there were no viable heat customers nearby.

The proposed Rookery South Energy Recovery Facility near Stewartby in Bedfordshire is an undertaking of Veolia in partnership with US-based waste solutions firm Covanta Energy. The two firms will jointly own and operate the plant, which is planned to process 585,000 tonnes of municipal, commercial and non-hazardous industrial waste per year, and to produce up to 60 MWe/40 MWth, with 5 MWe used on-site.

The partners received planning permission in 2012. The Environment Agency is currently consulting on a draft environmental permit for the project, with a closing date of 23 October.

In the supporting documents for the consultation, the Agency said the plant will now be built as ‘CHP-ready’ rather than as a functioning CHP plant, and will be configured to maximize electricity output, because Covanta had been unable to find viable heat offtakers within a 15 km radius.

Although the firm had identified residential developments within 15 km of the plant, the Agency noted that these are currently under construction “so the inclusion of a heat network to these properties is not likely to be available”.

In addition, while Covanta had identified several heat loads, none were above 5 MWth. And the firm stated that “physical restraints” such as rivers, roads and railways also limited the feasibility of heat supply.

In sum, Covanta determined that operating the plant in CHP mode “will not be financially viable”, but that it would be CHP-ready “should it become viable in the future”, for example to supply a residential development and an employment park which recently received planning permission.