UEA has invested £2.25m into a planned biomass power station on the outskirts of Norwich. The company behind the venture, Norwich Powerhouse LLP, last week filed for insolvency, with debts totaling £3m.
The site was planned to be located in Thorpe Hamlet and was set to include new housing and an education centre. Norwich Powerhouse struggled to find investment for the £370m project. Energy Company Eon also invested £1.4m in the project, which was set to include a straw pellet burning plant.
The plans faced protests when announced last year, with critics of the venture claiming that: “construction on contaminated land could pollute water sources for a nearby Britvic drinks factory, leading to job losses”. Local residents also voiced worries about reduced air quality.
Generation Park’s developers said in a statement released last week that they “regret to announce that the company has faced difficulties securing investment for Generation Park Norwich”. They pinpointed the lack of interest in the venture on “current uncertainty over national support for green energy” and stated that this had made Generation Park Norwich “less attractive to private investors”. The company’s board are currently working with an “insolvency practitioner to work out the best arrangement for creditors”. They insist that the project remains “an excellent vision for the city that would make Norwich an exemplar of green, renewable energy”.
A spokesperson for UEA stated that: “the university is disappointed that the Generation Park Norwich project has been facing funding challenges”. The university “hopes that Norwich Powerhouse will reach an acceptable arrangement with creditors, and that ongoing discussions with potential investors are productive”. The university went on to state that “UEA’s financial investment ended more than two years ago after fostering the early stages of development”. UEA are one of Generation Park’s three founding partners and have confirmed that they remain “supportive” and are “keen to make our own fair contribution to creditors or to any refinancing plan”.
Commenting on the issues, Chris Jarvis, uea|su Campaigns and Democracy Officer said “It’s incredibly important that UEA continues to be an innovator and pioneer on climate change, but the headline £3.25m loss on this project is a real kick in the teeth for students being told they have to pay ever higher rents to fund campus refurbishment.
“Given this comes hot on the heels of losses incurred on the Biomass plant and the closure of UEA London, it’s absolutely essential that the University’s council- which is ultimately responsible for UEA’s finances- learns from these mistakes, opens up its decisions to greater scrutiny and is careful to make sensible investments that retain its climate credentials”.