Plans are afoot to use the heat produced at a biomass plant built for the defunct Tullis Russell Papermakers to develop a district heating network in Glenrothes.

The RWE Markinch Biomass CHP plant was commissioned in 2014 to replace Tullis Russell’s previous coal and gas-fired plant with additional power being exported to the grid.

Tullis Russell Papermakers went into administration in early 2015 and its electrical crepe paper division was later bought out by a group of employees to form Glenrothes Paper, which is still powered by the RWE biomass plant.

Now Fife Council, RWE and the Scottish Government are working on a business case for using some of the additonal heat generated at the plant to meet local residential and commercial needs.

Ian Calvert, head of biomass at RWE, said the project could have a significant economic and environmental impact on the local community while also supporting the government’s climate change targets.

Fife Council’s sustainability champion and Labour councillor John Wincott added that using a central plant would lead to cost reductions for local consumers.

“District heating has the potential to reduce both fuel poverty and carbon emissions,” he said. “By using a central heat plant the costs can be reduced and efficiencies of scale generated that could benefit both commercial and domestic users.”

Engineering firm WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff is working on the technical and business case for the network, with funding for the research phase being provided by Scotland’s Low Carbon Transition Programme, which is supported by the European Regional Development Fund.

In the initial phase WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff will interview local businesses and residents to determine their heating requirements and how much would have to be spent to connect them into a district scheme. It is expected that it will conclude this work by November.