Green energy company, JV Energen, which was hailed as a breakthrough in renewable energy production, has been investigated for numerous health and safety breaches after an unauthorised leak of more than 1,000 tonnes of global-heating gases.
The incident took place in 2020, when methane, CO2, and traces of the toxic gas hydrogen sulphide were released from a gas-holder at the plant for 38 days, causing a “significant” impact on the environment, according to the Environment Agency. The agency also investigated JV Energen for breaches involving “flammable and toxic” substances.
JV Energen turns crops into gas and electricity, which are used in the local area, as well as to create fertilisers for local farms.
The plant is located on land belonging to the Duchy of Cornwall at Rainbarrow Farm near Dorchester, and is partially controlled by the Duke of Cornwall. The duchy is a hereditary estate that raises revenues for whoever is the male heir to the throne.
The duchy receives a 59% share of JV Energen profits and has received more than £1 million in rent and £6 millions in interest from a series of loans it has provided to JV Energen. It made JV Energen the most profitable of duchy’s joint ventures.
As a producer of green energy, the plant also received significant government subsidies of more than £28m (roughly $38.8m) since its launch in 2012.
The Health and Safety Executive investigated the plant after the 2020 leak and issued a series of improvement notices, while uncovering other safety breaches:
unsafe use and storage of propane gas
failures to prevent “flammable atmosphere formation” at the site
mishap to test ventilation equipment that protects staff from exposure to potentially toxic gases
The agency also contradicted assessments of JV Energy consultants who said that the damage of leak was equivalent to just over 1,000 tonnes of CO2. Instead an agency official said it could be measured as 2,000 tonnes at least.
The investigation into JV Energen’s safety breaches follows other emergencies connected to green energy firms, such as a fire at a Teesport Renewable Energy Plant in Redcar and Cleveland, North East England and a wind turbine collapse in Scotland. These incidents highlight the importance of ensuring the safety of renewable energy production and the need for stronger regulation in this sector.