NO BIOMESS: Body-Painted Protesters Breach Port Security

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Via Bristol Indymedia

Semi naked Anti Biomess protesters Occupy Avonmouth Port site

19/5/14 – This morning 10 people entered the site of the proposed Helius wood fired Biomass Power Plant, spelling out the message ‘no biomess’ in body paint on their naked torsos.

The Pro renewable energy campaigners from Bristol Rising Tide breached Port security at 9.50 am on land next to St Andrews Road Station.

Jo Edwards explained

“Industrial scale biomass trashes global forests and local health.  This is a friendly shot across the bows – if investors and the Port try to dump more toxic dust and dodgy energy generation on Avonmouth they’re going to find the construction process difficult, expensive & very embarrassing”

If built, the power station would burn 850,000 tonnes of imported wood chip each year and contribute to climate change through CO2 emissions and deforestation.

In a recent BBC interview the company responsible, Helius conceded that at least half of the fuel burnt wouldn’t be UK waste wood. Similar imports to the country’s biggest power station Drax come from clear cutting forests in North America. Importing this amount of wood will drive deforestation, habitat and biodiversity loss and human rights abuses in exporting countries.

Chris Thomson added:

We’re here today in solidarity with communities affected by deforestation to power far-away countries, as well as Avonmouth locals. Residents here are already badly affected by the toxic wood dust from biomass pellet processing that’s brought a rise in respiratory problems to the area ,” said xxxx, who has taken the day off work to attend the protest. “It is in the Port corporation’s power to refuse to lease the land to Helius Energy for this destructive proposal. We wanted to come here while there’s still time to prevent it.”

“Big biomass is a scam waiting to be exposed- an industry dependent on public subsidies which can’t be maintained. Leaks from the government’s own Department for Energy and Climate Change make it clear that industrial scale biomass is worse for the climate than coal, as well as spreading potentially lethal pollution to neighbouring communities. Financers and the Port could be supporting real renewables instead: more wind, wave and solar power would generate more jobs, a lasting return and provide genuine energy security. It’s a no brainer.”

 “Although biomass is currently classified as ‘renewable energy’ by the UK government, large-scale biomass is neither renewable nor environmentally friendly. Even the Mayor has conceded that this biomass proposal is incompatible with Bristol’s aspirations of being a ‘European green capital’ in 2015”.

Residents of Avonmouth are concerned about air pollution and health impacts of the plant: emissions could include nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide and small particulates from wood dust. Bristol Rising Tide are a long established climate justice direct action group who played a key role in bringing the problems associated with Fracking to public attention in 2011. They act independently from but are members of the Avon Coalition Against Big Biofuels.

For further comment and pictures contact bristol@risingtide.org.uk

Notes for the editor

1.                  Helius Energy got planning permission for a 100MW power station  in March 2010. It has failed to secure finance since 2010 but in October 2013 was given a significant kick-start by being included on HM Treasury’s UK Guarantee Scheme shortlist of ‘pre-qualified’ projects for public money to guarantee private loans to private developers of ‘key’ infrastructure projects. Helius is currently seeking further investment in the project.

2.                  The UK Government’s 2012 Bioenergy Strategy states that bioenergy could provide between 8 and 11% of the UK’s primary energy demand in 2020 – i.e. the majority of the country’s overall renewable energy target of 15% by that date. The bulk of this figure would come from burning wood.

3.                  Purpose-built biomass power stations like the one proposed can burn wood from a variety of sources, including woodchips and pellets from eucalyptus and other fast-growing tree plantations. Their operators would be particularly likely to look for cheap supplies from fast-growing tropical and subtropical plantations, which have been drivers of deforestation and human rights abuses. 

4.                  Overall, energy companies have announced plans to burn over 82 million tonnes of biomass, mostly wood, in power stations. This is more than eight times the UK’s total annual wood production. Already, with just a small fraction of the biomass plans implemented, the UK relies on 80% net imports for all of the wood and wood products used across the country.

5.                  Burning biomass in power stations causes similar levels of pollution as burning coal, though biomass emits less of some pollutants (especially sulphur dioxide and mercury) and more of others (such as very small particulates, called PM2.5, and Volatile Organic Compounds).

6.                  Residents near wood chipping facilities in the UK have reported medical complaints including fatigue, respiratory and nasal problems, frequent colds, chest infections, sore throats and coughs. Dust from chemically treated wood is a known carcinogen and an accepted cause of asthma and dermatitis, and has been linked to allergic and non- allergic respiratory effects and various nasal problems.

7.                  Studies from the United States have found evidence that polluting industries often have a disproportionate impact on more deprived communities, including lower class communities and communities of colour. While insufficient research has been conducted on this topic in the UK, studies in recent years have found a geographic relationship between factory location, levels of air pollution and poverty. An investigation by Biofuelwatch in 2013 found that biomass power stations in England are located in areas which are relatively more deprived.

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Take Action to Stop Biofools Invading Portland, Dorset

Cross-posted from NOPE

W4B’s new application to allow them to burn diesel from tyres could bring their palm oil power plans one step closer: Please object today!

fat cat 2

W4B has had planning permission to build a biofuel – likely palm oil – power station in Portland since January 2010. So far they have been unable to finance such a plant – perhaps because investors have been scared off by the level of local opposition and the bad publicity about W4B.

Now, W4B have come up with a new idea: They have applied to have their original planning consent extended to allow them to do several new things. First, to import rubber crumb made from old tyres, involving 26 HGV movements per week – all the way from Bristol. Secondly to process this tyre waste on site using a new untested type of machine into synthetic diesel. Thirdly to transport this diesel off site together with a material called Carbon Black. And eventually they may burn the synthetic diesel on site in diesel engines to generate electricity.

They are still saying they will at some time in the future proceed to build a full power station operating on imported palm oil. They clearly hope that people concerned about palm oil will welcome them wanting to now burn fuels from genuine waste – but there are three good reasons not to be fooled by this:

1) If W4B really wanted to burn diesel made from old tyres (‘synthetic diesel’) instead of palm oil then they could have asked for the planning conditions to allow them to burn only synthetic diesel and no vegetable oils. But this is not what they have done – they are still keeping open the option of burning palm oil.

2) The synthetic diesel which W4B wants to burn does not exist. Companies and research institutes have spent decades trying to turn old tyres into diesel without much success. Nobody has managed to do it at a commercial scale and no power plant anywhere in the world is run that way.

3) If W4B was to actually build the plant they are now speaking of (i.e. one that turns old tyres into diesel and then burns it for electricity), the risks to Portland residents would be high. Those include serious health and safety (i.e. explosion) as well as new air pollution risks. After all this is a completely unproven, experimental process.

Why does W4B want permission to burn a fuel that does not exist?

Nobody in NOPE knows for sure, but we expect that it is part of their so far unsuccessful quest to attract investors. Perhaps they really think they can become the world’s first ever company to manage to turn old tyres into diesel and that into electricity? Venture capitalists are often prepared to take big risks when funding new technologies – and W4B would offer them the ‘safe’ fall-back option of burning palm oil.

Please write to the Planning Officer of Weymouth today to object to W4B’s latest application and please contact your local Councillor to share your concerns. What W4B are asking for should not be considered (and potentially rubber-stamped) as a change to a planning condition: The Council must insist on them submitting a full new application, complete with an Environmental Impact Assessment and the decision must be made by the Planning Committee, not simply by one Planning Officer. For greater impact, please personalise your message.

To take part in this action alert please click here and scroll to the bottom of the new page that opens.

You can also respond directly via the council planning site here.

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DRAXtic Action – Protesting Coal to Biomass Conversion

drax action front

Cross-posted from Biofuelwatch

Join us at their AGM on the 24th of April to demonstrate against Drax swapping one climate crime for another. More information will follow soon. To find out how to get more involved in this campaign email us at biofuelwatch[at]ymail.com

What Drax is planning…

In July 2012, Drax confirmed that it plans to convert half of its capacity to burning biomass – this will make Drax by far the biggest biomass-burning power station in the world. If this goes ahead, Drax will be burning pellets made from up to 15.8 million tonnes of biomass – nearly all of it wood – every year. Since the UK’s total wood production is only 10 million tonnes a year, virtually all of the wood Drax needs will have to be imported.

Drax already burns biomass which comes from Canada, the USA, Portugal and South Africa. Highly biodiverse forests are being clearcut in North America to make wood pellets for UK power stations. This trend is likely to worsen as the industry expands.

In South Africa, communities are losing their land and access to water because biodiverse grasslands are being destroyed for monoculture tree plantations, some of which now supply Drax. As demand for wood pelletsby Drax and other energy firms grows, so too will human rights abuses in the global South as a result of land and water grabbing for biomass.

Add to this the fact that power stations burning wood emit up to 50% more carbon than ones burning coal. Companies and policy makers ignore carbon emissions from burning biomass, claiming that new trees will grow back and absorb it. Yet it tends to take decades before that can happen. And when forests are destroyed and turned into monoculture biomass plantations, much of that carbon will simply stay in the atmosphere.

It is Lucrative Way of Keeping Old, Polluting Power Stations Running for Longer

Energy companies like Drax are not investing in biomass conversions because they want to burn less coal and save the planet. Instead, they are trying to get round EU air quality regulations and thus keep their old, polluting power stations running indefinitely – while cashing in on lucrative subsidies. Although biomass burning is as polluting as coal burning, it emits less SO2 – and Drax does not currently meet EU limits to SO2 which will be binding from 2016. A partial biomass conversion is likely to allow some power stations to burn coal for much longer than they would otherwise have been able to.

And it’s hugely profitable

Drax has been able to persuade the Government to grant generous subsidies towards biomass conversions, securing £672 million for itself in one year alone. These subsidies will be paid for through our fuel bills, as energy companies pass on the costs to the consumer. This comes at a time when, although energy companies are making record profits, communities are experiencing rising fuel poverty and difficulty paying their bills.

Replacing one destructive fuel with another is not the answer

Coal and biomass destroy communities, ecosystems, people’s health and the climate. The impact of big biomass mirrors that of the coal industry, and painting these industries green is not the solution. We need solutions which focus on an end to large scale coal and biomass.

Drax is not the only power station planned for conversion in the UK. Read more about the full scale of the problem here

Download our briefing on conversions here

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Stop The ROCs (UK)

There is still time to stop subsidies for biofuel power stations in Britain, but we have to act now!

If you’re already aware of the issues, then you can skip straight to the What can we do about it section.

Cross-posted from the Sumatran Orangutan Society (SOS)

One of the main causes of deforestation in Indonesia, and the greatest threat to orangutans in the wild, is the conversion of forests to oil palm plantations. As more and more forests fall, other critically endangered species, including Sumatran elephants, tigers and rhinos, are also put at risk.

Such ‘development’ is usually followed by increased levels of hunting, poaching, human-wildlife conflict, illegal logging, forest fires, and human rights abuses. Tropical forests are crucial carbon sinks, so losing these habitats would be catastrophic in terms of the global fight to prevent dangerous climate change.

Yet, shockingly, the UK government is offering subsidies to power stations to burn biofuels – including palm oil – to generate electricity.  And what’s more, this is being funded through our fuel bills!

These subsidies, called Renewables Obligation Certificates (ROCs) are the government’s way of supporting renewable energy technologies, as part of plans to reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. Nobody would deny that we need more investment in renewables, but, as well as supporting clean technologies such as wind farms, ROCs also finance electricity generation from the burning of bioliquids such as palm oil.

On top of the threat that this increase in demand for palm oil poses to tropical forests and biodiversity, burning palm oil as a fuel has been shown to actually lead to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions!

Bioliquids – what is the Government proposing?

The Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) is proposing to support the burning of up to 500,000 tonnes of bioliquids per year. A large proportion of this would be palm oil, as it is by far the cheapest vegetable oil. This target equates to 110,000 hectares of oil palm plantations, and could result in the doubling of the amount of palm oil imported into the UK each year. Simply asking DECC to exclude palm oil from the subsidies isn’t an option due to rules imposed by the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive.

What about ‘good’ bioliquids?

Used cooking oil can also be classified as a bioliquid, and is eligible for the same subsidies as palm oil. It is considered to be the most ‘climate friendly’ biofuel, but is already in very short supply and in high demand, for example for transport.  The volumes available could only meet a tiny proportion of our energy needs.

Since the government can’t differentiate between ‘good’ bioliquids and those that are worse for the climate than the fossil fuels they are replacing, then no subsidies should be offered for any bioliquids.

What can we do about it?

The subsidies will be made available from April 2013 – but the government is putting the finishing touches to their plans in February. We only have a matter of weeks to convince DECC to revise the proposals.

1) Please sign the petition to UK Energy Minister John Hayes, asking him to scrap subsidies for burning bioliquids, including palm oil, in power stations.

2) Please write to your MP and ask them to raise this issue as a matter of urgency with John Hayes and Energy Secretary Ed Davey. Please follow the instructions below to contact your MP:

  • You can find out who your MP is here
  • To contact them by Email: Go to their website, which will provide their email address.
  • To contact them by Letter: Send a letter to your MP at House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA
  • You can use this Template letter. Please personalise the letter if you have time, as this will have more impact.
  • We have prepared a Parliamentary Briefing which you can download and send to your MP, outlining exactly what our objections are to the government’s proposals, and what they can do: Bioliquids and the Renewables Obligation Parliamentary Briefing
  • Always include your own postal address when contacting your MP (even by email), so that they know you are one of their constituents – otherwise you may not receive a reply.

3) Please share this campaign - we need as many people as possible to let the government know that we do not want our fuel bills to subsidise deforestation.

 

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Report condemns EU push for biomass-fuelled ‘green economy’ at Rio+20

Cross-posted from World Development Movement

EU plans to promote the replacement of fossil fuels with biomass at the Rio+20 Earth Summit could lead to hunger and environmental devastation, according to a report released today by the World Development Movement and the Transnational Institute.

The report, ‘Bio-economies: the EU’s real ‘Green Economy’ agenda’, condemns the EU’s bio-economy vision as “a tantalising mirage, promising a green future but likely to deliver a parched and arid reality”.

The EU’s bio-economy policy aims to replace fossil fuels with biomass – including wood fibres, grass, bamboo, soybeans, corn and algae – as a source of energy and in the production of plastics and other manufactured goods. But the EU’s own analysis indicates that this would have a disastrous impact on developing countries, including severe pressures on food supply.

Alex Scrivener, policy officer at the World Development Movement, said today:

“Substituting biomass for fossil fuels sounds like the easy solution to climate change. But in reality, it leads to land grabs, the destruction of rainforests, and severe food shortages where land is used to grow fuel instead of food. And the idea that biofuels are ‘carbon neutral’ is a myth.

“Far from being about environmental protection, the EU’s bio-economy agenda is about maximising Europe’s competitive advantage in biotechnology and securing cheap resources for European manufacturing.

“By pushing the bio-economy agenda at Rio+20, the UK and other EU countries are showing themselves willing to allow the world’s poorest people to pay the price for the overconsumption of the industrialised world through the destruction of their natural resources and the creation of food shortages.”

The report also warns of the dangers of attributing a financial value to resources like water and biodiversity and bringing them into the market, arguing that this would put them under the control of the financial sector.

The World Development Movement and the Transnational Institute are calling for an end to subsidies for fossil fuels and large scale biomass energy production, and for support to go instead to community-level solar, wind and tidal energy.

Read the report

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New Biomass Leaflet Download

The fine folks at Carbon Trade Watch have produced a great new leaflet, using information from their recent Nothing Neutral Here report.

You can download a print-ready PDF of the leaflet here:

Carbon Trade Watch Biomass Leaflet

The UK is steaming ahead with developing biomass energy production, with by far the most agressive plans for big biomass in Europe. Both industry and government are financing this, with subsidies in the form of ROCs, money from the “Green” Investment bank and permits to pollute through the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. This will have disastrous results both globally and locally, for the environment, biodiversity, human rights and health.

Now is the time for action. You can find out if there are plans for a bioenergy power station near you using the handy map from Biofuelwatch. If there is already a local grop fighting these plans then please join them, if not then get together with other concerned residents and start one.

There are lots of great online resources to help campaign groups, including the Sheila McKechnie Foundation’s Campaign Central, the Rhizome network, Seeds for Change and Trapese.

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Government Policy on Biomass Overlooked in Reporting of Draft Energy Bill

While most reports on the publication of the Draft energy Bill have focused on gas, nuclear and carbon capture and storage, the Government’s quiet agenda to push us toward massive reliance on bioenergy has mostly been overlooked.

Their Bioenergy Strategy lays out their vision to have a large proportion of the UK’s energy generated from biomass. In fact if their plans were to reach fruition then we would be burning 80 million tonnes of wood each year. Given that the UK’s wood supply is only around 10 million tonnes, the vast majority of this will be imported from the Americas, Africa and Asia, where demand for biomass is already driving deforestation, land-grabs and the emergence of genetically engineered tree plantations.

Biomass and biofuel are included in the Government’s definition of “renewable energy” in the Energy Bill’s glossary, alongside truly renewable resources such as wind, wave and solar power. However Carbon Trade Watch’s recent Nothing Neutral Here report shows that creative accounting means that the true environmental cost of biomass is not taken into account. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, ‘smokestack’ carbon dioxide emissions from biomass are estimated to be on average 50% higher than those of coal. So much for the Government’s pledge to be moving toward a “low-carbon future”.

This failure to take into account the pollution and other negative impacts of biomass allows for big polluters to use bioenergy as a means to carry on with business as usual while claiming subsidies and greenwashing their operations. All of the Big 6 energy companies are investing in big biomass schemes, either by co-firing with biomass in their existing coal-fired power stations, seeking to build dedicated new biomass power stations or supplying the fuel stock.

Bioenergy should not be considered a renewable resource. Burning any fuel in power stations to produce energy always relies on damaging extractive industries and produces emissions that are harmful to the environment and health. If the Government was serious about a low-carbon, clean and secure energy future, they would stop wasting time tinkering with the existing system and instead move clearly and decisively toward a truly renewable energy infrastructure and make bold and concerted moves to dramatically reduce energy consumption. Until they do, draft Energy Bills such as the one we’ve been presented with are nothing more than hot air.

www.bioenergyaction.com

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New Report Busts “Carbon Neutral Biomass” Myth

A new report from Carbon Trade Watch shows how the massive push by government and industry toward biomass power generation (and the subsidies it receives) is based on the erroneous believe that biomass produces no emissions or is low-emission. As the report makes clear, this is nonsense and in addition to emissions throughout the supply chain that put biomass on a par with fossil fuels, the rush to biomass in dedicated power stations or to co-fire with coal is creating new genetically modified monoculture tree plantations and is increasing deforestation in some of the most biodiverse parts of the planet.

With a demand for biomass in the UK predicted to be 80 million tonnes burned each year, and the UK stock only 10 million tonnes, now is the time for urgent action to stop industrial biomass power generation before it’s too late.

You can download the Nothing Neutral Here report for all the details, and read through the press release from CTW below.

Cross-posted from Carbon Trade Watch

Earlier this month Brazilian pulp and paper giant Suzano Papel e Celulose gained approval for the world’s most advanced trial of genetically modified (GM) trees to meet the global demands of biomass energy expansion [1].

A new report from Carbon Trade Watch, “Nothing Neutral Here: Large-scale biomass subsidies in the UK and the role of the EU ETS”, raises critical concerns over the UK’s unprecedented plans to increase biomass consumption as part of efforts to promote a ‘green economy’. The report links the demand for biomass in the UK, the role of the EU’s Emissions Trading System and the destructive expansion of industrial monoculture tree plantations around the world.

On 26 April the UK government launched its new bioenergy strategy, claiming that energy from biomass can make an important contribution to the decarbonisation of the economy [2]. Carbon Trade Watch reveals how the British biomass boom is set to benefit polluters and cause widespread environmental destruction through land grabs and deforestation.

The author of the report, Joseph Zacune stated: “The British government seems determined to lock the country into a dirty energy pathway that fuels climate chaos, arguably the greatest modern day threat to human survival. Campaigners are warning that the government’s new bioenergy strategy will require around 80 million tonnes of wood for biomass energy that would unleash land grabs and cause major emissions from deforestation. Why should we continue to subsidise polluters in favour of appropriate energy solutions like wind, solar and tidal energy?”

UK-based power companies use the biomass carbon neutrality myth in the EU Emissions Trading System to justify their shift towards biomass and greenwash their polluting activities. This deceptive accounting undermines analysis that places emissions from biomass on a par with fossil fuels [3]. Across the UK, local communities and activists have been campaigning to stop biomass-fuelled power plants. The new report aims to help link these UK campaigns with campaigns against supplier companies specifically in the US, Canada and Brazil.

Tamra Gilbertson co-director of Carbon Trade Watch added: “Climate justice struggles bring together grassroots networks, groups and individuals that are demanding tough action against the root causes of climate change and for a truly sustainable, affordable and democratic energy system. To continue the same over-production and over-consumption of energy is a dead-end but governments continue to ensure that profit-seeking corporations control the energy systems and pollute our skies.”

[1] Geiver, S., 03 May 2012, Eucalyptus developer begins final field trial, Biomass Power & Thermal,

http://www.biomassmagazine.com/articles/6317/eucalyptus-developer-begins-final- field-trial?utm_source=Copy+of+GE+Trees+Appeal+4%2F25%2F12&utm_campaign=GE+tree s+appeal+3%2F22%2F12&utm_medium=email

[2] UK Government Department of Energy and Climate Change, UK Bioenergy Strategy 2012, 26 April 2012

http://www.decc.gov.uk/assets/decc/11/meeting-energy-demand/bio-energy/5142- bioenergy-strategy-.pdf

[3] According to the Massachusetts Environmental Energy Alliance, based on statistics from the US Environmental Protection Agency, ‘smokestack’ carbon dioxide emissions from biomass are estimated to be on average 50 per cent higher than those of coal.

http://massenvironmentalenergy. org/docs/MEEA%20biomass%20briefing%20October%20update.pdf

Scientists, including those from the EU’s European Environment Agency (EEA), have also shown that bioenergy can substantially increase the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, just like burning coal, oil and gas if harvesting takes place on an industrial scale.

http://www.eea.europa.eu/about-us/governance/scientific-committee/sc-opinions/opinions-on- scientific-issues/sc-opinion-on-greenhouse-gas

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Big Six Bank on Biomass

There will be a massive increase in hot air in London tomorrow as the UK Energy Summit brings together the big energy companies and their apologists (including E.ON, EDF, Scottish Power, Ofgem, WWF, National Grid, BP and Shell) to focus on “Securing a Sustainable Energy Future”.

Thankfully the resistance has been mobilised, with the Climate Justice Collective organising a Big 6 Energy Bash to challenge the privatisation and monopolisation of energy production, the fuel poverty the Big 6 perpetuate, the climate destruction they cause and the false solutions they promote as part of their greenwashing propaganda.

The energy companies are not in the least bit interested in sustainable, secure and affordable energy, they are only interested in maximising profits. Nowadays part of increasing profits and securing investment means having to appear to take social and environmental concerns seriously. For the Big 6 this means token investment in true renewable energy, such as wind, wave and solar (all at an industrial rather than community scale of course). But there is one energy source they are promoting as “renewable” and really throwing their weight behind – biomass. Biomass is easy to package as green (burning trees is carbon neutral, right?) therefore providing the perfect distraction while they continue with business as usual, burning fuel in their massive power stations and not only making profit from the sale of the energy but also raking in the “green energy” subsidies that we pay for through a premium on our existing energy bills.

For the most part, when we talk about industrial biomass we’re talking about burning virgin wood in existing or dedicated new power stations. With mega polluters like E.ON, Npower and Drax faced with having to shut down their biggest and dirtiest power stations under the EU’s Large Combustion Plant Directive, they are scrambling to find ways to continue to run these places for as long as possible and increasingly to build lots of smaller facilities not covered by this legislation. One of their “solutions” is to co-fire coal with biomass, increasing the amount of biomass up to the point where the facility becomes a dedicated biomass power station. On the surface, this looks like a moderate step in the right direction, after all coal is an extremely dirty fuel. There are many reasons why this is actually a massive retrograde step. Burning wood in an existing power station is highly inefficient, with most of the energy/heat going straight up the smoke stack. Then of course there is all the pollution that comes out of the stack. Some of the pollutants are at levels lower than coal, others are far worse. In terms of smokestack output alone, some argue that biomass is moderately better in terms of carbon emissions than coal but that doesn’t take into account all of the emissions from deforestation in order to supply the biomass, which make it just as bad, if not a great deal worse.

In the UK there are huge plans for biomass, with all of the Big 6 heavily involved (see below). Supplying even the existing proposals for biomass power generation in the UK would require 80 million tonnes of wood. Put into context, the total available domestic wood resource in the UK currently stands at less than 10 million tonnes. So where will all this extra wood come from? Much of it will come from countries where deforestation is already rampant and is increasing with demand; places like Indonesia, West Papua and the Congo. There are also alarming moves in the United States to meet increasing demand for biomass by genetically engineering trees. There are already large-scale field trials of GM Eucalyptus in the Southern States. We can be sure that biomass is a disaster for biodiversity, that it will replace biodiverse forests with monoculture plantations. Forest-dependent communities and forest ecosystems are already under massive pressure as a result of current levels of consumption; a large-scale switch from fossil fuels to biomass or biofuels would be absolutely devastating.

So let’s make sure that “securing a sustainable energy future” means secure and sustainable for everyone, that it means shifting from fossil fuels to truly green and abundant energy from the elements, not switching to false solutions like bioenergy, that it prioritises people over profits, and that it includes a concerted move to cut overall consumption.

The Big 6 and Biomass

All of the Big 6 energy companies have interests in biomass, and those interests are growing steadily, especially with the promise of massive subsidies on the horizon. Here is a brief overview of who’s involved in what.

E.ON

E.ON already have a dedicated biomass power station at Steven’s Cross and have now received permission for a biomass storage facility at their Ironbridge coal-fired power station to enable them to co-fire up to 270 MW of biomass.

RWE Npower

RWE Npower recently became the operators of the world’s largest biofuel power station when their Tilbury B facility switched from coal to dedicated Biomass… that is until the wood storage facility on the site burst into flames. This is not a massive surprise, considering that piles of wood chip and pellets are known to generate their own heat and can spontaneously combust. RWE also acquired Helius Energy Alpha and have plans for numerous biomass power stations throughout the UK.

Scottish and Southern Electric

Already run a dedicated biomass power station in Slough and plans are being pushed for further dedicated biomass power stations at Scottish ports (Dundee, Grangemouth and Rosyth) in partnership with Forth Ports. Plans for a biomass power station at Leith were dropped after a sustained local campaign.

Centrica (British Gas)

Centrica’s entry into biomass are plans for an 80 MW biomass power station on the site of their existing gas-fired power station at Roosecote, Barrow-in-Furness.

Scottish Power

Like Centrica, Scottish Power are seeking to add biomass to existing sites. In their case, a dedicated biomass power station in the grounds of their Langanet facility in West Fife.

EDF

Keen not to be left out, EDF boast to being the “UK’s largest suppliers of biomass.” Their target market is coal-fired power stations seeking to co-fire with biomass.

Special mention to Drax Group

Although not classified as one of the “Big 6”, Drax in North Yorkshire is the biggest power station in the UK, and they are aggressively pushing for increased subsidies for biomass. The recently convened All Party Parliamentary Group on Biomass is chaired by Nigel Adams, MP for the constituency where Drax is based. Drax provide the secretariat for the group, and at their first meeting a promotional film about biomass was shown, made by… you’ve guessed it, Drax.

Drax power station already co-fires biomass, with the view to keep increasing the amount up to as much as 100%, and they have sought planning approval to build three dedicated biomass power stations. However they have said they are unable to go ahead with these plans since the level of subsidy for biomass has not yet been agreed. Hmm, a cynic may just think this is nothing more than blackmailing the government into granting the subsidies Drax want so that they can increase their profit margin.

 

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Biofuelwatch Comment on DECC’s Bioenergy Strategy

Yesterday the British government unveiled their Bioenergy Strategy, which if implemented would spell disaster for ecosystems and communities around the world. Below is the response from Biofuelwatch, which Bioenergy Action wholeheartedly supports.

Cross Posted from Biofuelwatch

Responding to the announcement from the Department of Energy and Climate Change today (26 April 2012), as part of its newly published ‘Bioenergy Strategy 2012′ that it wishes to support a move towards UK bioenergy contributing 11% of total UK energy consumption by 2020, Almuth Ernsting, Biofuelwatch co-director said,

‘The UK Government wants to meet the 2020 renewable energy target through burning biomass and biofuels on an unprecedented scale, with biomass and biofuels set to account for more than two-thirds of our renewable energy. DECC’s plans would see 80 million tonnes of wood burned in UK power stations each year, when UK supplies are less than 10 million per year.

This is an enviromental catastrophe, as it will mean logging in forests worldwide to burn in domestic power stations. This will lead to more deforestation and more land grabbing in the global south as developing countries will bear the burden of supplying the new demand from the UK.’

‘The Government’s claim that burning biomass is a climate friendly solution is contradicted by sound science. Logging and burning trees has been shown to produce more carbon dioxide than any fossil fuels that biomass seeks to replace for decades, if not centuries. Leading scientists from the European Environment Agency have warned that bioenergy can be worse than the fossil fuels they seek to replace. Moreover, biomass power stations are typically as inefficient as coal-fired power stations.’

‘What kind of renewable energy policy promotes deforestation, worsens climate change and gives old coal power stations a new lease of life? We call on the Government to instead favour genuine renewables like wind, solar, tidal, and wave, which we have in abundance.’

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