Second Open letter to Green Bank from Avonmouth residents calls to an end to big biomass investments

At the Green Investment Bank’s London Annual Review today a Biofuelwatch campaigner handed the bank an open letter signed by Avonmouth residents and organisations involved in the campaign to stop Helius Energy’s big biomass power station in Avonmouth. Residents have already been suffering the impacts of wood dust pollution and don’t want to see another 1 million tonnes of wood being imported each year because of the power station.

OPEN LETTER TO THE GREEN INVESTMENT BANK

Dear Lord Smith, Chairperson Green Investment Bank,

Open letter: Stop funding big biomass

We are deeply concerned that the Green Investment Bank (GIB) is supporting the development of large-scale biomass power projects in the UK.

In particular, we are concerned that the GIB has granted a loan to Drax Group PLC to convert their power station predominantly to biomass and continues to stand by this decision despite clear evidence of negative environmental and social impacts. The loan to Drax Group PLC clearly conflicts with the GIB’s purpose of supporting low-carbon and sustainable investments and undermines its credibility as an environmentally responsible investor.

In addition, residents of Bristol, Avonmouth and Southampton are dismayed that the GIB is considering helping to finance Helius Energy to develop big biomass projects in our area. In Avonmouth, residents are already suffering from wood dust pollution (a Grade 1 carcinogen), particularly from the chipping of recycled wood. The amount of wood dust pollution will increase if Helius’ plans go ahead.

The power station will be dependent on imported wood, mainly from North America and in particular the southern US, where there is strong evidence that highly-biodiverse wetland forests are being felled for the wood pellet industry. The UK’s ballooning wood demand is the main driver of North American wood pellet exports.

We therefore call on the GIB to:

  • Revoke its loan to Drax because of the serious adverse effects on carbon emissions and the environment.
  • Rule out the provision of finance to large-scale biomass projects in England, including Helius Energy’s big biomass plans in Avonmouth and Southampton.
  • Stop financing waste incinerators which are hugely polluting and burn much re-usable waste.

Signed:

Organisations: The Avon Coalition Against Big Biofuels, Action for Sustainable Energy for Bristol, Friends of the Earth Bristol, Frack Free Somerset, Bristol Rising Tide, Bristol Left Unity, South West Against Nuclear, Frack Free Bristol, Avonmouth Dust Forum, Bristol Energy Coop and Biofuelwatch.

Avonmouth Residents: Debbie Owen-Reynolds, Michelle Kendall, Hayes CL Hayes, Christine Chard, Liz Moore, Anne Marie Lloyd, Sarah Downing, Kim Lewis O’Connor, Karen Potter, Ian Robinson, Georgina Dimambro, Suzanne Nicholas, Steven Norman, Tara, Nicholas, Lucy and Marcus Donlin, Gary, Marion, and Jade Hayward, Jessica Collier, Kevin Talbot, Sandra Ware, Sue Stevens, Vicki Collins, Sara Richardson, Sarah Morgan, Steve Kenyon, Colin Brickell, Phillip Chard, Karissa Skidmore, Jane Kautz, Terri Leeanne Bowers, Mick Bowers, Denise Lynne, Vicki Collins, Allison Aitchison, Leanne Willman and Steve Kenyon.

BACKGROUND NOTES:

+ Drax’s plans to convert 50% of their power station’s capacity to biomass will require pellets from almost 16 million tonnes of wood to be burned every year – the equivalent of 1.6 times the UK’s annual wood production. Virtually of of the wood burned by Drax comes from imported whole trees [1] – which many scientific studies show will result in greater carbon emissions than generating equivalent amounts of energy from burning coal for at least one or two generations. [2] Currently consented biomass electricity projects could burn 68.9m tonnes of mainly imported biomass – 7 time total UK wood production and 20 times current demand.[3]

+ Some of the wood burned by Drax has been shown to come from clearcut ancient swamp forests in the southern US. [4]

+ UK Secretary of State Vince Cable has confirmed that without this GIB loan, Drax would have had to close. [5] This means that the GIB has enabled Drax to burn millions of tonnes of coal every year until 2027.

+ Despite all of this evidence, the Green Investment Bank claimed in its 2013 Annual Report that over 90% of the anticipated greenhouse gas savings from GIB loans in 2012/13 will come from the one to Drax.[6]

REFERENCES:

[1] For technical reasons, Drax can only burn wood from slow growing trees with a low bark content.  This rules out most sawmill residues, which are high in bark: http://biofuelwatch.org.uk/docs/DECC%20FoI%20EIR%2013-0340%20Q1%20Documents%20Drax%20etc%209May%202013.pdf

[2] For a list of relevant peer-reviewed studies, see http://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/resources-on-biomass/

[3] http://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/2013/biomass-faq-2/#C2

[4] http://www.dogwoodalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Enviva-Mill-in-Ahoskie-Dogwood-Report.pdf and http://www.southernenvironment.org/uploads/publications/NWF_Biomass_Wildlife_Full_Report.pdf

[5] http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/d46bfe86-b7e9-11e2-bd62-00144feabdc0.html?siteedition=uk#axzz35Y8XtX1X

[6] http://www.greeninvestmentbank.com/userfiles/files/GIB-Annual-Report-2013.pdf

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