Groups from both sides of the Atlantic call on DECC to end support for Drax power station

For immediate use Tuesday 21st April 2015

PRESS RELEASE: Groups from both sides of the Atlantic call on DECC to end support for Drax power station

Photo opportunities:
1) TOMORROW, 14:00, Department of Energy and Climate Change offices, 3 Whitehall Place London SW1A 2HD. Open letter will be handed in to DECC, plus a theatrical stunt involving a large letter being delivered to a cardboard cut out of Ed Davey, dressed up as the “DECC Grimm Reaper of Forests”
2) TOMORROW, 12:00-12:30, The Grocers’ Hall, Princes Street, London EC2R 8AD. Lively protest outside the Drax Plc AGM

Link to Open Letter: http://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/DECC-open-letter-biomass-coal-april-2015.pdf

An international coalition of NGOs representing groups in North America, South America and Europe will present the Department of Energy and Climate Change with an open letter tomorrow. The letter has been published in advance of Drax Plc’s AGM, in London. The groups are calling for the immediate withdrawal of state support for Drax power station, the largest in the UK, including an end to renewable energy subsidies for its biomass conversion, and a swift phase out of remaining coal units.

Delivery of the open letter to DECC will coincide with a number of events marking Drax Plc’s AGM, ironically taking place on Earth Day. Oliver Munnion, Biofuelwatch Co-Director said: “It’s Earth Day 2015, and the UK’s dirtiest power station has decided to hold its AGM on the same day. What better action could DECC take in defence of the environment and communities than pulling the plug on Drax power station? DECC support for Drax is keeping the power station open, [1] which is having devastating impacts on forests in the southern US, and importing coal from mines that have resulted in terrible human rights abuses.”

“The open letter is signed by groups representing communities and campaigns across a range of places impacted by Drax’s coal and biomass burning. It shows clearly how the vast carbon emissions and forest and mining impacts that Drax is responsible for have to be ended. Instead though, DECC is supporting Drax by funnelling millions in subsidies into it each year. [2] If DECC is serious about tackling climate change and reducing the impact that UK electricity generation has abroad, it will join the call to axe Drax.”

Drax power station in Yorkshire is the largest coal-burner in the UK, and is now also the biggest biomass power station in the world. The company has admitted sourcing coal from Colombia, where whole communities have been displaced for huge opencast coal mines. [3] US conservation groups have also shown that Drax is sourcing wood pellets for its converted biomass units that have come from the destruction of some of the world’s most biodiverse temperate forests. [4] Campaigners are also challenging claims that biomass reduces carbon emissions, as evidence shows that it can be more carbon intensive than coal [5].

“The forests of the Southern US are some of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the world.” said Adam Macon, Campaign Director with Dogwood Alliance, and signatory to the open letter. “The demand for wood pellets to feed Drax’s growing appetite has caused devastating effects to our forests and communities. Southerners are becoming outraged when they learn that their forests are being cleatcut, shipped to the UK and burned. We stand united in sending a clear message to DECC that it’s time they axe Drax.”

Richard Solly, coordinator for the London Mining Network, another letter signatory, said: “Coal is bad news at every level, from its extraction to its emissions, harming the workers who mine it, the communities displaced by its extraction, the people living where it is burned, and the atmosphere we all rely on. Continuing to subsidise coal at Drax tells the world that Britain is not concerned with climate change, human rights, or even our own air quality. This Earth Day is the perfect moment for DECC to pull its subsidies for Drax and show the way to a sustainable energy future.”

Contact: Biofuelwatch – Oliver Munnion on 07917693337 or oli@biofuelwatch.org.uk
London Mining Network – Liam Barrington-Bush on or liam@londonminingnetwork.org

Notes to Editors:

[1] According to Secretary of State Vince Cable, without converting to biomass and the loan from the Green Investment Bank that is helping to finance it, Drax “would have closed down because it has to meet European rules on coal use and it wouldn’t have been able to survive”. Drax’s biomass operations are dependent on lucrative Renewable Energy Subsidies. (http://www.ft.com/cms/s/d46bfe86-b7e9-11e2-bd62-00144feabdc0,Authorised=false.html?_i_location=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ft.com%2Fcms%2Fs%2F0%2Fd46bfe86-b7e9-11e2-bd62-00144feabdc0.html&_i_referer=http%3A%2F%2Ftech.groups.yahoo.com%2Fgroup%2Fbiofuelwatch%2Fmessage%2F5679#axzz2T9zy94Nu).

[2] Biofuelwatch estimate that Drax will be eligible for some £660 million in subsidies in 2016. Subsidy forecasts are Biofuelwatch estimates based on the average market price per ROC for the last 12 months, current electricity wholesale prices, and the assumption that running on biomass, each Drax unit will run at 630 MW capacity (which could be an underestimate):

– One unit conversion to be subsidised through a Contract for Difference (approved by UK government, but still pending State Aid Clearance by the European Commission): £264.55 million per year [subsidy element calculated as strike price minus wholesale price];

– 2 Unit conversions to be funded via ROCs: £185.04 each i.e. £370.08 million per year

In addition, Drax has been granted Capacity Market Payments for two coal units, amounting to £25.6 million per year.

Total: 2 units on biomass getting ROCs plus 1 unit on biomass getting Contract for Difference plus two coal units getting Capacity Market Payments: £660.23 million per year.

[3] Human rights abuses in Colombia because of conflict between communities and coal mining companies have been extensively documented by many organsiations over many years, for example:

http://www.globaljustice.org.uk/resources/cerrej%C3%B3n-mine

http://londonminingnetwork.org/2014/06/cerrejon-coal-colombia-an-abusive-marriage-full-of-machismo/

[4] US-based Dogwood Alliance have extensively documented the use of whole trees and destruction of ancient wetland forests in the southern US by Drax and E.On pellet supplier Envia. For more information see Dogwood Alliance campaign “Our forests aren’t fuel” and:
http://www.dogwoodalliance.org/2012/11/new-report-discredits-uk-energy-company-claims-that-
pellets-come-from-wood-waste/
http://www.dogwoodalliance.org/2013/08/press-release-new-maps-reveal-envivas-ahoskie-wood-pellet-facility-threatens-southern-wetland-forests-surrounding-ecosystems-and-wildlife/
http://www.dogwoodalliance.org/campaigns/bioenergy/

and Biofuelwatch’s report “Biomass: the Chain of Destruction” http://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/2013/chain-of-destruction/

[5] For a list of studies into the carbon impacts of biomass electricity, see www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/2015/biomass-resources/. In addition, the report “Dirtier than coal?” published by RSPB, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace can be found here www.rspb.org.uk/Images/biomass_report_tcm9-326672.pdf

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