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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.
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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.