Tell RWE to drop their forest-destroying biomass power plans

Clean bioenergy? Industrial logging on Vancouver Island, Canada
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End of campaign: May 22, 2014

RWE have aggressive plans for burning millions of tonnes of wood, much of it in the UK. They are already converting a coal power station to the largest biomass power station in the world – and they are thinking of converting a second one. RWE's biomass investment will mean more destruction of forests in Canada, the US and elsewhere.Please write to RWE today and call on them to stop investing in large-scale biomass.

Call to action

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RWE are in the process to convert a coal power station in the South-east of England – Tilbury B – to the world's largest biomass power station. RWE state that the wood will be imported from Canada, the US and different countries in Europe. However, they could burn wood from anywhere in the world and other European energy companies are looking to plantations in West Africa and South America for woodchips and pellets. If the power station was run at full capacity, it would burn almost as much wood every year as the UK produces annually. On top of that, according to media reports, RWE are considering whether to purchase and convert another UK coal power station to 100% biomass – Lynemouth in Northumberland.

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Under EU law, most UK coal power stations, including Tilbury B and Lynemouth, have to be closed by 2015 because they are too polluting. This should be an opportunity for the UK to move away from dirty, climate-destroying power stations, not to replace one form of pollution and and destruction with another.

Please write to RWE today and call on them to close down Tilbury B and to stop investing in large-scale biomass.

Back­ground

Greenpeace Canada have described what the new demand for bioenergy means for Canda's forests - from which RWE intend to source 60% of the wood for Tilbury B: “Canadian provinces are diving into a 'biomess' by opening the door to large scale clearcuts, salvage logging and highly damaging extraction practices that could double the forest industry’s footprint on already damaged forest ecosystems. Whole trees and large areas of forest are being cut to provide wood that is burnt for energy.”

Destroying forests for biomass electricity is disastrous for the climate, too: Biomass power stations are highly inefficient and they emit up to 50% more CO2 from their smokestacks than coal power stations, for the same amount of energy produced. Companies and Governments claim that all that carbon will be absorbed again by new trees, but that will at best take decades and if natural forests and other ecosystems are cut down to make way for monoculture tree plantations then the carbon lost will remain in the atmosphere effectively forever.

Furthermore, RWE plan to burn substantial amounts of vegetable oil together with wood. Palm oil is by far the cheapest vegetable oil and an Italian RWE subsidiary has heavily invested in electricity from palm oil and oil palm power stations in the Republic of Congo, Nigeria and Ethiopia.

Letter

RWE npower Group CEO: Volker Beckers: volker.beckers@rwe.com
Head of Biomass at RWE (UK): Ian Calvert: ian.calvert@rwenpower.com
Chief Financial Officer: Dr Frank Weigand: frank.weigand@rwenpower.com

Dear Mr Beckers,

I am deeply concerned about RWE npower's decision to convert Tilbury B to the world's largest biomass power stations and I am also worried by reports that your company is considering a possible purchase and conversion to biomass of the Lynemouth power stations.

If the power station was run at full capacity, it would burn almost as much wood every year as the UK produces annually. I understand that RWE intend to source 60% of the wood from Canada. According to a recent report by Greenpeace Canada (tinyurl.com/7rdwtcs): “Canadian provinces are diving into a 'biomess' by opening the door to large scale clearcuts, salvage logging and highly damaging extraction practices that could double the forest industry’s footprint on already damaged forest ecosystems. Whole trees and large areas of forest are being cut to provide wood that is burnt for energy.”

Destroying forests for biomass electricity accelerates climate change, too: Biomass power stations are highly inefficient and they emit up to 50% more CO2 from their smokestacks than coal power stations, for the same amount of energy produced. Even if that carbon was eventually absorbed by new trees, that will take decades or centuries to happen, as scientific studies have shown.

I am also deeply concerned that RWE intend to burn vegetable oil together with wood at Tilburgy B. Palm oil is by far the cheapest vegetable oil and I have read nothing to say that RWE will not be using that. However, even if you were to burn rapeseed oil, this will mean that less of it will be available for food and other uses and that the food industry will make up the shortfall by importing more palm oil. Either way, this will mean more pressure on rainforests and the people who depend on it.

I am aware that under EU law, coal power stations such as Tilbury B and Lynemouth, will have to be closed by 2015 because they are too polluting. This should be an opportunity for the UK to move away from dirty, climate-destroying power stations, not to replace one form of pollution and and destruction with another.

I therefore hope that RWE will drop their plans for any investments in coal-to-biomass conversion and close down Tilbury B and I look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely,