Visiting both London and Brussels, Dogwood Alliance and our partners at NRDC and SELC got the opportunity to meet with the largest companies in Europe importing wood pellets from the Southern US to burn for electricity in the UK, Brussels, Netherlands, Denmark, Poland and more. The meetings were an excellent opportunity to not only better understand the marketplace and decisions driving this destructive practice, but were also a great opportunity to carry the spirit and voice of communities across the South to let these companies know we will not stand idle and let this madness continue.
Our first meeting was with Drax, one of the oldest and largest utilities in the UK, and a huge investor in biomass. Drax is solely reliant on coal for producing electricity, so in order to extend the life of very old coal burning power plants they are utilizing a loophole that allows them keep the power stations open if they co-fire wood with coal. They are being handed millions of dollars in subsidies to burn wood from our forests.
The meeting was with high level executives including the CEO. It was tense at times though cordial and we had the opportunity to hear their perspective, plans and stated intention to be sustainable. Unfortunately our views on sustainability do not match up – they seem to use sustainable to mean a sustainable supply whereas we want to see forests, biodiversity, wildlife, and communities protected from the destructive industrial scale logging used to make most wood pellets.
While in Brussels, the European Climate Foundation graciously invited us to attend a roundtable group working on forest and climate issues. The group included a number of other utilities that use wood pellets from the South including Vatenfall, E.ON, and RWE. In addition to the utilities there were a number of European NGOs. We had the opportunity to listen in their discussion and then hear a presentation from an industry consulting group that advises utilities and wood pellet companies around their markets, supply chain, and feasibility.
Following their presentation, I gave a presentation so the participants could understand the real, on the ground impacts of this industry on our forests, wildlife and communities. There was a vigorous and very stimulating debate which will hopefully support the ENGOs working to ensure that the EU does not give a free pass to biomass and does real and accurate carbon accounting.
Our last meeting was with representatives of Electrabeland its parent company GDF Suez. The meeting was essentially a debate between belief systems and an opportunity to get to know one another. We appreciated the opportunity to meet and hope the company begins to better understand what their practices are destroying and moves away from this ridiculous fuel source to cleaner, greener energy.
I’m very glad to see there are people actively fighting big biomass; congratulations on getting as far as an audience with Drax as well as other European organisations.
I think big biomass in UK has been pushed through ‘beneath the radar’ with few of the general public and even fewer politicians aware of its scale and the devastation wrought, not to mention the sheer insanity of it all. (e.g. biomass conjures some small scale home farm digester rather than industrial scale mass deforestation).
It has also been presented as a Green policy. The power station gets the subsidy because the wood-fired energy is classified as ‘renewable’. The subsidy will actually be £billions per year when it’s all up and running.
(Ironically ‘Greens’ will then get blamed for putting up the cost of power).
I think this madness originated from the European Union. It’s not so much a loophole, more a policy designed to allow countries such as UK to claim they are meeting targets for ‘renewable energy’.
To stop it from this side probably means reversing EU and Government policy. That would take considerable political will however we have to start somewhere.
Keep up the good work.