Biomass Conversion is the Wrong Direction for Ireland

Considering a Moneypoint Biomass Conversion is the Wrong Direction for Ireland, US and UK environmental groups warn

Switch to Biomass Would Endanger Southern U.S. Forests, Increase Carbon Emissions and Harm Communities in Ireland and Abroad

Press Release

8th April 2014, Asheville, NC, USA – A recent report by BW Energy, commissioned by ReThinkPylons [1], has recommended that Ireland’s only coal power station, Moneypoint, should convert from burning coal to wood pellets. Environmental groups on both sides of the Atlantic argue that switching to biomass is a false solution and would harm forests, communities and the environment. U.S.-based Dogwood Alliance and UK-based BiofuelWatch believe that investments should be made into truly renewable and climate-friendly solutions rather than ones that further harm the world’s forests.

Ireland's Moneypoint coal power station to be converted to biomass
Ireland’s Moneypoint power station should invest in truly green solutions

Almuth Ernsting, co-director of Biofuelwatch, says:

“The report portrays the conversion of part of the UK’s largest coal power station, Drax, to biomass as an example for Ireland, but this relies on burning wood pellets from the Southern U.S. and Canada, which is greatly increasing the destruction of endangered forests in both of those countries and contributing to even greater carbon emissions. This is a disastrous example which Ireland must not follow.”

According to an analysis by Biofuelwatch, running a 915 MW power station such as Moneypoint exclusively on biomass would require around 3.6 million tonnes of pellets made from 7.2 million tonnes of green wood (i.e. freshly harvested wood) every year. They further estimate that total annual roundwood production in Ireland is only around 2.65 million tonnes a year. This means that such a conversion would be impossible without heavy reliance on wood imports.

“Over the last few years we have seen a dramatic increase in logging of endangered bottomland hardwood forests and special places across the Southern U.S. to feed European energy demand,” stated Scot Quaranda, Campaign Director at Dogwood Alliance. “We urge the communities and government of Ireland to reject this conversion and instead work to implement truly renewable and climate-friendly energy solutions.”

In the Southern U.S., the large majority of native forests have already been destroyed and many others have been converted to monoculture pine plantations. In recent decades, this destruction was primarily driven by demand for pulp and paper but increasingly, it is now driven and accelerated by the new demand for wood pellets. Around the region, up to 90% of wetland forests have been destroyed, and the remaining fragments are now particularly targeted for pellet production for export. Those are amongst the most biodiverse temperate ecosystems in the world. [2]

Over the past two years, emerging scientific evidence has clearly shown that burning wood from whole trees to produce electricity actually increases carbon pollution, meaning it has an even worse impact on climate change than coal and other fossil fuels. It destroys ecosystems that can never be replaced. [3]

Contacts:

Scot Quaranda, Dogwood Alliance, US, Tel ++1-828-2512525 ext 18, email: scot[email protected]

Almuth Ernsting, Biofuelwatch, UK, Tel ++44-131-6232600, email [email protected]

Notes:

[1] The report can be downloaded at http://www.rethinkpylons.org/library/BW%20Energy%20Report%202.pdf

[2] Many scientific studies of late show the increased carbon debt taken on from burning wood for electricity. A few examples include “Biomass Supply and Accounting for Southeastern Forests” (SELC, NWF, BERC) – http://www.southernenvironment.org/uploads/pages/file/biomass/biomass-carbon-study-021412-FINAL.pdf and “Carbon Dioxide Accounting for Emissions from Biogenic Sources” EPA – http://yosemite.epa.gov/sab/sabproduct.nsf/0/2f9b572c712ac52e8525783100704886!OpenDocument&TableRow=2.3#2.

Other studies can be found at http://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/resources-on-biomass/

[3] Included in report by the US Forest Service Southern Resource Station – (http://www.seesouthernforests.org/discover-southern-forests/benefits/biodiversity)
Dogwood Alliance also documented the use of whole trees and destruction of endangered wetland forests in the Southern US by pellet supplier Enviva, an exporter to the UK. Forth Energy had indicated potential to source pellets from this area. For more information see Dogwood Alliance campaign Our Forests Aren’t Fuel http://www.dogwoodalliance.org/campaigns/bioenergy/ and Biofuelwatch’s new report “Biomass: the Chain of Destruction” http://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/2013/chain-of-destruction/

 

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