FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 31, 2019, 12:01pm
Groups Demand Ireland Protect Forests & Our Climate: Open Letter Calls on Ireland to Reject West Offaly Power Station Extension and Biomass Conversion
(January 31, 2019)–
An Open Letter signed by 33 environmental NGOs objecting to biomass burning in Irish peat power stations and calling for those plants’ closure1 has been submitted as part of an objection to ESB’s West Offaly planning application. 2 Dogwood Alliance3 in the USA and Biofuelwatch in the UK and USA4 slam ESB’s application for a post-2020 consent for the power station and its gradual conversion to biomass.
The groups object on the grounds that burning peat in power stations for another seven years and then converting to yet another high-carbon-emitting form of energy is incompatible with Ireland’s Paris Climate Agreement commitments, and puts an undue burden on forests that serve as carbon sinks and habitat for precious biodiversity.
ESB’s claims that they will be increasingly reliant on indigenous biomass flatly contradicts evidence given by Bord na Móna to the Joint Committee on Climate Action last November, the objection letter points out. The evidence by Bord na Móna, who intend to supply the biomass for the West Offaly Power Station if planning consent is granted, makes it clear that they see no prospect of sourcing more than 400,000 tonnes of indigenous biomass without significant further plantings, and that those 400,000 tonnes would go to their Edenderry plant.5 Bord na Móna has acknowledged that attempts to persuade farmers to plant willow had failed, that miscanthus and other grasses cannot be burned because they would corrode the power station boilers, and that tree planting rates across Ireland have been declining. This means that the biomass for West Offaly Power Station will have to be imported. A pellet storage silo is included in ESB’s planning application, yet another confirmation that the company intends to burn wood pellets from overseas.
The southern US is the world’s largest pellet exporter and currently best positioned to meet the demand for burning large-scale biomass at West Offaly.6 Wood pellet production increases pressures on one of the most biodiverse and unique hardwood forest and wetland ecosystems in the world.7 According to a recent report by the IPCC, mitigating climate change requires forests to be protected and allowed to expand, not cutting them down to burn for electricity.
Rita Frost from Dogwood Alliance states: “If Ireland wants to make real emissions cuts, they must heed scientists’ overwhelming conclusion that burning biomass will worsen climate change and increase emissions in the atmosphere for decades. Forests in the southern U.S. have been destroyed in the name of ‘green energy’ for far too long. Local communities facing forest destruction for biomass production will tell you that our forests need to be left standing for carbon sequestration, clean air and water, habitat, and to protect our communities from flooding and storms.”
Almuth Ernsting from Biofuelwatch adds: “The science clearly shows that burning either peat or forest wood is not compatible with the Paris Climate Agreement’s aim to keep warming to within 1.5 degrees. Avoiding the worst impacts of climate change requires a rapid phase-out of high carbon fuels. Both peat and forest wood result in carbon emissions no lower than those from coal.”
- Dogwood Alliance is a US NGO which mobilizes diverse voices to defend the unique forests and communities of the Southern U.S. from destruction by industrial forestry. See: dogwoodalliance.org
- Biofuelwatch is a UK/US NGO which carries out research, advocacy and campaigning in relation to the impacts of large-scale bioenergy. See: biofuelwatch.org.uk
- See the evidence given by Bord na Móna to the Joint Committee on Climate Action in November 2018: oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/joint_committee_on_climate_action/2018-11-13/2
- See usitc.gov/publications/332/executive_briefings/wood_pellets_ebot_final.pdf
- See onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/gcbb.12386 and dogwoodalliance.org/2018/03/destruction-in-disguise/