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Unipers wood burning in Provence power station destroys forests!

Press release from Denkhaus Bremen, SOS Foret du Sud, Rettet den Regenwald and the Association of Critical Shareholders:

Unipers wood burning in Provence power station destroys forests!

(Essen, 8 June 2017) French and German environmentalists criticize the Group’s biomass strategy at the first Shareholders’ Meeting of the E.ON spin-off Uniper, which takes place on Thursday (8 June 17) in Essen. Uniper is currently equipping block 4 of the Provence coal-fired power station in Gardanne, southern France, on wood burning and is now in the trial phase. From the point of view of environmental organizations, forests in France and overseas are at risk.

“Combustion of wood for electricity production on an industrial scale puts a considerable strain on the atmosphere by emissions of CO2 and increases the pressure on forests. The most stupid solution to our energy problems is the conversion of ancient coal-fired power plants to wood firing, “says Peter Gerhardt of Denkhaus Bremen. Uniper plans to burn over 800,000 tonnes of wood annually in Gardanne. “The energy giant must immediately stop this madness!”

Nicholas Bell of the French action group SOS Foret du Sud traveled to Essen to attend the Uniper annual general meeting. “There is a real danger that species rich natural forests will be degraded – with fatal consequences for the region’s biodiversity”. Unipers wood burning not only endangers forests in Southern France. According to Uniper, at least half of the wood needed will be imported. “A first shipment of 40,000 tonnes of eucalyptus and acacia wood from Brazil has already arrived,” reports Bell.

“Europe’s biomass power plants cause ecological destruction even in distant countries,” says Reinhard Behrend of Rettet den Regenwald. “Eucalyptus plantations for pellet production are ecologically dead, green deserts.”

With an open letter in June 2016, more than 20 international environmental organizations had approached Uniper and demanded the immediate stop of the conversion of block 4 of the Provence power plant to wood burning. Uniper responded with incomprehensible marketing announcements such as “the biomass power plant significantly improves biodiversity on the ground and contributes to landscape management”. The company showed no reactions to further questions by environmentalists concerning the wood’s origin, among others.

The Critical Shareholders support the protest and call in their counter-motion not to relieve the Uniper board. “The Group pursues a backward-looking business model, harms the environment and the climate and violates human rights,” says Managing Director Markus Dufner.

Contact: Peter Gerhardt, Denkhaus Bremen, Tel: +49 163 7558366 oder +49 421 33048381

For photos of the action, please contact: info@denkhausbremen.de

Further information on the internet:
Denkhaus Bremen: http://denkhausbremen.de/de/themen/kahlschlag
SOS Foret du Sud: https://sosforetdusud.wordpress.com
Rettet den Regenwald: www.regenwald.org
Association of Critical Shareholders: http://www.kritischeaktionaere.de

Are Innogy´s marketing claims just greenwashing?

Environmental campaigners criticize biomass investments by RWE spinoff Innogy during company’s AGM:

Are Innogy´s marketing claims just greenwashing?

Joint Press Release by Denkhaus Bremen, Dogwood Alliance and Biofuelwatch
– for immediate release –

24rd April 2017 – “Instead of flooding Germany with a million-dollar greenwashing campaign, Innogy should immediately quit its environmentally damaging biomass activities in the US,” says Peter Gerhardt, forest expert of the German organization Denkhaus Bremen [1]. The RWE spinoff’s first AGM takes place in Essen, Germany, today [2]. The question, according to Peter Gerhardt, is: “Are Innogy´s marketing claims just greenwashing?”

Innogy owns a US company, Georgia Biomass [3], which according to its website, is the largest wood pellet plant in the world. It has an annual production capacity of 750,000 tonnes and produces pellets mainly for European power stations.

The US environmental organization Dogwood Alliance [4] criticizes Innogy’s biomass operations: “Innogy is directly responsible for forest destruction here in the US. Big biomass facilities in the US South like Georgia Biomass are increasing forest destruction at a time when, more than ever, we need to keep our forests standing in the name of climate change, not log them”, emphasizes campaign director Adam Macon.

“Companies such as RWE and Innogy are exploiting renewable energy subsidies which guarantee the growing market for wood pellets in the EU,” explains Almuth Ernsting of the UK/US organization Biofuelwatch [5]: “Large-scale wood-based bioenergy is not climate friendly and therefore should not be classified as renewable energy source by the EU. Renewable energy subsidies should go to genuine low-carbon renewables such as sustainable wind and solar power, not to cutting down and burning forests and tree plantations.”

In cooperation with its international partners Denkhaus Bremen is challenging the industrial-scale burning of wood by German electricity companies. Its biomass campaign is making links between campaigns against logging and pellet mills overseas and the environmental debate in Germany.

April 24th 2017

Contact:

Peter Gerhardt, Denkhaus Bremen: Tel: +49 163 7558366 (Germany)

Almuth Ernsting, Biofuelwatch, +44 131 6232600 (UK)

Notes:

[1] Denkhaus Bremen is a non-profit organization based in Germany which is dedicated to global justice: http://denkhausbremen.de/en/

[2] In April 2016, RWE turned its previously fully-owned subsidiary RWE Innogy into separate and independent company called Innogy.

[3] See: https://www.gabiomass.com/ . Georgia Biomass operates one of the world’s largest wood pellet plants at Waycross, Georgia.

[4] Dogwood Alliance is a US non-profit organisation which works to protect southern US forests and communities from destructive industrial forests, including for wood pellet production: www.dogwoodalliance.org

[5] Biofuelwatch is a UK/US campaign group against destructive large-scale industrial bioenergy: www.biofuelwatch.org.uk

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Photo: Copyright by Dogwood Alliance

NGO letter on FAO: Forests are not fuel.

Open NGO letter on FAO’s International Day of Forests 2017

The FAO and the Collaborative Partnership on Forests have chosen to use the International Day of Forests 2017 to promote the use of wood for energy, calling forests “nature’s power house”. As the key messages of the day point out, forests are a traditional source of energy but are also considered to be the world’s biggest source of renewable energy.

Unfortunately, this message ignores the serious negative impacts of growing bioenergy use on the environment, local communities, people’s health, the climate and, of course, our forests. The ongoing political push to significantly increase the use of forests as fuel for energy production – as an attempt to mitigate climate change – is based on flawed science and can create more problems than solutions.

Learn more…

Clearcutting for power companies

By Peter Gerhardt and Michael Gerhardt

Wood has been an important source of energy for humans since time immemorial. On a small scale and at a local level, this can be a meaningful lifestyle of giving to and taking from na-ture. Now corporations like E.ON and RWE have discovered the forest as a source of energy and unpack the chainsaw. As a result, species-rich forest ecosystems are degraded to indus-trial tree monocultures or whole forest areas are cut down. The energy giants are even subsi-dized for this exploitation of nature by public funds because the EU has set up wrong climate protection rules. The corporations’ hunger for wood shows how our growth-oriented economy exhausts the global ecosystems in the long term.

The pressure on the forests is increasing – forest areas worldwide are being destroyed for agri-culture, firewood, mining and dams. A look at the expansion plans of the paper industry also shows that this industry will continue to destroy large forest areas.

However, now the global battle for a share of wood reaches a new level where multinational energy conglomerates are going to attack the woodlands. European electricity producers’ pur-chasers travel from African Liberia to North Carolina in the US, to supply enough wood for their subsidized so-called “green” electricity production. The largest wood recycling plant on the planet is not a chipboard factory for Ikea, but the coal-fired power station Drax in Great Britain which has been modified to wood-fueled energy production. According to research by the international environmental organization Biofuelwatch, six million tons of wood pellets will be incinerated for electricity production in the future, this equals 12 million tons of raw wood.

German energy companies are also involved in this business, which is financed by public funds. Innogy, the outsourcing of the stumbling energy company RWE, operates “Georgia Biomass” in the USA, which is according to own data the largest wood pellet plant in the world. It has an annual production capacity of 750,000 tons. According to the American na-ture conservation organization Dogwood Alliance, it is likely that Georgia Biomass gets its raw materials from ecologically rare hardwood moist forests or from clear-cutting practice.

E.ON has outsourced its wood power plant in Gardanne, southern France, to its subsidiary Uniper. The dirty coal business of E.ON is now taking place on behalf of Uniper. The coal-fired power plant block, which has been converted to wood firing, is about to be commis-sioned and will devour more than 800,000 tons of wood per year. The French government will be subsidizing wood firing in Gardanne over the next 20 years with 1.4 billion euro as a cli-mate protection measure. According to the energy company, half of the wooden fuel is ob-tained from regional forests within a radius of 400 km. The rest is imported. These plans by Uniper are the reason for resentment of environmentalists from SOS Foret du Sud. They fear, inter alia, that regional forest areas such as the southern Cevennes are in danger, and that the imported wood is also coming from destructive forestry.

The European Union is the cause of this failure because it recognizes wood firing as a climate protection measure. Even reliable governmental institutions, such as the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), conclude that wood burning is by no means climate-neutral. As a matter of fact, bioenergy from wood already provides a major part of the contribution to the EU’s climate protection strategy, which aims to achieve a renewable energy share of 20% by 2020. The EU rules therefore allow wood burning to be subsidized by the Member States as a climate protection measure.

For struggling energy companies such as RWE, E.ON and co., these gifts of the EU are just what they have been waiting for. They offer the possibility of giving their already depreciated coal plants a second life, through conversion to wood firing thanks to the support from tax money: Climate killers become alleged climate savers. With its false deliberations, the EU is also delaying the necessary structural change of the European energy supply. Large power plants with an efficiency of less than 40% remain on the grid, although they belong into an engineering museum. In contrast, electricity extraction from modern power-heat coupling generation achieves significantly higher efficiency.

The future prospects for forests will be gloomy when wood-fueled energy production contin-ues to be accepted as climate friendly: the EU is currently negotiating its climate protection strategy till 2030, and wants to increase the share of renewable energies to 27%. It would be fatal if wood burning became more important in the future. Therefore, many non-governmental organizations are already working against this policy. Perhaps it is also a good opportunity for the environmentalists to think outside the box of campaigning and to analyze the current policy processes more fundamentally. Even today’s expansion plans of all branches of industry taken together would destroy the forests of our world. A profit-based economy which is programmed for continuous growth cannot be reconciled with the limited resources of ecosystems in the long term.

The authors are committed to environmental protection at denkhausbremen e.V. for environmental justice. The “clearcutting for biomass” campaign by denkhausbremen confronts electricity companies and the EU with the destructive procurement of wood for biomass power plants.

Biomass: EU asks – denkhausbremen replies

Statement on survey by the European Commission for European biomass policy from 2020

This statement is also available in German.

The current European biomass policy has serious consequences for the environment. The European energy companies are on a global shopping spree for timber. The electricity suppliers are burning this wood in their power plants and receiving public money according to EU rules. This leads to forest destruction and is harmful for the global climate.

denkhausbremen did research on the impact of the EU biomass policy in 2015 in the southern United States and France and is currently working with its partners against the clearcut policy of those power companies (www.denkhausbremen.de/clearcutting-of-forests-for-e-on-and-rwe).

Now the EU is revising its biomass strategy after 2020 and has implemented a stakeholder consultation which ends on the 10th of May. This is the statement of denkhausbremen:

  • The current EU Biomass policy is causing the destruction of biodiverse wetland forests in the southern US-states. Research has already documented the chain of custody from clearcuts in the southern US states such as North Carolina to the European power plants.
  • German energy companies like E.ON and RWE misuse this false biomass strategy as a retirement program for their super old power plants. They collect public subsidies for converting their power plants from coal to wood firing.
  • Wood as fuel for power plants is damaging the climate and should not be considered as renewable energy according to the rules of the EU (the carbon contained in the wood of a 100 year old tree is blown into the air in seconds when burned).
  • It is questionable whether this type of consultation is suitable to reach stakeholders and directly affected citizens in sufficient numbers. The method has a high entry barrier and is tailored to the “Brussels Bubble”. The fact that the online questionnaire of this survey is available in English only excludes even more people.

Together with its international and national partner organizations denkhausbremen expects the European Union to reverse its future biomass strategy. Wood as fuel for power plants should no longer be supported by the EU.

Clearcutting of forests for E.ON and RWE

E.ON and RWE are on a global shopping spree for timber. The energy giants are planning to extend the life of their coal-fired power stations by feeding them with wood biomass. This means clearcutting forests in Northern America; it is also threatening valuable eco systems in Southern France.

In July/August 2015 denkhausbremen conducted some research on this topic in the southern states of the U.S.A. as well as in France. Together with the environmental organisations Dogwood Alliance and Biofuelwatch, denkhausbremen opposes the German power companies’ clearcutting politics.

“Along with others, E.ON and RWE are directly responsible for the destruction of forests here in the southern states of the U.S.A.,” explained Adam Macon from Dogwood Alliance in a conversation with denkhausbremen held in Asheville, North Carolina. “The power companies’ appetite for wood is destroying our forests. In the long term, the local population will be robbed of an important basis of their lifestyle and economic activities.” The industrial loggers haven’t even shied away from unique moist forest areas. They have converted ecologically significant indigenous forests into monoculture pine forests. The European climate politics and their misdirecting subsidies have seriously aggravated the situation in the last five years: “The southern states of the U.S.A are the largest exporters of wood pellets, and Europe is the principal customer,” states Adam Macon.

“Two and a half years ago Enviva came to North Carolina,” adds Derb S. Carter from the renown Southern Environmental Law Center in Chapel Hill during an on-site interview. “Enviva produces wood pallets here. They are one of the main suppliers for E.ON and RWE.” Enviva sources its raw material especially from private forests, he explains. They are taking advantage of the fact that these forest areas are governed by hardly any environmental regulations. “86 % of forested area in North Carolina is private property, which means that even valuable forest areas are hardly protected.”

In Europe, too, forests are falling victim to the energy giant’s hunger for wood. In Gardanne, in southern France, environmental activists are protesting against E.ONs biomass plans. The E.ON Group is converting one unit of its Provence coal-fired power station so that it can burn biomass. In a conversation with denkhausbremen in Forcalquier, southern France, Nicholas Bell from the Network SOS Foret du Sud explained the local population’s resistance as follows: “E.ON would like to operate France’s largest biomass power station here in Gardanne. It will need to be fed with two million tonnes of wood per year. Some of this wood is planned to be logged within a radius of 400 km around the power station; the rest will be importiert.”

Locals fear that fine dust emissions will be detrimental to their health and that forests will be destroyed on a large scale, possibly even in the Cevennen national park, Nicholas Bell continues. For these reasons, citizens, municipalities and regions have positioned themselves against the E.ON project with public petitions. In addition, legal proceedings are underway to prevent the implementation of the biomass power station.

denkhausbremen and its partner organisations are committed to making the power companies revise their biomass politics.

Barking up the wrong tree: Energy giants are on a worldwide shopping tour for wood in order to produce ”green” electricity

Humanity has got an energy problem. Fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal are finite and burn-ing them causes climate change. Nuclear energy is dangerous and produces radioactive waste. Renewable energies such as sun, wind or biomass are thus to provide us with green energy in the future. That’s old news.

Political efforts are made to induce the necessary energy transformation with quotas and sub-sidies. The EU wants biomass to play a major role in the renewable energies for the future. Renewables are expected to account for 20% of energy consumption by 2020, goals for 2030 are negotiated right now.

As for the EU, biomass would primarily mean wood. The European hunger for wood has fatal consequences: forests are clear-cut and fertile farmland and precious ecosystems are de-stroyed for industrial wood plantations. And it’s not a no solution for climate change. Even the US government noted in June this year that energy from wood is by no means climate-neutral.

Facing climate change and a new situation for energy policy, the energy giants’ coal-fired power stations are no more than exhibits for the museum of technology. As a result of the so-called Energiewende in Germany, EnBW, E.ON, RWE and Vattenfall are in serious economic difficulties. In order to save themselves into the new era, the corporations are grasping at straws and go on a global shopping trip for timber. The idea is to use the wood as the new fuel to be burned in the companies’ conventional coal-fired power stations, giving these a second life.

Large amounts of wood are currently brought to the EU from the forest belt of the US South-ern States. The US pellets are mainly used as fuel in countries which do not have much forests themselves, like Great Britain, Benelux or Denmark – by German companies such as RWE and E.ON.