Failed investment in Biomass calls industry into question

For Immediate Release: 1 April 2014

Bad news for biomass industry: failed investment marks a sobering conclusion to annual industry event in Florida

Last week the annual International biomass industry conference was held in Orlando, Florida. Industry executives from around the world attended to learn about the latest technologies, discuss biomass “supply chains” and network together. This year’s event featured a special “pellet supply chain summit” where the topic of discussion was the rapidly escalating export of southeastern U.S. forests to Europe, where they are burned in old coal plants or stand-alone biomass electricity facilities.

But even as the conference attendees were out on the golf course making deals, or laying plans for pellet supply chains, Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) announced they would withdraw financial backing for several major biomass electricity facilities that those supply chains would likely have served. The facilities affected by the decision, owned by Forth Energy, include two 100MW biomass electric facilities in Grangemouth and Rosyth (already approved), and a third in Dundee (not yet approved.) [1]

Scot Quaranda from Dogwood Alliance, a group working to protect forests in the Southern U.S. stated, “The loss of finance for Forth Energy facilities is great news for our forests! European energy companies are setting up shop throughout the Southern U.S., cutting and pelletizing trees and shipping them across the Atlantic to be burned as so-called renewable energy. We even found them targeting remaining pockets of endangered Atlantic coastal forests.”[2]

Rachel Smolker, Codirector of Biofuelwatch, an organization that works on both sides of the Atlantic and worked with community groups opposing the facilities, stated, “Residents in the communities where Forth wants to build biomass facilities are rightly concerned about air pollution. Burning biomass is filthy – resulting in even more particulates and CO2 per unit of energy generated than coal, but nonetheless subsidized as clean, green and renewable.”[3]

Meanwhile, Anne Petermann, from Global Justice Ecology Project added, “The tree biotechnology industry has their sites aimed at supplying massive amounts of wood for energy, including future plantations of genetically engineered (GE) eucalyptus trees across the southern tier of the U.S. But with growing public resistance to GE trees and investor wariness in both the GE trees and biomass industries, their scheme is poised to fail.”

Notes:

[1] Reported by the Dundee Courier here:  http://www.thecourier.co.uk/news/local/dundee/dundee-biomass-plant-scrapped-campaigners-hail-great-news-1.288988 and confirmed over the phone by Forth Energy on 27th March 2014.

[2] Dogwood Alliance documented the use of whole trees and destruction of ancient wetland forests in the southern US by pellet supplier Enviva, who export 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/

[3] For a list of studies into the carbon impacts of biomass electricity:  http://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/resources-on-biomass/ Also see “Dirtier than coal?” published by RSPB, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace.  http://www.rspb.org.uk/Images/biomass_report_tcm9-326672.pdf

For an overview of health impacts from biomass facility air pollution  http://saveamericasforests.org/Forests%20-%20Incinerators%20-%20Biomass/Documents/Briefing/
And statements from medical professionals here: http://www.energyjustice.net/biomass/health

[4] For an overview of tree biotechnology plans for the southern US:  http://nogetrees.org
https://globaljusticeecology.org/publications.php?ID=615

CONTACTS:
Scot Quaranda, Campaign Director, Dogwood Alliance. Phone: +1 828 251 2525 ext 18. Email: scot@dogwoodalliance.org

Rachel Smolker, Codirector Biofuelwatch. Phone: +1 802 482 2848 (office) +1 802 735 7794 (mobile). Email: rsmolker@riseup.net

Anne Petermann, Executive Director, Global Justice Ecology Project, Phone: +1 716 931 5833 (office), +1 802 578 0477 (mobile). Email:  globalecology@gmavt.net

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