From NEFA [North East Forest Alliance]:
Hunter Energy is currently seeking expressions of interest for timber from across north-east NSW to fuel their ex-coal Redbank Power Station, with plans to restart the facility in mid 2021 fed by native forests to make it one of world’s ten biggest biomass power plants.
Estimates are that just this power station will require one million tonnes of biomass to be taken from north-east NSW’s forests and plantations each year, with 60% of this to come from private forests.
“This is sheer madness as burning this volume will release some 1.8 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere each year to fuel climate heating, increased droughts, heatwaves and more intense bushfires, while increasing forest degradation and hastening species extinctions.
“The community needs to urgently speak up to stop the NSW and Commonwealth Governments from allowing this environmental disaster” Mr. Pugh said.
“Replacing coal with biomass is sheer stupidity as it is even more polluting, releasing up to 50% more CO2 than coal to generate equivalent amounts of energy”, said NEFA Spokesperson Susie Russel.
“It will be a nightmare for rural communities with thousands of extra trucks plying narrow rural roads, crossing small deteriorating bridges, passing through peaceful villages and then roaring down the Pacific Highway to Redbank.
“This will be subsidized by taxpayers under the pretense that burning trees is renewable energy as the trees will regrow and decades or centuries later take up the carbon released by burning them.
“We are in a climate emergency and cannot afford to spew millions of tonnes of additional carbon into the atmosphere at a time when we need to be urgently reducing atmospheric carbon, and we need to leave our trees alive to do it as they are the only viable means of carbon capture and storage” Ms Russell said.
Mr. Pugh continued “Our suffering forest wildlife will be impacted most severely as forest degradation skyrockets with all those previously uneconomic trees taken.
“It is no wonder the Nationals tried to remove protection for core Koala habitat, environmental zones, wetlands and littoral rainforest, because they are going to need every tree they can get if this monstrosity gets going.
“Both NSW and Commonwealth Governments have systematically removed the numerous prohibitions on burning biomass from native forests for electricity generation to pave the way for this development, and the NSW Government has increased allowable logging intensities in forests to feed it.
“The NSW Government recently changed the logging rules for State Forests to reduce the number of trees that need to be retained by 50%, while zoning 140,000 hectares of public coastal forests from Grafton to Taree for clearfelling.
“Their draft logging rules for Private Native Forestry also intend to reduce the number of trees that need to be retained by 50%, while allowing 20% of the logging area to be clearfelled in each operation.
“These changes are all about allowing more trees to be logged as biomass for electricity generation.
“As both public and private forests are becoming increasingly devoid of large sawlogs the push is on to take smaller and defective trees to make money.
“Biomass electricity is three times more expensive than solar to produce and requires massive public subsidies under the guise of its being renewable energy, so will effectively push up power prices for taxpayers.
“What we need to be doing is paying farmers to leave trees standing to go on sequestering and storing atmospheric carbon, while providing habitat for Koalas and our other imperiled species, not subsidizing corporations to profit from clearing, logging and burning them” Mr. Pugh said.