Consent for Tilbury B would cause “serious harm to health and climate” campaigners warn.

IT LOOKS like a busy planning agenda on Thursday evening (Feb 14th). One of the matters on the table is RWE’s application to allow them to extend the life span of the Tilbury B power station by burning 7.8 million tonnes of wood a year.

The Planning Officer has recommended approval but campaigners warn that this would mean decades more of high air pollution and threats to local people’s health as well as serious impacts on forests.

RWE claims burning wood reduces pollution and carbon emissions and is ‘100% sustainable’.

YT spoke to Biofuelwatch and asked them to put their case forward.

A spokesperson broke down the issues into a number of categories.

Pollution:

Burning wood causes similar levels of air pollution as burning coal overall and keeping the power station running will mean continued high levels of pollution and health threats locally. Compared to coal, wood burning it releases more small particles, known as PM2.5s, that get deep into the lungs and the blood where it can cause serious problems including heart and respiratory disease. Current particulates levels around Tilbury already exceed World Health Organisation recommended levels. Wood pellets present a far great fire and explosion risk as witnessed by the serious fire in February 2012.

Carbon emissions:

Power stations burning wood emit around 50% more carbon than ones burning coal from their smokestacks for the same amount of electricity. Companies such as RWE ignore this carbon, claiming that new trees will grow back and absorb the carbon emitted from cutting down and burning mature ones. Yet this would take decades – 70 years for UK conifers. Such a carbon spike is a disaster at a time when scientists have shown that emissions must be reduced rapidly if we want to have any hope of avoiding the worst impacts of climate change.

Forests:

Tilbury B will burn every year the equivalent of more than three-quarters of all UK wood produced every year. They are currently importing wood from US and Canada. Highly biodiverse, often ancient forests are being turned into pellets to make profits for the European power industry. As demand grows forests fall to be replaced by tree monoculture that destroy biodiversity and soils and deplete freshwater.

Duncan Law of Biofuelwatch concluded: “We don’t need this. It is RWE cynically maximising profits at the expense of local people’s and the planet’s health. Thurrock should say no to this monster burning global forests at just 37% efficiency.”

YT will cover in much greater detail, the case put forward by RWE. However, an overview has been put forward by Tilbury power station manager, Nigel Staves.

Mr Staves said: “Tilbury Power Station was converted to operate on biomass in 2011 with the ability to generate 750MW of renewable power to the UK.

“The power station is “Opted Out” under the EU’s Large Combustion Plant Directive (LCPD), power stations that fit into this category have a limit of 20,000 further hours to operate after the Opt–Out effective date of 1st January 2008.

The station will close under the LCPD on October 31st 2013.

Closure is an essential part of the future plans for the site, which includes the development of Tilbury Biomass Power Station – a 100% biomass power station that will comply with New Plant Standards.

We have submitted local planning applications to Thurrock Council and an Environmental Permit application to the Environment Agency to progress biomass generation from the site. The licences and consents are expected to be decided upon within the next 6 months.

We are committed to working with our people on their future aspirations, formal consultation will begin on 1st April when people will be able to register interest in roles for the new biomass plant. “