We call on the governments of NSW and Australia to reject plans by Verdant Technologies to recommission Redbank Power Station near Singleton and use native forest biomass as fuel.
Redbank operated as a coal-fired power station from 2001 to 2014 when it was mothballed after the company went into receivership.
The new owner, Verdant Technology, has applied to reopen the 151MW facility, in which it intends to burn more than 1 million tonnes per annum of biomass, including wood and wood waste from native forests.
This is likely to result in the release of more than 2 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere each year.
The company says it plans to source biomass from forests within 400 kilometres of Singleton, a huge area stretching from Moruya in the south, Yamba in the north, and Dubbo in the west.
Verdant Technology says it plans to source biomass from forests within 400 kilometres of Singleton.
If this proposal receives the private investment and government approvals and subsidies it requires, it will accelerate and intensify the exploitation of native forests in NSW and push koalas and many threatened and critically endangered species closer to extinction.
Recommissioning the power station, now called Verdant Power Station, would have a devastating impact on forests and forest wildlife.
Forest residues are taken to include small and defective trees that are not suitable for sawlogs, therefore their removal will increase impacts. In Eden 80-90 per cent of trees logged end up as export woodchip, and this is called residues.
It would also increase carbon pollution that is causing dangerous climate change and would undermine government policies intended to assist the orderly transition from high carbon polluting fuel sources of energy to genuine low-emissions renewables, combined with storage.
Proponents of bioenergy claim that it is a renewable energy source that generates net-zero emissions.
Wood biomass actually emits up to 50 per cent more carbon dioxide (CO2) than coal when burnt, yet carbon accounting classes it as zero carbon in the energy sector, as trees are assumed to re-absorb the CO2 when they grow back.
This carbon accounting is contested by scientists as carbon absorption through the regrowth of forests lags behind combustion, resulting in a "carbon debt".
If a 100 year old tree is felled it will take 100 years for a replacement to take up and store an equivalent volume of carbon. If the original (mature) tree had been left to grow it would have continued to absorb additional carbon. Burning forest biomass adds to greenhouse gas emissions at a critical point where we need to be reducing them, while also depleting the capacity of those forests to continue drawing down carbon from the atmosphere.
The combustion of biomass releases toxic air pollution including fine particulates (PM2.5) and nitrogen oxides. These pollutants cause premature mortality, respiratory and cardiovascular disease, as well as low birth weight.
Nearby communities will suffer the impacts of this source of pollution.
We urge the NSW and federal governments to reimpose the ban on the burning of residues from native forests for electricity generation on the grounds that this will lead to an intensification of logging, increases in CO2 emissions and the displacement of genuine renewable energy sources such as wind and solar.
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