Monday, November 20, 2006

NPower and Palm Oil


Before the plantations comes the deforestation. After planting
palms a biological desert is replaced with a monoculture.


Cattle ranching is well known as a driver of deforestation. Another, more recent, but equally disturbing factor that is increasingly worrying both climate activists and indigenous groups is the rapid expansion of palm oil plantations.

Ostensibly in the name of sustainable development and carbon neutrality, in reality the expansion is largely a result of poor regulations and rampant free market capitalism.

For a short briefing on some of the related issues see this short report by Friends of the Earth. For a more detailed look try this report by Environmental Defense or a whole collection of sources on the biofuelwatch website.

In the face of this threat, a british company NPower has decided to commission a power plant to run on palmoil. So in the name of sustainability a british power company has decided to drive deforestation in the tropics and ship in the so called 'carbon neutral' fuel from the other side of the globe four us to claim as progress in climate mitigation.




Don't think this sounds like a good idea? Please send the following email to the email addresses bellow (Corporate Social Responsibility and Public Relations).

---
anita.longley[at]rwenpower.com
richard.frost[at]npower.com
---

Dear [Sir or Madame],

I am deeply concerned about your plans to burn palm oil in power stations under the Renewables Obligation.

The Renewables Obligation is supposed to help companies develop clean, climate-friendly technologies and a viable domestic renewable energy sector. Palm oil comes from rainforest nations and is neither clean nor climate-friendly. Millions of hectares of virgin rainforests have already been destroyed to make way for oil palm plantations. Local communities have their land taken from them and often suffer human rights abuses. The peat and forest fires in Indonesia alone account for three times the greenhouse gas emissions which the Kyoto Protocol sets out to save.

Burning palm oil in power plants will further drive up the price of palm oil, and make rainforest destruction ever more profitable - even if you were to buy from ‘certified’ sources. This is a travesty of the idea of ‘renewable energy’. Your customers want you to invest in truly renewable and sustainable energy, such as wind and solar power, and small-scale sustainable biomass grown locally. Please drop your plans now and assure me that palm oil, palm kernel (containing useable animal feed) and other tropical feedstocks linked to deforestation will not be used by Npower under the Renewables Obligation.

I look forward to your reply. Many thanks in advance.
Yours faithfully,

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2 Comments:

At 1:56 PM, Blogger Calvin Jones said...

Well, it looks like we have some good news!

Well done NPower :-)
and
The WWF :-)

----------
Dear Mr Jones,

Many thanks for your email. Palm oil has been trialed at Littlebrook power station and is one of the many 'biofuels' we are exploring in our power stations alongside wood chips, sawdust, olive residue and palm kernels. These fuels are known as 'carbon neutral' because burning them only releases back into the atmosphere the CO2 recently absorbed during their growth. At Littlebrook we were evaluating the possibility of converting our oil-fired power station to burn 100% biomass. This could have replaced the need for some fossil fuel generation and resulted in annual CO2 reductions equivalent to taking 220,000 cars off the road,



However I can confirm that we have decided the plan is not currently feasible. The key reason for the decision has been the impact of strict sustainability criteria we set ourselves, based on the standards established by the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil, a joint venture between business and the environmental group WWF.



We set out to ensure none of our palm oil came from plantations that might have caused rainforest damage or infringed the rights of local inhabitants or workers. While it was our strong feeling that there was enough 'sustainable' palm oil available for the large volumes we were seeking, we found the industry processes for checking this were not yet developed enough to prove this for certain.



RWE npower has no current plans for future palm oil purchases. We would consider any future use against the same three criteria of commercial, technical and sustainable viability. We believe that, as a major power generator and supporter of a move to a low-carbon economy, we have to explore all commercially sensible options which could benefit the environment.



Demonstrating that 'biomass' fuels are practical on a major scale in the UK is a crucial step in stimulating the development of a domestic energy crop industry which can help the UK Government meet its renewable energy and carbon dioxide reduction targets.



I hope you find this information useful. If you have any more questions, please contact me.



Anita Longley

Head of Corporate Responsibility

RWE npower

01793877777

anita.longley [at] rwenpower.com

 
At 4:01 PM, Blogger Almuth said...

Npower changed their minds after receiving thousands of protest emails, most of them from Germany (where Npower's parent company, RWE, is based), but also from the UK. This shows that concerted campaigns against the use of palm oil can work!

Worryingly, the US are fast becoming a major importer of palm oil from South-east Asia. I hope some good US-based campaign will be started to stop this!

Almuth Ernsting

 

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