Campaigners prevent carbon emissions in longest-ever power station occupation
Government’s dash for gas branded ‘indefensible’ in wake of Hurricane Sandy
EDF has confirmed that the UK’s newest gas-fired power station will remain shut down after more than thirty No Dash for Gas climate change campaigners evaded security and entered the site on Monday morning. Sixteen of them are spending their third day at the top of two 300 ft smokestacks at the West Burton plant in Nottinghamshire, and last night built new barricades out of scaffolding, ladders and wood. They have abseiled down inside one of the chimneys to set up camp in tents suspended from ropes inside the flues.  As long as they hold their position above the furnace the plant is unable to operate.
Because the plant was not yet fully operational and not connected to the grid, the campaigners claim they have prevented 2371 tonnes of CO2 emissions a day by shutting down the one working chimney. This is equivalent to the energy that an average home uses for 182 years, or taking 465 cars off the road for a year.  As the human and economic costs of Hurricane Sandy become clearer, the need to take action on climate change and avoid many more instances of such extreme weather-related disasters has never been more pressing.
Anneka Kelly is one of the activists occupying one of the chimneys. Speaking on a mobile phone she said:
"Energy bills are going through the roof, the East Coast of the US has been devastated by Hurricane Sandy, we’re seeing droughts and floods across the world and global temperatures are rising. Yet the government, at the behest of the Big Six energy companies, wants to build 20 new gas power stations. This is indefensible. Gas is expensive, highly polluting and we don’t need it. We should be investing in clean high-tech renewables that slash pollution and in the long run will cost a lot less.”
West Burton power station in Nottinghamshire has been targeted because it’s one of the first in a new generation of highly polluting gas plants planned for the UK.  The Coalition Government recently announced it intends to give the green light to as many as 20 new gas plants – a move that would crash Britain’s carbon targets, contribute to the climate crisis and push up bills. This decision is likely to be confirmed when the delayed Energy Bill is published towards the end of November. But the activists echo many scientists and the government’s own advisers in calling for an end to plans for a new dash for gas and investment in a high-tech carbon-free electricity system instead. 
Contrary to claims by ministers and the industry, gas is a dirty fuel that poses an unacceptable threat to the environment. It’s also expensive - official figures from Ofgem show that the average UK energy bill rose £150 last year, with £100 of that due to rising wholesale gas prices. Only last week EDF raised their prices, following most of the other major companies and plunging even more people into fuel poverty. Meanwhile high-tech renewable systems are rapidly coming down in price, meaning that soon they will be cheaper, while communities across the country are turning their back on the Big Six energy companies in favour of cooperative community energy schemes.
The activists have not yet decided when they are going to come down, but have pledged to give the police several hours warning, and hand themselves in. Nevertheless, the police have criticised them for wasting taxpayers’ money on an expensive police operation.
Ewa Jasiewicz, one of the activists occupying one of the chimneys, said : ‘It’s EDF who are wasting taxpayers’ money. There is no need for such a heavy police presence on the ground and helicopters in the sky. It’s not like we’re trying to escape! We have communicated with the police from the start and assured them this is a responsible protest, with safety at its heart. We will give them plenty of warning when we intend to come down, and will hand ourselves over.’
Notes to editors:
- The night-time incursion was launched at 2am when the raiders got through the security fence. Under cover of darkness fifteen of them crossed the expanse to the chimneys then split into two groups and began the 300ft climb to the top. They are now building barricades to defend their positions. They have enough supplies with them to last at least a week and say they’re in it for the long haul. The plant was shut down shortly after the campaigners began the ascent. A further team remained on the ground to liaise with the plant’s managers. Before launching the protest they engaged in extensive consultation with an expert engineer and each underwent intensive safety training.
- According to the government, Combined Cycle Gas Turbine plants like this emit 353g of CO2 per kilowatt hour: http://www.decc.gov.uk/assets/decc/11/policy-legislation/emr/2179-eps-im... . This plant had been generating 280 megawatts:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/oct/30/no-dash-for-gas-occupy . 353g per hour for a day is 8.47 kg a day (353 x 24 = 8470g) and 8.47 x 280,000 is 2371 tonnes a day. That’s the same as energy that an average home uses for 182 years, or taking 465 cars off the road for a year. A driver would have to drive their car non-stop, night and day, for ten and a half years to emit that much…
- West Burton gas power station is a 1,300MW Combined Cycle Gas Turbine (CCGT) plant, currently under construction in Nottinghamshire. It is comprised of three turbine houses and chimneys, labelled Units 1, 2 and 3. Unit 2 is complete and is operating at almost full capacity. Units 1 and 3 are further behind, with Unit 1 closer to completion than 3. When complete, the new CCGT plant will emit approximately 4.5 million tonnes CO2 per year when operating at full capacity. This is more than the annual emissions of Paraguay. [i]
- The Government's independent climate advisers, the Committee on Climate Change, have called for our electricity system to be almost entirely carbon free by 2030.[ii] They have defined this as meaning that our electricity system should produce no more than 50g of CO2 for every kilowatt hour of electricity generated, by 2030. The Chair of the Committee on Climate Change, John Gummer, recently wrote to the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Ed Davey, to warn that George Osborne's plans for a new generation of gas power could be illegal: “extensive use of unabated gas-fired capacity… in 2030 and beyond would be incompatible with meeting legislated carbon budgets.” [iii]
- Figures from Ofgem show that in 2011 the average UK energy bill rose by £150, with £100 of this due to the rising cost of gas. [iv]
Facts and figures on the dash for gas:
· Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Ed Davey, has called for 20GW of gas power stations to be built by 2030, approximately 20 new power stations. [v]
· He has also guaranteed that gas power stations that already have planning consent can, if built, continue emitting CO2 unabated until 2045, i.e. their full life-span, by exempting them from emissions regulations. [vi] There is currently 13GW of gas that has either recently been completed, is in construction, or has been granted planning consent. [vii]
· Lord Turner, in his former role as Chair of the Committee on Climate Change, wrote to the Energy Secretary to warn this would lead to “the risk that there will be too much gas-fired generation instead of low carbon investment” and that the policy could take emissions "beyond the limits implied by carbon budgets."[viii]
· Last week, EDF hiked their energy prices by 10.8%, the highest of any of the big six energy companies so far this winter.
· Recent polling by YouGov found that 55% of people want more windfarms, compared to just 17% who want more gas power stations. [ix]
· An ICM poll found that more than two-thirds of people would rather have a wind turbine than a shale gas well near their home. [x]
· The Offshore Wind Valuation Group found that harnessing just 29% of the practical offshore renewable resource by 2050 would generate the electricity equivalent of 1 billion barrels of oil annually, matching North Sea oil and gas production and making Britain a net electricity exporter. [xi]