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Federal government fails to rule out funding Eden wood-fired power station

Media Release
Lee Rhiannon 26 Aug 2011

Australian Greens Senator for NSW and forests spokesperson Lee Rhiannon says the major parties' refusal to rule out federal funding to support the operations of the proposed Eden wood-fired power station, by voting against a motion she put to Federal Parliament yesterday, suggests the proposal could still have life.

The full motion and debate from Hansard is provided below. Senator Rhiannon and NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge are visiting South East NSW next Tuesday 30 August.

"When I visit South East NSW next week with David Shoebridge we will be talking with locals about stepping up the campaign to stop the construction of a wood-fired power station," Senator Rhiannon said.

"The Greens are concerned that the Federal Minister for Forestry Senator Ludwig did not use the opportunity in Parliament to rule out future funding of the Eden bio-mass power station which is still on the Department of Planning's books.

"We know that the Federal MP for Eden-Monaro Dr Kelly has continued to promote the power station, despite electricity generation from native forest feed-stocks no longer being eligible for Renewable Energy Certificates.

"Biomass power has no future in our low carbon energy economy, but both Dr Kelly and Minister Ludwig have failed to bury the Eden proposal.

 "The leg up that federal funding would provide could see the station built, driving the continued wood-chipping of our precious South East forests.

 "This wood-fired power station should be relegated to the history books as a bad idea that never got off the ground.

"Both the major parties are singing from the same song-book, suggesting wood-fired power is carbon neutral.

"The reality is that there is nothing sustainable about electricity created by burning native timber and it would be a major step backwards if this project was given the go-ahead," Senator Rhiannon said.

Contact: 0487 350 880

HANSARD OF THE MOTION DEBATE - Thursday, 25 August 2011
MOTION - Eden Biomass Power Plant
Senator RHIANNON (New South Wales) (12:19): I move:
That the Senate-
(a) notes that:

(i) the operator of the Eden woodchip mill in south east New South Wales, South East Fibre Exports Pty Ltd (SEFE) which is owned by Nippon Paper Industries, plans to build a 5MW biomass-fired power station in Eden,

(ii) the biomass power plant would accelerate the damage done to the New South Wales south east forests by the Eden woodchip mill operations, inevitably using woodchips that have been produced from native forests with heavy subsidies by the New South Wales Government,

(iii) both SEFE and the local federal Member for Eden-Monaro, Dr Kelly, have been promoting the burning of native timber as an important measure in fighting climate change, falsely claiming that forestry biomass is economic, sustainable and a low carbon energy source, and

(iv) biomass electricity generation from native forest feed-stocks is no longer eligible for Renewable Energy Certificates, which will threaten the commercial viability of the Eden biomass power plant; and

(b) calls on the Member for Eden-Monaro and the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (Senator Ludwig) to guarantee that no federal funding will be allocated to subsidise the operations of the proposed Eden biomass power plant.

Question agreed to.

Senator RHIANNON (New South Wales) (12:19): by leave-Under the recent carbon price agreement, biomass electricity generation from native forest feedstocks is no longer eligible for renewable energy certificates. It is now widely recognised that native feedstock is not a sustainable power source. It has no part in our renewable energy future. The South East Fibre Exports Pty Ltd, which is owned by Nippon Paper and operated by the Eden chip mill is planning to build a biomass fired power station in Eden in the south-east of New South Wales. This plant would inevitably burn for fuel the woodchips produced from logging the stunning native forests that are so valuable ecologically and economically. The woodchip mill's operations are heavily subsidised by the New South Wales government, and it is an environmental outrage that excess woodchips could now be incinerated to produce electricity. It would be a big setback for the commercial viability of the Eden biomass power plant if th
 ey were given any funding. People across Australia are watching closely the developments in Eden to see what happens next, because if funding came through from another source it would certainly open up this industry to the possibility of being developed in other areas.

I urge the member for Eden-Monaro and the minister for forestry to give a guarantee to the public that they will not seek any backdoor means of giving federal funding to the proposed Eden biomass power plant. The question is often asked: why don't we use this waste? This is not waste. It is part of the whole forest process, and the ongoing concern is that, if this biomass power plant was built, it would establish infrastructure that would drive the woodchipping of these beautiful native forests for decades to come.

Senator LUDWIG (Queensland-Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Manager of Government Business in the Senate and Minister Assisting the Attorney-General on Queensland Floods Recovery) (12:22): Mr President, I seek leave to make a short statement.

The PRESIDENT: Leave is granted for two minutes.

Senator LUDWIG: There are three matters that I want to go to. One is in relation to the statement that accompanies a motion. I remind the Senate that we recently provided a Procedure Committee report which effectively went to this issue to limit the amount of time people take in making short statements during this time. This is a time when people can put motions and if they want to contain the issue within the motion they should write the motion accordingly. They should then put the motion without debate. What we have now heard is debate in relation to the motion, which then provokes others around the chamber to debate the motion. It is this issue that we are trying to avoid. I understand Senator Rhiannon is new to this chamber so I simply rise as a courtesy to explain how motions work in this instance.

The government does not support the motion. The government notes the use of biomass as an energy source is carbon neutral as it does not add to the stock of carbon in the atmosphere, as does the combustion of fossil fuels. Accordingly, there is no liability under the proposed carbon price for carbon dioxide emitted from the combustion of biomass. This will mean that biomass combustion will benefit from a carbon price through greater cost competitiveness. However, to protect native forests from the risk of perverse outcomes, the government has committed to amend the renewable energy target regulations to ensure that renewable energy certificates are not issued for wood waste that comes from native forests. Both I and the Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry clearly support the government's position in relation to this. And I do understand that I have now probably provoked a further response-and this is the exact issue that I am trying to avoid in respect of these notices of motion as they proceed, but be that as it may. (Time expired)

Senator COLBECK (Tasmania) (12:24): Mr President, I seek leave to make a short statement.

The PRESIDENT: Leave is granted for two minutes.

Senator COLBECK: Senator Ludwig is right: I have been provoked by previous statements to make a short statement. One thing on which I do agree with Senator Ludwig is that the use of biomass is, in fact, carbon neutral although the science that I have seen recently indicates that it is something, in a life-cycle sense, like only four per cent of the CO2 emissions of coal, so it is certainly a viable and sensible utilisation of our natural resource. Obviously, the opposition does not support the government's view that biomass from native wood stocks should be ruled out of access to renewable energy certificates. It is the opposition's view that a sensibly scaled biomass sector is a very viable use of the resource that exists and, in fact, we are aware that up to 8,000 gigawatt hours of energy could be produced from existing sources without cutting down another tree, without any further impact on the forest. So that resource is, in fact, going to waste and could be utilised quit
 e sensibly to reduce our CO2 emissions. The government, obviously because of the The government, obviously because of the influence of the Greens, has gone down the track of removing that capacity to reduce our CO2 emissions by ruling out the use of native forest biomass in the renewable energy process. We do not think that is a sensible way to go, when you are ruling out a resource that even the WWF has set an OECD target of 15 per cent of energy generated from renewables via biomass. We see this as a sensible course to follow and obviously we do not support the government's or the Greens' position.

Question put:
That the motion (Senator Rhiannon's ) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. [12.31]
(The President-Senator the Hon. JJ Hogg)
Ayes ...................... 9
Noes ...................... 37
Majority ................ 28
Brown, RJ
Di Natale, R
Hanson-Young, SC
Ludlam, S
Milne, C
Rhiannon, L
Siewert, R (teller)
Waters, LJ
Wright, PL
Adams, J
Bilyk, CL
Birmingham, SJ
Boswell, RLD
Cash, MC
Colbeck, R
Collins, JMA
Cormann, M
Crossin, P
Farrell, D
Fawcett, DJ
Fierravanti-Wells, C
Fifield, MP
Fisher, M
Furner, ML
Gallacher, AM
Hogg, JJ
Johnston, D
Kroger, H (teller)
Ludwig, JW
Lundy, KA
Macdonald, ID
Madigan, JJ
Marshall, GM
McEwen, A
McKenzie, B
Moore, CM
Nash, F
Parry, S
Payne, MA
Pratt, LC
Singh, LM
Stephens, U
Thistlethwaite, M
Urquhart, AE
Williams, JR
Xenophon, N


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