The North East Forest Alliance is alarmed that Byron Shire Council is currently seeking Expressions of Interest for the construction and operation of bioenergy plants that may include the burning of trees obtained from native forests.
"We expected a lot better that this from Byron Shire Council. NEFA does not consider that they have a social licence to burn native forests for electricity.
"We are requesting that they immediately change their prospectus to explicitly and clearly exclude the use of material obtained from the logging or the clearing of native forests from their proposed bioenergy plants", said NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh.
"Cutting down forests to generate electricity doesn't make sense, we lose the tree's ability to take in and store carbon, and when they are burnt they release more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than burning coal" Mr. Pugh said.
Byron Shire Council is currently seeking Expressions of lnterest for the construction and operation of bioenergy facilities at Council's Sewerage Treatment Plants, with the Bangalow STP the favoured site. Submissions close on the 8th of February
Council identifies that some 1.3 MW of electricity could be generated from its organic and sewerage wastes, and proposes sugar cane waste as the other major potential resource, with waste from dairy and meat processing operations thought to be able to increase power generation up to 2MW.
"But we've seen this before. The Broadwater and Condong sugar cogeneration plants (now known as Cape Byron Power) were established to burn sugar cane waste to generate electricity, but it wasn't viable. At last report they were using some 25% wood, mostly from landclearing, and it was increasing" Mr. Pugh said.
NEFA's principal concern is that the Council prospectus states 'with the hope of lending further support to the viability of this project Council identifies potential additional sources' to include 'State forestry wastes – DPI Forests'.
"Last November DPI announced they wanted to provide up to one million tonnes of forestry "residues" each year from north east NSW's forests to generate electricity. This would entail a massive increase in the intensity of logging in north-east NSWs public forests. That means more damage to wildlife, catchments, roads, and the forests' resilience to survive climate change", Mr. Pugh said.
"In March 2014, at the insistence of the National Party, the Protection of the Environment Operations Regulation was amended to allow the burning of trees from native forests to generate electricity from the clearing of private property and the 'thinning" of public forests.
"Both the NSW Greens and the NSW ALP say they are opposed to the burning of native forests and cleared vegetation for electricity.
"NEFA is calling on the Green and ALP members on Byron Shire Council to honour their parties platforms and immediately change their prospectus to explicitly and clearly exclude the use of material obtained from the logging of native forests or the clearing of native vegetation in their proposed bioenergy plants", Mr Pugh said.