(No Dash for Gas! October 29, 2012) This morning, more than 20 climate change activists evaded security to shut down the UK’s newest gas-fired power station. They climbed two smokestacks at EDF Energy’s West Burton plant in Nottinghamshire, England, and have abseiled down the insides of the chimneys. They are now setting up camp in tents suspended from ropes inside the flues. As long as they hold their position above the furnaces the plant is unable to operate.
The occupation fires the starting gun on a huge nationwide battle over Britain’s energy future, with activists determined to stop government plans for a new dash for gas. They are calling instead for a high-tech carbon-free electricity system.
The night-time incursion was launched at 2 a.m. 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 300′ 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. West Burton power station in Nottinghamshire is being 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.
Anneka Kelly is one of the activists occupying the chimney. Speaking on a mobile phone she said:
“Energy bills are going through the roof, people are getting flooded out of their homes, we’re seeing droughts across the world but the energy companies are making a killing. We’re here because we want an electricity system that doesn’t cause our world to warm and our bills to rise ever higher.
“Gas is expensive and highly polluting, but if the Government gets its way we’ll be reliant on it for decades. Instead we should be investing in clean high-tech renewables that slash pollution and in the long run will cost a lot less.”
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.
Ewa Jasiewicz is on top of one of the chimneys. She said:
“A new dash for gas will leave the UK utterly reliant on this dirty expensive fuel for decades to come. Our energy system is being run by a cartel of corporations that has this government in its pocket. As long as we have an economic system driven by profit, we will have an energy system that ignores the needs of those suffering most from climate change and rising energy bills.
“With a quarter of the UK’s outdated energy infrastructure needing to be replaced, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to invest in renewables that could generate hundreds of thousands of jobs, radically cut emissions of carbon dioxide and stabilise energy bills. Clean green technology is already powering thousands of homes across the UK, and enjoys overwhelming public support.”
More from the No Dash for Gas website:
The new ‘dash for gas’ will leave us dependent on a highly polluting and increasingly expensive fossil fuel for decades to come. It would make even our modest carbon reduction targets impossible to hit, and cause household energy bills to soar even further. While energy companies profit, our chances of a secure and sustainable future are slipping away.
This action is therefore in defence of the global commons, which are under sustained attack by polluting fossil fuel companies. We are here to challenge corporate power and the rush to further ingrain an energy system that puts short term profits of the few, above the collective needs of the many.
Replacing our outdated energy infrastructure with clean alternatives will generate hundreds of thousands of jobs. The technology is already powering thousands of homes across the UK, and enjoys overwhelming public support.
This is an opportunity to wrest power from a cartel of energy companies, and back into the hands of communities. The dash for gas makes no sense for anyone except the big energy companies. We need a cleaner, more resilient and economically just energy system – and we’re here to fight for it. This is the new battleground for our energy future.