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Blackbridge biomass subsidy blow

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Screen Shot 2016-08-25 at 12.28.35THE COMPANY behind a controversial scheme to ship biomass halfway around the world to be burned in Milford Haven has failed to deny that its business model is threatened by a significant change in UK Government policy on biomass power generation. 

Egnedol, whose head office continues to be a vacant shop in a Carmarthen side-street, was asked to respond to news that the Government is to significantly reduce the amount of money paid as subsidy to companies who generate power from biomass material.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS, previously the Department of Energy and Climate Change) laid an amendment in Parliament to the Renewable Heat Incentive on July 7 to reduce support for biomass combined-heat-and-power (CHP) systems.

The changes in support are specifically targeted at biomass CHP plants that use less than 20 % of their fuel for electricity production (with the other 80 % being used for renewable heat). This change will affect all plants applying on or after Aug 1. Neither DECC or the new BEIS had formally consulted with relevant trade associations or directly with industry on this specific change prior to laying the new amendment in Parliament, surprising many in the industry and putting a number of projects at risk.

The REA surveyed 36 companies that are developing biomass CHP projects in the UK. Of those companies, 34 had already made major equipment orders for the construction of their facilities or put down non-refundable deposits; 25 companies have reported that the changes laid before parliament will have a ‘very negative ‘ impact on their project, and additional eight reporting ‘negative ‘ impact.

REA discussions with member companies involved in the biomass CHP industry (unrelated to the survey) indicate many companies are facing up to a 35 % reduction in their anticipated tariff.

James Court, Head of Policy and E xternal Affairs at the REA, said: “Despite the amendment claiming ‘no impact on the private or voluntary sectors is foreseen ‘, the abrupt cut in support significantly impacts the biomass CHP industry. It is the suddenness and the lack of consultation that is the core issue here. Over £140m worth of investment is affected by this change.

“The industry has invested in good faith in these projects, some which have been in preparation and construction for up to two years.

“This unexpected cut will prove damaging to investor confidence and significantly reduces the likelihood that many companies and investors will be keen to invest in this low-carbon technology in the future.

“We are therefore calling on BEIS to withdraw the amendment until a proper consultation has been launched to examine the impact on these projects, or introduce a grace period for those who can demonstrate that they have already made a significant financial commitment.”

Egnedol’s development has been dogged by controversy from the outset. A meeting between the company’s representatives and councillors was described as farcical, after the spokespersons sent were unable to answer even the most basic questions posed to them by councillors. In addition, it is not clear what amount of public money will be handed over to the company, whether directly by way of grant or by long-term ‘green’ subsidy and carbon-trading credits.

Although Egnedol has put some exhibitions on for members of the public in Milford Haven, it has declined to attend public question and answer sessions, leading to continuing suspicion about its bona fides and ability to commence the project, let alone complete it.

While Egnedol has made a public statement that it intends to start operation from the Blackbridge site next year, the South Hook development took three years from the same stage as the Egnedol scheme is at.

A 50MW generating facility would require 50 tonnes of biomass derived from timber each hour. And that assumes that it burns only timber. Once permission is granted, there would be nothing to prevent the plant’s operators burning waste in order to fuel its plant. The company has declined to say precisely what material will be burned at Blackbridge, although it has denied it will be the patented ‘miracle plant’ that features so prominently in the company’s promotional websites as being the source of its ambitious plans for biomass generation.

None of the existing (far smaller) similar facilities in the UK are operating at anywhere near their projected efficiency, while an operation in Carmarthenshire was denied by planners after it emerged insufficient attention had been given to the potential adverse effects of such a development on the environment.

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Pembrokeshire stands against Israeli apartheid and Genocide

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PALESTINE solidarity groups in Pembrokeshire and West Wales are mobilising for a powerful protest in Haverfordwest, Castle Square, this Saturday 20th April at 2pm. They aim to vehemently condemn the relentless Israeli onslaught on Gaza and send a clear message to the UK government and local MPs Simon Hart and Stephen Crabb: End the complicity now! We demand an immediate ceasefire and an end to arms sales that fuel this brutal oppression.

The Nakba, or ‘catastrophe’ in Arabic, refers to the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestine by Israeli forces, following the forcible displacement of 750,000 Palestinians (almost half the population) in 1947-49 in order to establish the state of Israel. Israel’s current assault on Gaza is an escalation of the ongoing Nakba and threatens to be the largest mass expulsion of Palestinians since 1948. The international community has an immediate responsibility to intervene to stop Israel’s ethnic cleansing today. Any delay in implementing practical measures constitutes complicity and/or participation in the ongoing Nakba.

This rally is a collective outcry against the crimes perpetrated by Israel and a rallying cry for the boycott of Israeli products.

“It’s sickeningly hypocritical that Israel strikes nations and communities first, claims victimhood when faced with resistance, and then receives unwavering support from the U.S., the UK, and Germany!” lamented one protester.

“For too long, the international community has turned a blind eye to Israel’s flagrant violations of human rights, granting it impunity while innocent lives are lost.”

“Six months of relentless violence. Six months of Israel slaughtering innocent Palestinians. Six months of Israel killing over 14,000 children! That’s an average of around 76 children a day and what has our government done? Profited from arms sales, turning a blind eye to the bloodshed,” remarked another protester.

This protest is a clarion call to all who stand for justice: It’s time to disrupt the status quo and challenge our complicit government. “We will never give up,” declared a participant. “To dismantle apartheid, we must disrupt the everyday and refuse to be complicit in Israel’s crimes against humanity!”

Join us at Castle Square at 2pm this Saturday to lend your voice to the 2 million people who suffer from a forced famine and brutal occupation in Gaza. Together, we will demand justice, accountability, and an immediate end to the bloodshed, the genocide and ethnic cleansing.

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Dragon LNG ‘monitoring’ scrap car blaze in Waterston

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A BLAZE has broken out at the Waterston Car Dismantler’s business in Waterston, Milford Haven.

Dragon LNG which is situated near the site said that the fire was not related to their operation and confirmed that the that emergency services were at the scene.

Residents living nearby have been advised to keep windows and doors closed whilst the incident is being dealt with.

“We are aware of a fire in Waterston with the emergency services present,” said a spokesperson for Dragon LNG.

“The incident is not related to Dragon LNG and Dragon Energy. We are monitoring the situation and are co-ordinating with the emergency services.”

(Images: M Cavaney/Herald)

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Oxfam to close Haverfordwest shop amid asbestos concerns

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OXFAMGreat Britain is set to shutter its profitable store in Haverfordwest, which currently brings in £25,000 annually, due to unforeseen costs related to asbestos removal. The closure date remains undecided, leaving managers Derrick and Mark uncertain about the future. A major sale is planned to clear out stock, starting with a 50% discount on donated items before escalating to a fire sale.

The charity has faced longstanding issues with asbestos in the building’s upper floors, which now require £60,000+ in removal costs. This expense will be charged to the shop’s account within a year, rendering the operation financially unviable. Although aware of the asbestos for years, Oxfam GB’s management has continually deferred addressing the problem. Alternatives such as relocating have been dismissed by the charity, citing that finding new premises would take two years and the renovation costs would still need coverage in the interim.

The Haverfordwest shop is a vital community hub, known for its extensive range of quality second-hand books, music, clothes, and homewares. It is also the largest second-hand bookshop in Pembrokeshire. The store is celebrated for its inviting atmosphere and the significant social value it provides, offering volunteering opportunities and work experience placements that often lead to employment.

Despite the shop’s profitability and community role, Oxfam GB’s decision comes as a blow to local efforts to combat poverty. Sarah Rees, Head of Oxfam Cymru, has previously highlighted the region’s “shameful and stubbornly high poverty rate.” The shop not only supports Oxfam’s global initiatives but also directly contributes to alleviating local poverty.

The decision has sparked controversy among volunteers and the community, with many questioning Oxfam’s commitment to its stated mission. Rosamund Aubrey, a volunteer, expressed her disappointment and stated she would reconsider her support for the organization due to this decision.

The forthcoming closure marks a significant loss for Haverfordwest, leaving both staff and the community awaiting further updates from Oxfam GB.

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