The NSW Energy Minister announced today that the logging industry would now be allowed to burn whole trees for power production under changes to the Protection of the Environment Operations (POEO) Act 2009. 'This will take us back to pre-industrial times when we should be concentrating on true renewables, like wind and solar', said Lorraine Bower of the Australian Forests and Climate Alliance.

'The NSW government has bowed to pressure from the logging industry', said Ms Bower. 'This is preferential treatment for a taxpayer subsidised Industry of Entitlement' said  Ms Bower. 'The Department of Primary Industries has admitted that no studies have been done on the cost or the financial viability of burning native forest trees for electricity generation'.

'The logging industry has been lobbying governments for many years to burn native forests for energy', said Ms Bower. 'The native forest logging industry in NSW is in decline largely because of a preference by markets for plantation timber. Now the government has approved the establishment of a new industry to burn large volumes of native forest wood for electricity.'

'The logging industry has no interest in using branches and left over material for power production, said Harriett Swift from Chipstop. ‘They want whole trees and have been lobbying for changes to the federal government’s RET legislation, which would allow this kind of energy production to be termed ’renewable’’.

‘We know that burning trees for power production is far from renewable and that in many cases emissions from burning trees are more intensive than burning coal’ [1] [2], said Ms Swift. ‘Biomass power will also produce a toxic cocktail of emissions that are harmful to the health of nearby communities' [3].

‘NSW native forests are already overcut and in a seriously degraded condition’, [4] [5] said Heather Kenway of the South East Region Conservation Alliance.  'In maintaining this unsustainable subsidised logging, the government is now making it harder for genuine renewable energy producers of solar and wind power'. 

Ms Swift said that big old trees that would provide habitat for many native species are already scarce. Species of trees that are currently not logged will now be permitted for burning, including trees supporting koalas, black cockatoos and a multitude of threatened and endangered wildlife species.

‘This government has no interest in preserving the precious little left of our intact native forests for wildlife, water, tourism and future generations' said Ms Kenway. 'Will they wake up, like the Easter Islanders, only when the last tree falls? We need to leave NSW native forests in the ground to regrow and recover, switch to plantations for our timber needs, and  formulate an energy plan for NSW that does not include 'Dead Koala Power’'.

7 March 2014

For Comment:

Lorraine Bower  

Heather Kenway 

Harriett Swift 



[1]      Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences. Biomass Sustainability and Carbon Policy Study Executive Summary. June 2010 and Hudiberg, T.W., Law, B.E., Wirth, C. and Luyssaert, S. (2011) 'Regional carbon dioxide implications of forest bioenergy production', Nature Climate Change, Vol 1 October 2011

[2]      http://www.rspb.org.uk/Images/biomass_report_tcm9-326672.pdf

[3]      Charles D. Connor. President & CEO. American Lung Association. Letter to United States House of Representatives. June 24, 2009., Massachusetts Medical Society Adopts Policy Opposing Biomass Power Plants” December 9, 2009. http://www.massmed.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Search8&template=/CM/HTMLDisplay.cfm&ContentID=32796

[4]                     The NSW Auditor-General found forests 'being logged faster than they could regrow'[4].

[5]      http://nefa.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/Audit_UNE_Forests_Feb2011.pdf