Protesters invade Oxfordshire power station

OXFORDSHIRE, ENGLAND - Protesters have forced RWE npower, the UK arm of German energy giant RWE AG, to switch from coal to gas to fire boilers at the 2,000-megawatt (MW) Didcot coal- and gas-fired power plant in Oxfordshire.

About 20 protesters forced their way into the plant in the early morning hours of October 26 before splitting into two groups that then occupied the coal conveyor belt and climbed to the top of the Didcot A chimney.

Police have since arrested those that blocked the conveyor belt, but the nine protesters occupying the top of the chimney remained at the top of the chimney for almost two days before coming down. RWE's Didcot plant was targeted following E.ON AG's announcement a few weeks ago that it was shelving plans to build the controversial Kingsnorth coal-fired plant. Kingsnorth has been the site of numerous protests and clashes between activists and police.

The Didcot coal- and gas-fired plant, known as Station A, is one of two power plants on the site.

RWE npower also has a 1,360-MW combined-cycle gas turbine plant there, known as Station B. A major maintenance schedule for the four units at Didcot A was outlined earlier this year.

"At around 5 a.m. this morning, 20 people entered Didcot A power station by forced entry," an RWE spokesperson said. "The protestors then dispersed into two groups, one going to a conveyor building, and the other to the power station's chimney. We have stopped using the coal conveyor to ensure the safety of the protestors. However, we have coal stocks ready and other means of delivering coal to the boilers. We're currently burning gas, but we may burn coal later today if need be."

RWE stated: "Police arrested 11 protestors from our coal-conveyor area, and the only remaining protestors are at the top of our chimney stack. The station is fully fuelled with coal and being kept warm and available to run today again if needed. Testing work is being undertaken on one of the generating units to bring it back from an outage.

"We recognize the challenge of climate change and operate a diverse mix of power stations. That mix will change going forward as we move towards a low carbon economy. We are already planning investments totaling £1 billion per year for the next 10 years in the UK to plug the impending energy gap, while reducing carbon intensity."

RWE confirmed that the last protesters had left their precarious perch: "We can confirm that the nine protestors that were at the top of our chimney stack came down of their own accord at around 4 a.m. this morning. We are relieved that they have come down safely."

The protests at Kingsnorth and Didcot are mirrored in Germany, where numerous coal-fired plants have had operations or construction work halted because of climate change protests.


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