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N Power's Didcot coal powered station under siege

Stax | 26.10.2009 09:39 | COP15 Climate Summit 2009 | Climate Chaos | Oxford

Climate campaigners have this morning shut down N-Power’s flagship coal plant at Didcot in Oxforshire.

The twenty peaceful protesters rode their push-bikes past security guards at 4.30am this morning before splitting into two groups. One team has shut down the giant coal conveyors which feed the boilers at the plant, while a second group of nine men and women has climbed the inside of the iconic 200m-high chimney and reached the top. They say they have enough food and water to stay in place for ‘weeks, not days’ - during which time the plant will be unable to operate. Already the activists in the chimney are securing the route behind them to ensure they can’t be reached by police and security guards.

Didcot Power Station
Didcot Power Station

The huge coal plant in Oxfordshire is owned and operated by German utility company N-Power, which is building new coal plants across Europe and wants to build the first new coal-fired power stations in Britain in 30 years.

A small amount of coal was in the boilers as the invasion occurred. That will last for several hours, after which the protesters will scale the flues at the very top of the chimney (which would normally emit 1000 tonnes of CO2 an hour) and abseil into them, with some of the activists then living inside the chimney for the duration of their occupation. Activists will remain in the flues until their food and water runs out, preventing the station from re-opening.

“We’re a bunch of ordinary people who met at the Climate Camp this summer and were inspired to actually do something about climate change,” said Amy Johnson, 20, one of the protesters at the summit of the huge 200m chimney. “We rode our bikes into the power station this morning and now we’re on the top of the chimney. To be honest we’re quite surprised at how easy it all was. I didn’t quite expect to be here.”

She continued:

“Since E-ON shelved their plans to build a new coal plant at Kingsnorth this month, we realised N-Power is the new frontline. They haven’t dropped their plans to build the dirtiest new power stations in Britain for thirty years, and they’re constructing new coal plants right across Europe. We’re going to stay here until they say they’ll stop building new coal plants. We know that might take a while but we’re patient and we’ve got plenty of supplies to stay up here. We’re talking weeks, not days.”

Amy Johnson added:

“We decided the most powerful place we could set up a Climate Camp would be at the top of N-Power’s most iconic chimney, and that’s what we’ve done. I’d be a liar if said I wasn’t scared climbing up this smokestack, but climate change scares me a lot more. We’ve got people locked on to the coal conveyors and people are going over the top and inside the actual chimney. There’s no way we can be reached, we’re in control of this power plant and we’re not moving any time soon.”

The protesters researched today’s action carefully, putting the safety of N-Power staff and the activists first. The climbers preparing to abseil into the chimney are fully trained and highly experienced. The activists only shut down Didcot after confirming that their actions would not cause power cuts – there is always slack in the National Grid to cope with generating outages, forced or otherwise. If there is a displacement of emissions from coal to gas (or no generation) it will reduce net CO2 emissions in the course of the occupation by tens of thousands of tonnes.

Amy Johnson said:

“In every country CO2 emissions are linked to economic growth, so in countries like the UK our insatiable hunger for more and more products and consumer goods is driving climate change. The world’s finite resources need to be shared more fairly, and the richest countries which got us into this mess need to take the lead in reducing emissions. We’re on this chimney to demand climate justice as the world prepares to meet in Copenhagen. We’re defending human life and people’s property around the world that’s in immediate need of protection from the ravages of rising temperatures.”

While N-Power claims that new coal is necessary to ‘keep the lights on’, in reality its push for new coal plants at Tilbury and Hunterston is motivated by profit, with coal-burning being cheaper than other fuels despite its enormous climate impact. Consultants at Poyry - Europe’s leading independent energy experts - found that Britain could easily meet its energy demands without resorting to new coal as long as the country hits its renewable and energy efficiency targets.

Why coal, why Didcot?

* The single greatest threat to the climate comes from burning coal. Coal-fired generation is historically responsible for most of the fossil-fuel CO2 in the air today, about half of all fossil-fuel carbon dioxide emissions globally.

* Coal-fired power generation is the most environmentally damaging means of generating electricity yet devised. In fact, in carbon terms, coal is the dirtiest fuel known to man.

* Ed Miliband recently announced plans to allow the construction of four new coal plants that would emit about 80% of their emissions into the atmosphere. That would make them the most carbon-polluting new coal plants built in Britain for 30 years. N-Power is behind 2 possible plants, at Tilbury and Hunterston

* As we close old coal-fired and nuclear power stations in the next decade we will lose capacity currently providing around a quarter of our electricity output. But Gordon Brown recently committed to targets which will require us to generate about 35-40% of our electricity from renewables alone by 2020, and the UK also has fairly ambitious energy efficiency targets. According to Europe’s leading independent energy experts, Poyry, if the UK was to hit these existing renewables and efficiency targets, there will be no ‘energy gap.’ We can keep the lights on and cut emissions, and in the long run bring down fuel bills too – all without new coal-fired plants like Kingsnorth.

* The world’s most respected climate scientist, Dr. Jim Hansen, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, is so concerned about plans for new coal plants in Britain that he took the unprecedented step of writing to the Prime Minister to say that with the decision over whether or not to allow Kingsnorth, Brown has the potential to influence “the future of the planet”

* Coal-fired power generation really is an outdated technology for a 21st century, climate changing world. Even today, Britain’s centralised, inefficient coal-fired power stations waste over two-thirds of the energy they generate. The proposed new coal plant at Kingsnorth, although more efficient than the old one, would still use old-style conventional technology that would waste (as heat) over half of all the energy the power station creates. Compare that with the state-of-the-art power plants they use in Scandinavia which run at up to 94% efficiency.

* Burning coal in the UK has already halted the decline in emissions seen in the 1990s following the ‘dash for gas’ and has undermined progress from other sectors in cutting emissions. Since Labour came to power, carbon dioxide emissions have actually increased and this can be attributed in large part due to ‘the roll to coal’ as well as increased aviation emissions.

* Dr. Jim Hansen, one of the first climate scientists to warn of global warming, says: “The only practical way to prevent CO2 levels from going far into the dangerous range, with disastrous effects for humanity and other inhabitants of the planet, is to phase out use of coal except at power plants where the CO2 is captured and sequestered.”

* Equally, Sir Martin Rees, President of the prestigious Royal Society, wrote to the Government saying, "Allowing any new coal-fired power station, such as Kingsnorth, to go ahead without a clear strategy and incentives for the development and deployment of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology would send the wrong message about the UK's commitment to address climate change, both globally and to the energy sector.”

"I therefore suggest that the government only gives consent to any new coal- fired power station, such as Kingsnorth, on condition that the operating permits are withdrawn if the plant fails to capture 90% of its carbon dioxide emissions by 2020. This would send a clear policy signal to industry of the need to develop and deploy CCS as quickly as possible."

* Lord Adair Turner’s inaugural report from the Committee on Climate Change sets out that achieving an 80% domestic reduction in emissions by 2050 means the decarbonisation of the UK power sector must start now and continue through the 2020s, so that we can secure the “almost total decarbonisation of electricity generation by 2030”.



New Int: First interview with activist inside coal power station

26.10.2009 10:25

Coal scoop! First interview with activist inside coal power station
nb url may change to:

Posted by Jess Worth on Monday, October 26, 2009

This morning, 22 activists occupied Didcot coal power station - the carbon belching monster just down the road from the NI Oxford office. Word has only just started trickling out, but I managed to have a quick phone chat with Amy Johnson, one of the protesters.

‘Where are you?’ I asked. ‘I’m on the upper-most inside level of Didcot’s chimney’ she replied. ‘There are 9 of us climbing the chimney, and 13 people locked to the coal conveyor belt.’

‘How did you get in?’

‘At 4am, we cycled to the power station, cycled around the barrier and just got in!’ There was a bit of a confrontation with security guards, but they didn’t follow them up the chimney. They are now busy barricading themselves in, hanging banners, and starting to answer media calls. They have supplies for the rest of the week.

So: why exactly are they doing this?

‘Well, we just had a massive victory - E.ON announced they probably weren’t going to build Kingsnorth. That means that N-Power, the company that runs this power station, is now the foremost advocate for new coal in the country. They want to build 30 new coal power stations in Britain and Europe. They expect to get planning permission for Hunterston in the next few weeks. We’re saying to them that we won’t leave until they cancel all their plans for new coal.’

But this isn’t just about UK politics. Their banner reads ‘Climate Justice’ and, as we hurtle towards the Copenhagen climate summit, ‘our message is aimed at the whole world,’ says Amy: ‘Coal cannot be the future.’

Are they affiliated with any particular organisation? ‘Not really. We’re a group of people who met at climate camp in London this summer. We learnt about the threat of coal, and were able to attend training sessions run by really experienced activists who gave us the skills and inspiration to do this.’

This is the latest - and most audacious - of a spate of recent direct actions against coal power in the UK. Now all eyes are on N-Power to see how they react…

go go go

Text from Didcot Occupiers

26.10.2009 11:44

"Unfortunately it appears that power is still being generated. We are currently putting tents up on the roof of the power station and we have climbers scaling the flues."


OneClimate Interview with occupying activist

26.10.2009 12:04

"Urgency is where we're at": climate activists occupy Didcot coal-fired power station
by Adam on Oct 26, 2009

Amy Johnson, a 20 year old student from Oxford, talks to from the top of a chimney at Didcot coal-fired power station in Oxfordshire, the UK. She is one of 22 climate activists who have occupied the power station this morning.

Who is protesting at Didcot?

"We're a bunch of fairly ordinary people really. We're not taking this action under any particular name although we met at the Camp for Climate Action so that's our connection."

"We're a mix of ages and we've got a nice gender mix - the age range is from about 19 to 50 in the group of people on the chimney. Climate change is a global issue so regardless of where you live, or what you do or how old you are, you should be taking action on it because it's the biggest threat facing humanity at the moment. Urgency is where we're at."

What's happening?

"We're right on top of the chimney at the moment, I can see down into the cooling towers, I can see the coal pile, I can see the coal conveyer, which is where we currently have thirteen of our activists, and I can see absolutely everything around so it's quite astonishing."

"We arrived at about 4am this morning I believe, we cycled past the barrier into the power station and then split into our two separate groups. We used an angle grinder to get into the chimney through the big gate and then walked all the way up the stairs to the top. We've now barricaded ourselves into the top layer of the inside and into the chimney because we intend to be for as long as we possibly can. We've got food for at least a week. Basically we want to be here as long as possible to be able to tell RWE npower which owns this coal-fired power station that coal cannot be the future for energy in this country."

"Since e-on basically pulled out of developing Kingsnorth, RWE npower has become the forefront of coal in our country, they want to build new coal-fired power stations - about 30 of the across the UK and Europe - they're looking at getting planning permission for one at Hunterston in Scotland within the next couple of weeks I believe, and one in Tilbury. We're just here to tell them that that's flying in the face of everything we know about climate change and also flying in the face of the Government's legally-binding target to cut our carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050. We cannot do that if we're building coal-fired power stations. That's why we're here."

"We haven't yet shut down the power station entirely... it's going to take a while for the people on the coal conveyers to stop the coal feeding into the power station as there was a lot of coal already on the line. At the moment we've got climbers heading further up the chimney in an attempt to get npower to switch if off. That's what we need to be doing. It's not even a question of no new coal. We need to be decommissioning old coal-fired power stations if we're going to cut emissions by 80 percent."

Why Direct Action?

"The government makes all of these noises - it believes it's absolutely pioneering in making the Climate Change Act, but this act is legally binding and they're making almost no movement towards actually fulfilling it in any way. You cannot build new coal-fired power stations and expect to be able to reduce your carbon emissions by 80 percent. We need to be making a just transition to a lower carbon economy and that's just not what is happening. This needs to be changed."

On the risk of arrest

"The consequences of arrest kind dwindle into insignificance in the face of the consequences of climate change. Three hundred thousand people a year, according to Kofi Annan's Global Humanitarian Forum, die each year as a result of climate change. The more carbon we emit, the more we're accelerating climate change, the more droughts, famines, wars over resources we're going to have - we're looking at having about 200 million climate refugees by the middle of this century - that's within my lifetime - if we continue with business as usual. That's just not good enough."

climate justice now!

updates from occupiers

26.10.2009 12:28

No arrests yet. there are still people locked onto the coal conveyor preventing coal from getting into the power station. People are occupying the chimney. Three of the units have turned to gas and teh fourth is not operational. Post Kingsnorth NPower have taken the lead position in pushing new coal in the uk. Over the next couple of weeks, they are seeking planning permission for a new coal fired power station in Scotland. This is the beginning of a massive campaign against them. (Text sent at 15h10)

Sorry climber came down from flue because it's still running on oil. (Text sent at 13h12)

People locked onto coal conveyor for 7 hours now. Climbers on top of chimney going into switched off flue to keep it off. (text sent at 12h18)



Hide the following 21 comments

now we're talking

26.10.2009 10:23

wow. nice one. totally inspiring. the big camps and the swoop have their place, but this is how to actually successfully do it. huge respect for those involved.


ClimateCamp Twitter reports Shipley Open Cast Mine Occupied

26.10.2009 10:38

FYI theres also unconfirmed reports on twitter that activists have stopped work at Shipley Open Cast Mine.

The mine has been the target of several protests in the past and a local campaign has opposed the scheme.
See links to some previous reports:


please stop making me look stupid!

26.10.2009 10:46

it's just not fair. isn't 25% CCS enough for you?

ed miliband

big up!

26.10.2009 10:55

wicked news to wake up to... and shipley too... swoop swoop! any other peeps maybe should consider shifting planned actions forward? if you had em. today'll be a day to remember i think...

(btw, there's also a little tiny report on their environmental pages of the guardian website... )

"you can put us on a database, but you can't stop the swoopage..." ;-)

- Homepage:

News article on UK Coal Shipley action

26.10.2009 10:56

PROTESTORS claim to have stopped work at a Derbyshire coal mine.

Members of the group Earth First say they entered UK Coal's opencast coal mine near Shipley at 9.30am today and occupying six vehicles there.

They say they intend to stay as long as possible in a bid to stop new coal mines and power stations in the UK.

It comes after more than 700 people demonstrated at Ratcliffe-on-Soar's power station last weekend, which resulted in 56 arrests.

Liz Cartmel, a protester at the site said: "We recognise the important role coal mining has played in the local economy in the past, but at a time where our future survival hangs in the balance we need to work towards a future without climate destroying coal.

"Our only way out of the climate crisis is to reduce consumption and to use renewable energies such as wind and solar."

Derbyshire police were called to the site just after 9.20am.

For more on this story see tomorrow's Derby Telegraph.



26.10.2009 11:18

Well played folks! More of this sort of thing please!


DIdcot protest pic + youtube vid

26.10.2009 12:11

Article + pic at:

Video clip of chimney + protestors at top:


Two big barricades, two lock-ons and work stopped again at Mainshill Wood

26.10.2009 12:23

This morning at around 7am the access road being used by loggers and other contractors to gain access to Mainshill Wood was blockaded by residents at the Mainshill Solidarity Camp.

Work has now been stopped for over five hours, with two big barricades and two people locked-on.

The Solidarity Camp has been occupying part of the site of a new opencast coal mine in South Lanarkshire for over four months now, and for weeks relentless actions against Scottish Coal and contractors has slowed the destruction taking place at the site.

More information and photographs will follow - watch this space and get down to the Solidarty Camp.

Solidarity with activists at Shipley and Didcot! With this action at Mainshill, that makes 3 coal actions this morning, showing how the movement against new coal is growing in strength.

No new coal!

Mainshill Solidarity Camp
mail e-mail:
- Homepage:

More history

26.10.2009 12:51

Climate crime banner drop at Didcot in the lead up to the first climate camp.

Nice one for todays action ;-)



26.10.2009 13:37



8 arrests by didcot police

26.10.2009 18:05

@Didcot reporting following on twitter: "Didcot Update: Police make Didcot Power Station protest arrests: Police have arrested eight eco campaigners"

- Homepage:

"Update: Police make Didcot Power Station protest arrests"

26.10.2009 18:08

"Police have arrested eight eco campaigners who were part of a group staging a climate change demonstration at Didcot Power Station today.

Eleven protesters had chained themselves to a coal conveyor at the plant, while nine others staged a sit in at the top of Didcot A tower.

Police cut eight protesters from the coal conveyor one-by-one and arrested them on suspicion of aggravated trespass.

A spokesman said officers expected to make a further three arrests in the next hour.

Meanwhile, the nine protesters currently occupying the top of Didcot A tower will remain there overnight."

- Homepage:

What use are those up the stack?

26.10.2009 19:05

Are the remaining protesters having any effect?



26.10.2009 20:23

A DECC spokesperson said:

"Public support is essential in achieving our goals, indeed everyone has
a vital role to play in improving our energy efficiency. Public
demonstrations to highlight the need for action by all within our global
society is very much welcomed, so long as it's peaceful and respects the
rule of law.

"The role of the police, in controlling demonstrations is to facilitate
peaceful protest, to keep the peace, to uphold the law and to prevent
the commission of offences. While Government is committed to
facilitating peaceful protest, we are equally clear that the criminal
law applies as much to individuals involved in a protest as to any other

Well... it was definately peaceful, and I'd reckon given the Kingsnorth Six precedent that it was lawful too - indeed the activists are doing their best to uphold the law and prevent the greater criminal damage caused by Didcot... this statement even suggests that Miliband and DECC might be preparing to acknowledge this..
~"criminal law applies as much to corporations involved in climate crimes as to any other individual"~

- Homepage:

b'berg on protests

27.10.2009 12:41

RWE’s Didcot Ready to Generate as Protesters Stay on Chimney

By Catherine Airlie

Oct. 27 (Bloomberg) -- RWE AG’s U.K. unit said its Didcot plant was shut for commercial reasons yesterday and stands ready to generate as protesters remained on top of the power station’s chimney overnight.

RWE npower’s 2,000-megawatt plant in Oxfordshire, about 60 miles (100 kilometers) west of London and able to run on coal or gas, stopped producing power yesterday evening, according to National Grid Plc data. Climate change protestors forced entry into the plant yesterday.

“The mild weather has reduced prices to a level that is below what would be economical to sell the units forward,” John Rainford, Didcot’s station manager, said in an e-mailed statement today. “However, the plant is fully fueled with coal, being kept warm and ready. If grid requires it on short notice in the balancing mechanism we will run it.”

The Didcot units generating yesterday were fueled by gas because protesters blocked the conveyor that takes coal into the furnace. When running as a gas plant it doesn’t have the same efficiency as a standard gas-only power plant, RWE spokesman Leon Flexman said. Almost 10,000 megawatts of coal fired power capacity is idle nationwide today, according to Grid data.

Nine climate campaigners barricaded themselves on top of the smokestack to raise awareness of the dirtyness of coal-power stations, protestor Joanna Bates, 21, said today. The protesters say they have enough food and water to last for days.

The 11 protesters that occupied the conveyor belt taking the coal into the furnace were arrested yesterday, RWE spokesman Richard Frost said.

Kingsnorth Plant

RWE became a target after E.ON AG’s U.K. unit shelved plans for a new coal plant at Kingsnorth, England. Coal produces twice as much CO2 as natural gas for electricity production, and RWE’s Didcot station emitted more than 5 million tons in 2008.

“They’ve had an injunction put on us, but we want to stay as long as we can,” Bates said by telephone today from the top of the chimney.

RWE plans new coal stations at Tilbury in Essex and Blyth, in Northumberland. The U.K.’s electricity comes mainly from coal, gas and nuclear powered stations. Coal-fueled plants accounted for 31 percent of 2008 energy consumption, according to the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s Web site.

The npower unit of Essen-based RWE, Germany’s second- biggest utility, has a carbon capture and storage test facility at the Didcot site. The project separates CO2 emissions after burning coal.


last night's update

28.10.2009 09:53

Tuesday 27th:

CLIMATE change protesters who broke into Didcot power station are tonight preparing for a second night on top of the plant’s 200-metre-high emissions chimney. Police said they believed it was too dangerous to try to evict them — although site owners RWE npower earlier obtained a legal injunction to allow them to remove the protesters from their property. The company was considering whether to send security staff up the tower to evict the protesters, or to leave them to leave their perches peacefully. The nine activists occupying the tower claimed they had enough food and water to last them a week. Five other protesters remained in custody after being arrested on suspicion of aggravated trespass on Monday afternoon. Six more were released on bail. The 11 protesters arrested were a second group of activists who chained themselves to a conveyor belt carrying coal into the power station’s furnaces. It took police officers five hours to cut them loose from the belt.


Didcot protest over - 20 arrested

28.10.2009 09:54

At 4.30 am, the nine occupiers of the chimney stack at Didcot power station came down and were immediately arrested. That brings the total arrests to 20, after the 11 locked on to the coal conveyors were arrested in the first 24 hours.

The power company npower claimed in articles published by the BBC that the protests had not affected the output of the power station. This is highly missleading at least or an outright lie. Earlier reports quoted national grid online status reports which showed that Didcot stopped providing power to the grid on the first day of the action.

"RWE npower’s 2,000-megawatt plant in Oxfordshire, about 60 miles (100 kilometers) west of London and able to run on coal or gas, stopped producing power yesterday evening, according to National Grid Plc data. "

“The mild weather has reduced prices to a level that is below what would be economical to sell the units forward,” John Rainford, Didcot’s station manager, said in an e-mailed statement today. “However, the plant is fully fueled with coal, being kept warm and ready. If grid requires it on short notice in the balancing mechanism we will run it.”

Typical media spin - the company would like people to think the action was ineffectual. The fact however is that the company stopped generating and selling power and instead ran the plant at idle during the protest in order to keep it producing flue gases and thereby prevent those on the chimney from occupying the flue. Had the protesters been able to occupy the flue, they'd have been able to keep the company from restarting the power station for as long as the protesters could maintain their occupation.

This protest (though it recieved very little coverage considering the audacity of the action) has been a major success and drives home a very powerful message to the entire fossil fuel burning energy sector - we can't be stopped by your fences and security and we're not just targetting e-on!


Guardian: Didcot: Police use bail restrictions to stifle climate protest

28.10.2009 09:59

Didcot demonstration: Police use bail restrictions to stifle climate protest

Tuesday 27 October 2009 22.15 GMT

Ten protesters who were arrested during an occupation of a power station have been barred from going into Oxfordshire.

Restrictions were imposed yesterday by police on the climate change protesters, who have yet to be charged over the occupation of Didcot power station, near Oxford, which started on Monday.

They are the latest example of punitive pre-charge bail conditions, which lawyers warn are becoming widespread as a quasi-legal tool used by police to stifle protest. Police were given the power to use pre-charge bail conditions under a barely noticed amendment to the Police and Justice Act in 2006. They can even be imposed by officers in the street without taking the suspect to a police station.

Full Article Continues: