Activists protest at Australian power plant

CANBERRA (Reuters) - Environmental activists chained themselves to a coal conveyor at one of Australia’s largest power stations on Thursday and more than a dozen were arrested in a protest against climate policies ahead of a major report on emissions trading.

Greenpeace said the dawn protest by around 30 activists at the Eraring Power Station north of Sydney was the latest part of an ongoing campaign to reduce Australia’s carbon emissions.

“Police arrested 15 of our guys who were going to go onto the roof to paint the word ‘revolution’, but the rest are still locked on the conveyor, stopping 2,000 tons of emissions going into the air every hour,” Greenpeace climate spokeswoman Ria Voorhaar told Reuters.

The Eraring Power Station, which has a generating capacity of 2,640 megawatts, is owned by Eraring Energy, a state corporation with a total generating capacity of over 3,000 megawatts.

One of the arrested protesters, Graham Brown, a retired coal miner, said Australia must make a more rapid transition from coal-fired power to renewable energy.

“Renewable energy is the future and it’s bright,” he said in a Greenpeace statement.

Australia is responsible for about 1.5 percent of global carbon emissions, but is one of the highest per-capita polluters because of the nation’s position as the world’s biggest coal exporter and its heavy reliance on fossil fuels for energy.

Australia emits 28.1 tons of carbon per person, due to reliance on coal for electricity, down from 32.6 metric tons in 1990.

An Eraring Energy spokeswoman said the power station had reduced its output as a routine safety precaution, but was still supplying electricity to the grid.

The government-backed architect of an emissions trading scheme, respected academic economist Ross Garnaut, will on Friday outline how trading could operate from a promised start in 2010, with expectations the regime will be as broad as possible.

Reporting by Rob Taylor, editing by Jonathan Standing