Power giant Drax’s green energy subsidies mislead, expose reveals

A BBC Panorama investigation into the operator of Britain’s biggest power station – a recipient of green subsidies – suggests the public has been misled on where wood comes from. 

The power giant Drax was the subject of a damning documentary aired on BBC One last night, which revealed that wood pellets burnt at Britain’s biggest power station, which the company runs, had come from primary forests in Canada, despite official claims supplies were only made up of waste wood and sawdust. 

green plants with white background

Drax receives green energy subsidies, paid for by the UK public purse and designed to help environmentally-friendly renewables firms. Instead, ecologist Michelle Connolly told Panorama taxpayers were essentially ‘funding this destruction’, and described logging natural forests, converting wood into pellets and burning them for electricity as ‘absolutely insane’. 

Drax’s Yorkshire power station began conversion to biomass in 2003, although coal is still available for use when supply demands. As such it now lays claim to producing 12% of the UK’s renewable energy supply, with Downing Street handing over a total of £6bn in green subsidies since the change. Environmentalists have long argued burning wood should not be counted as ‘green’.

Air Quality News reporting on several occasions about the PM2.5 emissions associated with wood burning. Our most recent feature, published last month, looks specifically at the psychology of the practice and how opinion can be changed. A report released just weeks before showed a significant spike (60%) in wood fuel sales across Britain as the country prepared for the rise in energy costs this winter. 

Drax’s impact on Canada’s countryside is also a significant concern. While the company told the BBC all logging licenses had been transferred to other firms, authorities confirmed the business still holds them. Claims were also made that pellets only came from logs that were twisted, too small or rotten to be used for other wood products. However, database searches revealed just 11% of logs delivered to Drax were classified as the lowest category. 

Image: Michael Benz


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albert a guy
albert a guy
1 year ago

sounds like a scandal about to be ignited

1 year ago

Thanks, Martin. A pity the reporter didn’t have time to talk about the air pollution Drax has created in the US/Canada wherr the thousands of trees are converted into pellets, or the pollution involved in transporting them to UK, or the potential air pollution in Yorkshire where the Drax facility burns all this biomass.

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