Drax power station in Yorkshire, England, burns more coal than any other power station in the UK, and more wood than any power station in the world. During 2015, Drax burned more wood than was produced in the whole of the UK that year.
Most of the wood Drax burns comes from North America, and much of that is sourced from clearcut wetland hardwood forests in the southern US. These are North America’s most biodiverse forests and amongst the world’s most diverse aquatic ecosystems, home to the greatest concentration of salamander and carnivorous plant species. Most wetland hardwood forests in the US have already been destroyed, mainly for paper. Now the remaining fragments are being clearcut to burn in European power stations, primarily at Drax.
Drax’s wood burning is also disastrous for the climate. Studies show that burning wood pellets for electricity can put more carbon into the atmosphere than burning coal, over a timescale of several decades. Alongside wood pellets, Drax still burns millions of tonnes of coal every year. A recent report showed that Drax is sourcing coal from Colombia and Russia, where indigenous communities have been forcefully evicted from their lands for coal mine expansion, to feed UK power stations.
Burning wood pellets is allowing Drax to continue burning coal long into the future. The generous renewable energy subsidies it receives are a de-facto support for coal burning, was well as wood burning, as the power station can only stay open because of them. Last year, Drax’s subsidies amounted to £451.8 million – over £1.3 million every single day.
Please call on the Secretary of State for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Minister of State for Energy to withdraw Drax's renewable energy subsidies, and make a commitment that no more shall be awarded to the power station in future. Clean energy subsidies must be spent on genuinely renewable, low-carbon energy.
Dear Secretary of State for BEIS and Minister of State for Energy,
We are deeply concerned that the UK government is continuing to award Drax power station with millions in renewable energy subsidies. Drax is now the largest biomass power station in the world, and still the biggest coal burning power station in the UK.
Last year Drax Plc was awarded £451.8 million in renewable energy subsidies, a figure that far exceeds the company's gross profit for 2015, which was £409 million, and shows just how dependent the company is on subsidies to remain profitable.
Drax's subsidies have shot up from the previous year, by almost half, and they're set to keep on growing. Once 50% of the power station has been converted to biomass, Drax can look forward to over £600 million every year. That's equivalent to over £1.6 million a day.
But there's a huge amount of evidence that Drax's biomass is anything but low carbon, and on top of this, that its biomass sourcing is resulting in the destruction of some of the world's most biodiverse temperate forests, in the southern US.
Biomass burning at Drax is also allowing the power station's remaining coal capacity to stay operational for longer, meaning that the renewable energy subsidies it receives are also, in effect, subsidising coal burning.
Drax should not receive subsidies for burning biomass or coal. Renewable energy subsidies should be spent on truly sustainable forms of renewable energy, and investment should be directed towards energy efficiency and demand reduction, not dirty old power stations like Drax.