Drax UK power station still burning rare and at-risk Canadian wood

  • Post last modified:March 4, 2024
  • Reading time:4 mins read

A UK power station that owner Drax claims produces renewable energy is actually burning wood from some of the world’s rarest and most-at risk forests. Of course, Drax is predictably greenwashing its deforestation – while the government funds it to the tune of £6bn.

Drax: greenwashing its deforestation

A new investigation published by Conservation North, Biofuelwatch, and Bulkley Valley Stewardship Coalition reveals that, throughout 2023, Drax routinely sourced whole logs from logging Primary and Old Growth Forests, including from logging sites with a high proportion of 250-year-old Ancient Forest in Canada. The publication coincides with a BBC report on the same topic.

As BBC News reported:

The Drax Power Station, near Selby in North Yorkshire, is a converted coal plant which burns wood pellets. In 2023, it produced about 5% of the UK’s electricity. The site has become a key part of the government’s drive to meet its climate targets.

Its owner, Drax, receives money from energy bill payers because the electricity produced from burning pellets is classified as renewable and treated as emission-free…

In fact, the power station emits about 12 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, but under international rules the UK doesn’t have to count these emissions.

All of the 6.5 million tonnes of wood pellets burned by Drax each year are produced overseas. Many come from Drax’s 17 pellet plants in the US and Canada.

However, BBC Panorama revealed that while Drax got £6bn in public money as it claimed the plant is renewable – it was also burning wood from some of the world’s most high-risk forests.

Chopping down rare and at-risk forests

Now, the investigation by the three campaign groups analysed data published by British Columbia’s (BC) provincial government. It shows that a high volume of logs that arrived at Drax’s pellet mills in BC came from Old Growth forests, including Priority Deferral Areas.

These are areas identified by a government-appointed committee of experts as being at the highest risk of irreversible biodiversity loss, and include Ancient Forest, Big-treed Old Growth and Remnant Old Ecosystems.

The publication of the investigation coincides with the end of a UK government consultation which proposes new long-term subsidies for Drax and Lynemouth power stations, which have both burned pellets from Drax’s mills in BC. Those subsidies would come into effect in 2027 when existing subsidies are due to expire.

Drax gave the BBC various excuses that you can read here.

Drax: the government needs to drop its renewable ‘pretense’

Michelle Connolly, Director of Conservation North, says:

Drax insisted that they only get their raw material from sustainably managed forests. These findings show that this is not the case in British Columbia, where the provincial government is enabling the liquidation of our last Old Growth forests and pulling the British public into this ecocide.

Almuth Ernsting, Co-Director of Biofuelwatch, adds:

If the UK government goes ahead with the new subsidies they have proposed for Drax despite these new revelations, then they can drop any pretense of concern about forest and nature conservation, and delete the word ‘sustainable’ from their already deeply flawed 2023 Biomass Strategy.

Len Vanderstar, R.P.Bio, RCGS Fellow and member of the Bulkley Valley Stewardship Coalition, states:

Mature and Old Growth forest stands contain vast amounts of stored carbon. When they are cut down, huge quantities of this stored carbon is released through decomposition, slash burning and, in the case of wood pellets, through burning the wood.

It takes many decades, if not centuries, to regain the amount of stored carbon that is lost in Old Growth forests after they are logged, many of which will never see the light of day again.

Feature image via Biofuelwatch

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