A leading British think tank, Chatham House, has today warned that the UK is wasting hundreds of millions of pounds on burning American wood pellets in biomass generators – and that the practice causes more pollution than the coal it replaced.
The UK imported 7.5 million tonnes of wood pellets last year, mostly from across the Atlantic, and most were burned in the Drax power plant.
Britain is the EU’s largest importer of wood pellets and Drax is Britain’s largest power plant. It has moved from burning coal to wood pellets over the last five years and has, as a result of this, been awarded millions of pounds in taxpayer cash from the government
In 2015 alone, the plant received more than £450 million in government subsidies through renewable obligation certificates (ROCs).
But Chatham House’s report claims that burning wood pellets is worse for the environment than burning coal and that the reporting on Drax’s emissions is flawed because it doesn’t take actually burning the pellets into account.
Reporting is carried out like this because rules set out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for biomass mean that emissions are recorded in land use, rather than the energy sector.
The report’s author, Duncan Brack, said: “It’s not a good use of money. For any biomass facility that is burning wood for energy, unless they are only burning stuff like saw-mill residues or post-consumer waste, their activities will be increasing carbon emissions in the atmosphere for decades or centuries. We shouldn’t be subsidising that.”
Revelations of wasted subsidies at Drax follow calls from the Civitas think tank to end the subsidising of green power to make UK power the cheapest in Europe. “The UK needs to rip up its existing energy policy and replace it with a new policy that delivers low and stable energy prices for all users,” said author Glyn Gaskarth.