Mr Johnson is facing pressure from environmentalists to reinvest government subsidies given to Drax, the country’s largest renewable energy plant, and spend more on cleaner energy sources, such as solar and wind power . Drax Power Station near Selby, Yorkshire, is seeing its green credentials challenged by environmental groups. In 2020, the plant generated 11% of the UK’s renewable energy, which was enough for four million homes.
However, climate think tank Ember believes the Drax power station could be the biggest source of carbon dioxide in the UK.
According to the report, the plant is one of the largest sources of carbon dioxide and PM10 particulate air pollution of any power plant in the EU and emits more than many coal-fired plants.
The gigantic station uses wood pellets that are imported from the United States on huge ships that take up to 21 days in transit.
These pellets are a key part of power generation for the plant as the chips are pulverized, blown through a boiler and then burned, creating steam which powers the turbines.
The UK is the largest consumer of wood pellets in the world and uses them for biomass, which is a massive industry that is growing in value and scale.
Biomass energy is considered renewable even though it involves burning organic materials like wood as fuel.
Therefore, greenhouse gas emissions from burned trees are not counted from where they are burned, but rather from the land where they were felled.
Environmental activists have accused this climate accounting of being “greenwashed”.
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Mary Booth, founder of the environmental organization Partnership for Policy Integrity, said: “Just because something is counted as zero due to some accounting convention doesn’t mean it’s carbon neutral.”
According to think tank Chatham House, wood pellets bought in the US and then burned in the UK generated 13-16 million tonnes of CO2 emissions in 2019, equivalent to the emissions of six to seven million of cars.
Drax disputes this analysis. A spokesperson for the company says its biomass “meets the highest sustainability standards and these ensure that we do not use biomass that causes deforestation, forest decline or carbon debt”.
According to Drax’s latest annual report, its largest source of biomass pellets is low-grade roundwood.
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