10 Oct. 2021 21:00
Coal-fired power plants have been relentlessly attacked by climate activists for years because of the CO2 emissions they release into the atmosphere. However, a new report has shown that a so-called “green” biomass power plant in Yorkshire, England, which burns “renewable” wood, is the UK’s largest source of CO2 emissions.
A supposedly “carbon neutral” Drax biomass power plant is the UK’s leading source of CO2 emissions, emitting more harmful carbon and particulate matter than some of the dirtiest coal-fired power plants in Europe, according to a new report.
Renewable energy company Drax calls its North Yorkshire, England power plant a “purely renewable” facility and boasts that it has reduced its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 90 percent since 2012. The plant burns biomass – pellets made from pressed wood – and received £ 832 million (€ 979 million) in direct government subsidies last year, on top of an estimated £ 258 million (€ 294 million) in carbon tax breaks.
Still, the energy Drax generates is anything but green, as a new report from the environmental think tank Ember shows. While the UK and the EU describe biomass energy production as “carbon neutral”, this assessment is based on the assumption that the biomass emissions are offset by the planting of new trees.
This forest regrowth takes time, and the European Academies’ Scientific Advisory Board (EASAC) reported earlier this year that the switch from coal-fired power plants to biomass – as in the case of the Drax plant in Yorkshire – will not decrease for at least three to five decades Emissions. According to EASAC:
“Such technology is not effective in mitigating climate change and can even increase the risk of dangerous climate change.”
In the UK, wood-burning plants like Drax’s currently emit more CO2 than coal-fired power plants, including the coal used in steel production. Drax is the country’s largest emitter, releasing 13.3 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere annually, compared to the total coal sector’s annual emissions of 10 million tons.
The data shows that Drax is the third worst CO2 emitter in Europe, behind the coal-fired power plants Neurath in Germany and Bełchatów in Poland. It is also the fourth worst emitter of PM10 particulate matter in Europe, behind three coal-fired power plants in Poland and Romania. It is the only biomass plant that is in the top ten of the European CO2 and PM10 emission lists.
A spokesperson for Drax responded to Ember’s report, calling the think tank’s numbers “inaccurate and at odds with what the world’s leading climate scientists at the UN IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) say that sustainable biomass is critical for the achievement of global climate goals. ” The company claims that its carbon emissions are “bio-bound,” which means it technically counts as zero under the aforementioned EU and UK assumptions about forest regrowth.
However, critics point out that the scientific consensus on “sustainable” biomass may soon change.
“Recent science shows that burning forest biomass for power generation is unlikely to be carbon neutral – and there is a real risk that it could be responsible for significant emissions,” said Phil MacDonald, Ember’s chief operating officer. “Before the government spends more taxpayers’ money on biomass, we should be sure that we are getting the emissions reductions we are paying for.”
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