MPs brand burning wood for energy as scandal

A group of 50 MPs has written a letter to the Energy Minister warning about the emissions produced by biomass

Pathway to COP26 report

A total of 50 MPs have sent a letter to the Energy Minister warning that burning wood is a scandal.

The signatories cast doubts on the government’s policy to consider biomass burning as a type of green energy.

They claim that emissions produced by biomass are “the equivalent of three million Ford Fiestas on our roads”.

The MPs have asked for a meeting with Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng to discuss ending potential ending of government subsidies to the Drax power station in North Yorkshire.

On Monday during a debate about Drax wood pellets in the House of Commons Baroness Boycott said: “The North American coastal plain, where most UK biomass imports, particularly Drax, come from, is a global biodiversity hot spot. Clear-cutting for biomass is occurring even in reserves that are designated protected forests.

“We are paying Drax £832 million a year in subsidies, and at the moment it is the fifth most polluting power station in Europe.”

A government spokesperson told ELN: “We have always been clear that sustainable biomass has a vital role to play in the UK’s decarbonisation efforts and is an important part of the UK’s renewable energy mix, having generated 12.6% of total electricity in 2020.

“Sustainable biomass, which is backed by the independent Climate Change Committee, is considered a renewable, low carbon energy source, and the UK only supports biomass which complies with our strict sustainability criteria – which is some of the most stringent in the world.”

A Drax spokesperson told ELN: “Drax’s sustainable bioenergy plays a critical role generating 12% of the UK’s renewable electricity, keeping the lights on for millions of households whilst helping the country meet net zero. Claims to the contrary deliberately misrepresent the facts and science, as set out by world-leading climate scientists at the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

“The sustainable biomass which Drax uses is heavily regulated and only comes from forests that are stable or growing. Every pellet is produced from waste materials from the timber and forestry industries, including sawdust, offcuts, dead or diseased wood, thinnings or damaged trees, which would otherwise be burned or left to rot.

Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) is critical to reaching net zero as it can permanently remove millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere – as we plan to do at Drax by 2030 – whilst also creating jobs and boosting the economy in communities most at risk in the energy transition.”

If you enjoyed this story you can sign up to our weekly email for Energy Live News – and if you’re interested in hearing more about the journey to net zero by 2050, you can also sign up to the future Net Zero newsletter. 

Latest Podcast