Among the dirtiest in Europe: A ‘green’ biomass power station in Yorkshire that burns’renewable’ wood releases MORE CO2 than the UK’s coal, according to a report.
Drax, a renewable energy company, touts its North Yorkshire plant as a “100% renewable” facility, stating that it has reduced CO2 emissions by 90% since 2012. Last year, the plant received £832 million ($1.13 billion) in direct government subsidies, on top of an estimated £258 million ($351 million) in carbon tax exemptions. It burns biomass – compressed wood pellets – and received £832 million ($1.13 billion) in direct government subsidies.
However, according to a recent research by environmental think tank Ember, the energy generated at Drax is far from green. While the United Kingdom and the European Union consider biomass power to be “carbon neutral,” this evaluation is predicated on the assumption that biomass emissions are compensated by tree planting.
Forest regrowth takes time, and the European Academies’ Sciences Advisory Council (EASAC) reported earlier this year that switching plants from coal to biomass, as Drax did in Yorkshire, would not result in any emissions reduction for at least three to five decades.
According to the EASAC, “such technology is ineffective in reducing climate change and may even raise the risk of severe climate change.”
In the United Kingdom, wood-burning power facilities such as Drax emit more CO2 than coal plants, including coal used in steel manufacture. Drax is the country’s largest emitter, emitting 13.3 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere each year, compared to 10 million tons for the entire coal sector.
Drax is Europe’s third-worst CO2 emitter, behind Germany’s Neurath and Poland’s Bechatów coal plants, according to data. It’s also Europe’s fourth worst polluter of PM10 particulates, trailing three coal plants in Poland and Romania. It is Europe’s only biomass facility that ranks in the top ten CO2 and PM10 emitters.
The estimates in Ember’s research are “inaccurate and utterly at odds with what the world’s foremost climate experts at the UN IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] say about sustainable biomass being key to attaining global climate targets,” according to a Drax spokesman. According to the corporation, its carbon emissions are “biologically stored,” which means they are theoretically zero under the previously cited EU and UK forest regrowth assumptions.
Critics, on the other hand, believe that the scientific consensus on “sustainable” biomass will soon shift.
“Recent research shows that burning forest biomass for energy is unlikely to be carbon neutral – and there’s a genuine risk of large emissions,” says the report. Phil MacDonald, Ember’s Chief Operating Officer. News from Brinkwire in a nutshell. Search the internet for further information.