Drax: The UK's Dirtiest Power Station Gets Hundreds of Millions of Pounds in Green Subsidies
Drax: The UK's Dirtiest Power Station Gets Hundreds of Millions of Pounds in Green Subsidies
By Zachary Davies Boren and Oliver Munnion / energydesk.greenpeace.org

The UK’s largest coal-fired power station last year received an estimated £385 million in renewable energy subsidies, according to an analysis by advocacy group Biofuelwatch.

Drax, the super-sized energy facility in North Yorkshire, has in recent years become the world’s biggest biomass power station, and its this side of the business for which it currently earns the alleged £1 million a day in green subsidies — and it’s also due to receive additional subsidies to keep burning coal.

Biofuelwatch’s findings are supported by a separate investigation published this weekend by the Mail on Sunday which calculated that Drax was handed “at least” £340 million of billpayer money in renewable energy subsidies last year.

A spokesperson from Drax declined to disclose how much the company receives in subsidies, but said the coal and wood pellet burner was “Europe’s single largest decarbonisation project”.

The £385 million figure used by Biofuelwatch, calculated using the amount of biomass power Drax produced last year and the estimated value of its Renewables Obligation and Levy Exemption Certificates, is equivalent to 79% of the company’s 2014 profits.

What is biomass?

Plants or plant-based materials used as an energy source via combustion or conversion to biofuel.

Wood is the largest biomass material, with Drax power station using wood pellets largely sourced from the United States.

It is considered by the EU as ‘zero carbon’ at the point of burning (because trees can be replanted) and so qualifies for renewable energy subsidies.

As Drax’s biomass capacity continues to increase, so could the size of the subsidies for which it is eligible. Two of the station’s six units currently use biomass, and Drax is converting a third this year.

For these, the Mail on Sunday report claims, Drax will have received well over £1 billion in renewable energy subsidies by 2016, though the company correctly claims the precise figures are impossible to predict.

And by 2018, when it’s due to run 50% on biomass, Drax may be entitled to an estimated £708 million in green subsidies, according to Biofuelwatch projections. This is due to the introduction of the Contract for Difference (CfD) subsidy for one of its units.

Capacity Market Payments – a direct subsidy for continued coal burning – in 2018/19 for two of Drax’s remaining coal units could increase its subsidy income by a further £25.6 million. That’s a could-be yearly total of £734.23 million.

According to last year’s WWF report Europe’s Dirty 30, which used emissions data from 2013, Drax is by the far the biggest emitting power plant in the UK, with nearly twice the CO2 count as next-worst offender Eggborough.

Since then, however, Drax has cut emissions by 18% — and that’s largely down to their move to biomass. In any case, it’s still the country’s largest emitter by a long way.

There is also a fight over the climate merits of burning biomass.

According to a study from the Spatial Informatics Group, which used DECC’s biomass model (BEAC), Drax’s net emissions will be four times higher than the required standard of 285 kilogrammes of CO2 per 1MW/hr of power.

The Washington Post claims this is because pellets provided by US supplier Enviva come from hardwoods. Pellets imported to Europe must be proven to produce 60% less carbon pollution than coal, and Enviva insists their pellets do even better than that.

Drax disputes the study and says 122 kilogrammes of CO2 is emitted for each MW/hr of power from its biomass burning.

0.0 ·
What's Next
Trending Today
Noam Chomsky Has 'Never Seen Anything Like This'
Chris Hedges · 35,220 views today · Noam Chomsky is America’s greatest intellectual. His massive body of work, which includes nearly 100 books, has for decades deflated and exposed the lies of the power elite...
10 Quotes From an Oglala Lakota Chief That Will Make You Question Everything About Our Society
Wisdom Pills · 13,501 views today · Luther Standing Bear was an Oglala Lakota Sioux Chief who, among a few rare others such as Charles Eastman, Black Elk and Gertrude Bonnin occupied the rift between the way of...
For Those Who Don't Want to Vote for the Lesser of Two Evils
Peter White · 12,735 views today · Ranked-choice voting is catching on, and Maine might become the first state to help citizens vote for candidates they actually want.
HyperNormalisation (2016)
161 min · 12,144 views today · We live in a time of great uncertainty and confusion. Events keep happening that seem inexplicable and out of control. Donald Trump, Brexit, the War in Syria, the endless...
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 8,194 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
Anarchists - What We Stand For
unknown · 7,855 views today · Anarchism : The word “anarchy” comes from Greek and means “no rulers”. As a political philosophy, anarchism is based on the idea that organization does not require rulers—that...
Donald and Hobbes Is Genius
Various · 5,571 views today · Some clever folk have been replacing precocious 6-year-old Calvin, from the Calvin and Hobbes comic strips, with Donald Trump and the results are, well, take a look...
Our Obsession With 'Good Immigrants' Breeds Intolerance
2 min · 4,824 views today · Society sets the bar so high to become a 'good immigrant', argues writer Nikesh Shukla, that normal immigrants are demonised. He says non-Brits in the public eye have a simple...
Introversion Is Not a Personality Fail
Cat Elz · 2,402 views today · A few years ago, I got into an argument with my now mother-in-law over my supposedly “backwards” ways. My transgression? I did not attend a party of my now husband’s (then...
The Important Difference Between Love and Being Loved
2 min · 2,225 views today · We talk of love as if it were just one thing: in fact, it’s two very different moves, Loving and Being Loved. You start to grow up when you stop focusing on the latter and get...
The Untold History of Palestine & Israel
22 min · 2,202 views today · Previewing Abby Martin’s on-the-ground investigation in Palestine, The Empire Files looks at the long history of Zionist colonization, expansion and expulsion of Palestine’s...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 1,926 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
Bird Watching on Lesvos Island - A Poetic Call to Stand With Refugees
3 min · 1,801 views today · Born in Darfur, Sudan and raised in Philadelphia, Emi Mahmoud is the 2015 World Poetry Slam Champion and the Women of the World co-Champion of 2016. From a young age Emi...
My Cuba - An Intimate Look at the Pleasures and Struggles of 6 Different People's Cuba
150 min · 1,599 views today · Cuba - diverse, vibrant and complex - is undergoing immense change. But what does it mean to be Cuban in this time of change? Six people. Six films. From the comedy and ballet...
Planet Earth II Could Be Best Nature Doc Ever Made
3 min · 1,581 views today · 10 years ago Planet Earth changed our view of the world. Now we take you closer than ever before. This is life in all its wonder. This is Planet Earth II. A decade ago, the...
Alliance of 600,000 British Doctors Calls for 'Imperative' Coal Phase-Out
Nadia Prupis · 1,178 views today · Doing so would constitute 'double win for tackling the twin health threats of air pollution and climate change,' report states
World's Low-Cost Economy Built on the Backs of 46 Million Modern Day Slaves
Deirdre Fulton · 1,010 views today · 'Business leaders who refuse to look into the realities of their own supply chains are misguided and irresponsible.'
What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic
Asam Ahmad · 973 views today · Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and...
Are You Lost in the World Like Me?
3 min · 949 views today · Animated film by Steve Cutts for 'Are You Lost In The World Like Me?', taken from These Systems Are Failing- the debut album from Moby & The Void Pacific Choir. 
Consent, Explained for Donald Trump and His Apologists
7 min · 870 views today · Vox's Emily Crockett explains why Donald Trump's comments aren't just "lewd," they're predatory. Further viewing, consent explained with tea. 
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
Drax: The UK's Dirtiest Power Station Gets Hundreds of Millions of Pounds in Green Subsidies