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
Jun 10, 2015

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 ·
0
Trending Today
This Impassioned Post by a Charlottesville Resident Sets The Record Straight
Lisa Moore26,492 views today ·
This Chilling Charlottesville Doc Should Be Required Viewing for all Americans
22 min1,756 views today ·
As Alt-Right Gathers in Boston, Thousands Counter With Rally to Fight Supremacy
Jake Johnson1,267 views today ·
Drawing Equivalencies Between Fascists and Anti-Fascists Is Not Just Wrong, It's Dangerous
Stanislav Vysotsky989 views today ·
Anti-Fracking Activists Celebrate Ruling Against Major Pipeline
Jessica Corbett737 views today ·
Peter Joseph & Abby Martin on Abolishing Capitalism
45 min660 views today ·
I Know Islamic State. What They Fear More Than Bombs Is Unity
Nicolas Hénin659 views today ·
Class Dismissed (2004)
27 min590 views today ·
This Animation About The Clitoris Will Amuse and Educate
3 min516 views today ·
Load More
Join us on Facebook
Drax: The UK's Dirtiest Power Station Gets Hundreds of Millions of Pounds in Green Subsidies