Protesters criticise Drax over use of subsidies for coal and wood power

Activists in London and Yorkshire call on government to ‘axe Drax’, which they claim receives £1m a day in renewable energy subsidies

Drax faced protests during its annual general meeting in London over its use of public subsidies to support its massive coal and wood-burning power station.

Banners were unfurled by campaigners seeking to “axe Drax” outside its AGM in the capital on Wednesday, as well as at the Drax power station site near Selby, North Yorkshire.

Duncan Law, from the Biofuelwatch campaign group, said: “DECC [the Department of Energy and Climate Change] are calling biomass burning in power stations like Drax a ‘transition technology’, and a closer look at Drax’s strongly suggests that the power station’s lifespan is indeed limited.

“But the impacts of the logging in the US, which is feeding Drax today, will be long-lasting, if not permanent. Precious wetland forests, once they have been cut down, may never recover.”

Amber Rudd
Amber Rudd. Photograph: Heathcliff O'Malley/Rex/Shutterstock

Protesters claim Drax is receiving more than £1m a day of renewable energy subsidies for burning wood, ultimately paid for by bill payers. The biofuel is being used alongside coal that has particularly heavy carbon emissions, which the energy secretary, Amber Rudd, has pledged to phase out by 2025.

Drax has said biofuel from properly controlled and sustainable forests brings an 80% carbon saving over coal on a lifecycle basis. Philip Cox, the company’s chairman, told the AGM that wood burning was “the fastest, safest and most affordable means by which the UK can move away from coal”.

He said the company only sourced wood from countries that have huge working forests and where wood use was heavily regulated: “We never source from areas that are officially protected or where our activities would harm endangered species.”

Drax, the biggest single power station in Britain at 4 gigawatts, providing 8% of the country’s electricity, used to burn 10m tonnes of coal a year but it was reduced to 6m last year as the facility was switched to a mixture of coal and wood.

Drax has said it would like to move to 100% wood burning within three years but it will require further financial aid from ministers to do so, with talks about this strategy currently under way.


Terry Macalister

The GuardianTramp

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