£31bn power station 'is a green con'

£31bn power station ‘is a green con’: Plan to subsidise wood-burning site with taxpayers’ money to go carbon neutral is ‘accounting trick’, campaigners say

  • Power plant planned for Selby, North Yorks, will use ‘carbon capture’ technology 
  • It sucks up Co2 produced when burning wood so it does not enter atmosphere
  • Energy think tank Ember warned the government is set to ‘waste a lot of money’ 

A £31billion scheme to subsidise a wood-burning power station with taxpayers’ money is a green con, claim environmentalists.

The power plant, to be built by Drax in Selby, North Yorkshire, is meant to help the Government meet its goal of ‘net zero’ greenhouse gas emissions.

It will use ‘carbon capture’ technology to suck up the carbon dioxide produced when burning the wood, preventing it from entering the atmosphere.

To achieve this it will be entitled to receive £31.7billion in public money over the 25 years of its operation. This could add around £16 a year to the average UK household’s energy bill. 

Environmentalists from a think tank have slammed the £31billion scheme at the Drax power station near Selby (pictured) as ‘an accounting trick’ 

But Phil Macdonald of energy think-tank Ember, which analysed the Drax proposal, said: ‘If you are saying that burning wood is carbon neutral… it’s an accounting trick. We are about to waste an enormous amount of money.’

And the European Academies’ Science Advisory Council, which represents Europe’s top scientists and Britain’s Royal Society, says woody biomass ‘may even increase the risk of dangerous climate change’. 

Under UK rules, which have been adapted from EU law, burning wood is considered carbon neutral because trees take CO2 from the atmosphere to grow. Wood is also deemed renewable because trees can be replaced.

This entitles the new BECCS – Bioenergy Carbon Capture and Storage – power station to tax breaks and taxpayer money. 

But critics say the wood for it will come from the world’s old growth forests and huge amounts of energy are used to dry it, turn it into pellets and ship it.

Drax said Ember’s calculations were based ‘on a series of false assumptions’.

Drax’s existing power plant imports burnt 7.3 million tonnes of wood a year – more wood than is felled in the entire UK each year. The wood pellets were produced from around 14 million tonnes of green wood which had to be dried.

A Drax spokesman said: ‘The calculations included in this report are based on a series of false assumptions that do not reflect our current proposals to deliver carbon negative power at Drax.

Under UK rules burning wood, such as these pellets, is considered carbon neutral because trees take CO2 from the atmosphere to grow

‘Firstly, key figures generated by the report relate to the building of a brand new BECCS power station, as opposed to the “retrofit” scheme that is being planned by Drax. In addition, it is claimed that Drax will develop carbon capture and storage (CCS) across all four of its biomass units when in fact its current plans include the conversion of only two units.

‘Finally, the report assumes any Government support contract, or CfD, would be for a 25-year period, as opposed to the 15 year contract length which is currently being envisaged by Government for CCS projects and would therefore be consistent with its support for other low carbon/renewable technologies such as offshore wind.

‘By 2030, the introduction of BECCS on just two of Drax’s biomass units could capture around eight million tonnes of CO2 each year, equivalent to 40 per cent of the Climate Change Committee’s 2050 net zero BECCS power target, and it is widely recognised that in order for the UK to reach its legally binding net zero target, negative emissions technologies like BECCS must be deployed.

‘BECCS at Drax will save the UK more than £4.5billion over the coming decade, as well as removing millions of tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere and supporting tens of thousands of jobs.’

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