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UK’s Drax renewable energy power station cuts down primary forest in Canada, says report

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According to a report by BBC Panorama, the company that runs Britain’s biggest power station and burns millions of tonnes of imported wood pellets has been using some wood from Canada’s primary forests. This is after Drax takes billions of pounds of taxpayer money in green energy subsidies.

This use of wood pellets is classed as renewable energy and while burning wood is considered green, environmentalists argue otherwise. The company had earlier claimed that they only use sawdust and waste wood. However, the investigation unearthed evidence that Drax has been felling environmentally-important forests in Canada’s British Columbia. The team from BBC analysed satellite images, traced logging licences and used drone images to support its claims.

The Drax power station, in Yorkshire, was previously a coal-powered plant and is now responsible for producing 12% of all of the UK’s renewable electricity. They have reportedly received at least 6 billion pounds in green energy subsidies from the country’s taxpayers. Drax has also bought logging licences for two environmentally-important forests in Canada the BBC alleged.

Meanwhile, the provincial authorities in Canada have reportedly highlighted the importance of old-growth forests and asked the companies to avoid logging in the area. Drax’s own responsible sourcing policy echoes a similar note saying that they will avoid “damage or disturbance” of primary and old-growth forests, said the report.

The company has reportedly told Panorama that most of the trees in the region were dead and they were logged to reduce the risk of wildfires. However, the satellite images that analysed during the investigation shows otherwise, said the report. On other hand, Drax also told the BBC they have transferred the logging licences to other companies and did not cut the forest down themselves. However, the authorities in British Columbia told reporters that the logging licences still belong to Drax.

The company later admitted that they did use logs from the forest to make wood pellets, but only species of timber not required by the industry. Furthermore, Drax reportedly asserted that the forests that Panorama has referred to are not primary forests given that they are near the roads, but BBC argues that the United Nations’ definition of primary forests does not include a provision for their proximity to roads. One of the sites was six miles away from the nearest paved road, the report said.

According to a spokesperson from Drax at least 80% of their wood is in the form of Canadian pellets and is sawmill residue which would be eventually disposed of. They further asserted they have a stringent policy regarding sustainability standards of both their own pellet production as well as their suppliers which is verified by third-party certification schemes. These revelations come ahead of the UK government’s new biomass strategy which is set to be published later this year and will determine policies surrounding natural fuels including wood.(WION)

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