A protest, led by the Biofuelwatch group, has been held today (17 April) outside Drax’s annual general meeting (AGM) in London.
The campaigners gathered to protest at the company, whose power station they claim is the UK’s single biggest emitter of C02, for the “disastrous impacts of its biomass, coal and gas burning on climate, forests and communities”.
In March, biomass generation plants such as Drax’s were under threat from a lawsuit filed with the European general court, seeking to change forest wood’s designation as a renewable fuel.
The group assembled with percussion instruments, banners, placards, and pictures of the animals whose habitats are supposedly threatened by the biomass industry.
Some have also taken the protest to relevant government buildings, demanding that the £2.2 million they claim Drax receives in subsidies every day is shifted to low-carbon renewable alternatives.
A second group of local residents also formed a protest outside Drax power station in Yorkshire.
The group said that the power station burns more wood every year than any other plant in the world, and more than the UK produces annually.
As well as this, they argue that Drax burned 2 million tonnes of coal last year, and that ITS plans to convert these units to gas-burning ones have been condemned by 92 environmental organisations and 96,000 individuals through a petition and open letter. These have been handed over to Greg Clark, secretary of state at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
Duncan Law from Biofuelwatch said: “Right now, our allies in the southern US are campaigning against what would be the world’s biggest pellet plant, planned by Drax’s supplier Enviva in Mississippi. Enviva’s pellet business drives forest destruction, climate change and social injustice across large areas of the southern US already. Drax must be shut down and replaced with genuinely renewable energy from wind, sun and waves, and the UK government needs to stop subsidising this dangerous false solution to climate change.”
And Isobel Tarr from the Coal Action Network added: “Drax sources coal from Siberia, where indigenous people are suffering the health impacts of open cast coal on their doorstep, and those who speak out against it are at risk of human rights abuses. The UK government has said it will phase out coal fired power by 2025; we need a phaseout sooner than this, an end to opencast mining in the UK and a just transition for power industry workers.”
Ash Hewitson from Reclaim the Power stated: “Drax wants to build the UK’s largest gas fired power station to date, which will make us more reliant on fracked and imported gas. The projected coal phaseout could be an opportunity for the UK to move beyond burning towards a more decentralised and democratic energy system and culture. Drax is obstructing progress towards this and taking us further from a safer energy future.”
In response, a Drax spokesperson said: “Since converting two thirds of Drax Power Station to use sustainable biomass instead of coal, we are delivering carbon savings of more than 80 per cent. This has transformed the business, making Drax the biggest renewable power generator in the UK and the largest decarbonisation project in Europe. We play a vital role at the heart of the UK energy system producing flexible power to the grid at the times it is needed most, helping the UK to decarbonise faster than anywhere else in the world, whilst maintaining secure supplies.”
The company has also claimed that the IPCC have said 85 per cent of power will come from renewables sources by 2050, meaning the other 15 per cent will therefore need to come from more flexible generation, like biomass.
Drax said it produces around 12 per cent of the UK’s renewable electricity using sustainable biomass, and that the biomass they use must comply with the UK’s biomass sustainability criteria. It claims this is the most stringent in the world and includes strict controls to ensure forest biodiversity is maintained and protected.
In other news, Drax has appointed John Baxter as a non-executive director, bringing experience from over 45 years spent working across the nuclear, electricity, oil, and gas sectors.