Research by climate think tank Ember suggests the biomass plant, situated halfway between Leeds and Hull, is among the biggest sources of carbon dioxide and PM10 (particulate matter of 10 micrometres and smaller) air pollution of all EU power stations, when biomass emissions are included.
However, biomass emissions are treated as carbon neutral and therefore not included in the total CO2 emissions count for the UK. The assumption is that emissions from the burning of biomass is neutralised by forest regrowth.
But this assumption of carbon neutrality is now being disputed by science because of the long time it takes for forests to regrow. Ember’s chief operating officer Phil MacDonald said there is a “real risk” that biomass is responsible for “significant emissions”.
In January the European Academies Sciences Advisory Council (EASAC) claimed that biomass technology is “not effective in mitigating climate change” and in February more than 500 scientists asked the EU to revoke biomass’s “carbon neutral” status, according to Sky News.
The FTSE 250-listed company is the EU’s third-largest CO2 emitter among coal plants when biomass emissions are included, Ember’s report suggested.
Drax received more than GBP800mln in subsidies last year for burning woody biomass at its Selby plant, according to Sky’s report.
It claims to have reduced its emissions by 90% since replacing coal with sustainable biomass.
A Drax spokesperson told Sky that Ember’s interpretation of the figures were “completely at odds with what the world’s leading climate scientists at the UN IPCC say about sustainable biomass being crucial to delivering global climate targets”.