The UK business minister has acknowledged that it is unsustainable and meaningless for power company Drax to import US wood pellets to be burned for energy.
Kwasi Kwarteng also told lawmakers that the government has not fully investigated the sustainability of burning wood pellets, a type of biomass. He said the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy discussed biomass with industry, but we didn’t actually question the premise of the pellet’s sustainability.
The government has spent millions of dollars subsidizing pellet incineration at its Draxs Yorkshire facility over the past decade, and fuel stands out in the UK’s net zero strategy.
Kwarteng spoke this week at a meeting with a group of backbench lawmakers within the party who raised concerns about the sustainability of wood pellets that Drax describes as being renewable.
there is no sense in getting [wood pellets] In Louisiana…it’s not sustainable, Kwarteng said. Shipping pellets from Louisiana, one of the Draxs sourcing locations in the US, is costly financially and environmentally…[it] He added that it made no sense to me at all.
Drax is gradually converting coal-fired power plants to biomass power and is working to reinvent itself as a green energy company. The company, which imports about 80% of the wood pellets used by its factories from North America, will receive about $832 million in 2020 and about $790 million in government subsidies in 2019, according to an analysis by think tank Ember. received as
This support is due to expire in 2027, but the company is seeking new grants for biomass development combined with carbon capture and storage technology known as Beccs.
Drax argues that the pellets are sourced responsibly and that emissions from combustion are offset by the growth of new carbon-absorbing trees.
However, numerous environmental groups and scientists have questioned these claims. They argue that trees take a long time to absorb carbon, importing pellets is emission intensive, and large-scale timber harvesting threatens ecosystems.
David Joff of the Climate Change Commission, which advises the government in January, said there are significant challenges in ensuring the sustainability of biomass grown outside the UK. He added that imported biomass is not something the UK has to rely on on a large scale. However, the Commission has stressed that the UK will need some biomass energy to reach its goal of zero carbon by 2050.
Kwarteng’s allies have confirmed that Drax has raised concerns about using pellets imported from the United States. But colleagues said he continues to be a strong supporter of the company and the biomass sector, which they say is an important baseload supplier to the UK’s power network.
Protest against biomass in Drax in 2019. Drax said the pellets are sourced responsibly and that emissions from combustion are offset by the growth of new carbon-absorbing trees. Peter Marshall/Alamy
Without Drax, the UK would have to import more electricity from Europe at a time when the continent is in serious trouble, government officials said.
In a meeting with lawmakers, Kwarteng admitted that biomass did not develop as rapidly as other renewable fuels such as offshore wind and hydrogen.
I can see the point where I just draw a line and say [biomass] Not working doesn’t help reduce carbon emissions and should be stopped, he said. What I’m saying is that we haven’t gotten to that point yet.
The government’s net zero strategy projects that the use of Beccs will account for two-thirds of the so-called negative emissions or technologies that remove carbon from the UK’s atmosphere by 2050.
Committed 1 billion to the development of the carbon capture sector, including 30 million to support sustainable domestic biomass production. The business unit also said it will develop markets and incentives to support investments in emissions removal technologies, including Beccs.
A government spokesperson has always made it clear that business ministers have always made it clear that biomass plays a key role in strengthening the UK’s energy security. The UK government only supports biomass that meets our stringent sustainability standards and will soon be announcing our biomass strategy detailing our position on future use.
A Drax spokesperson said the company has one of the least carbon intensive generators in Europe and that our sustainable biomass is critical to UK energy security and provides reliable renewable electricity enough to power 4 million homes. said.
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