UK’s biggest CO2 emitter is a renewable energy plant

A new analysis found that Drax’s renewable energy plant emits the highest percentage of CO2 in the UK. It also ranks fourth highest in the whole of Europe.

Drax received more than £800m in subsidies last year for burning woody biomass at its Selby plant. The subsidies were part of the efforts in the renewable energy shift, but many experts are now contending the UK’s recognition of biomass as a renewable source.

New research by climate think tank Ember, shared exclusively with Sky News, said the plant is among the biggest sources of carbon dioxide, more even than some of Europe’s dirtiest coal plants.

The UK excludes these biomass emissions from its total emission count, because it treats bioenergy as carbon neutral. That is on the assumption that plant regrowth will consume the carbon. (

Is biomass a renewable energy?

But recent science disputes this carbon neutrality, said Ember’s chief operating officer Phil MacDonald. In fact, there is a “real risk” that biomass is responsible for “significant emissions,” he told Sky News.

Drax claims to have reduced its emissions by 90% since replacing coal with sustainable biomass. A spokesperson called Ember’s interpretation of the figures “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”.

A 2018 study estimated it would take 40 to 100 years or more for forests to recapture the carbon emissions from burning the wood pellets. There is also possibility it never does because forests are subject to hazards like disease and fires.

An energy department (Beis) spokesperson said it “did not recognise” Ember’s figures. They said biomass was key to government plans to slash emissions by 2050, and that the UK follows relevant guidance from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Source: Sky News

(Image Credit: Drax Official Website)

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