'Eco' power station in tree-felling storm

‘Eco’ power station in tree-felling storm: Wood-fired plant that takes billions in green handouts is hacking down Canadian forest, TV probe alleges

  • Drax generates 12 per cent of UK’s renewable electricity by burning wood pellets
  • It bought logging licences to cut down two areas of forest in western Canada
  • The company claims it only used leftover sawdust and waste wood from forests
  • But the BBC film shows logs from the forest being loaded on to a Drax truck

Britain’s largest renewable power station is cutting down carbon-rich forests while receiving billions in green- energy subsidies from UK taxpayers, an investigation claims.

Panorama tonight reports how Drax, which generates 12 per cent of the UK’s renewable electricity by burning wood pellets at its Yorkshire power station, bought logging licences to cut down two areas of forest in western Canada.

The company claims it only used leftover sawdust and waste wood from the forests but the BBC film, titled The Green Energy Scandal Exposed, shows logs from the forest being loaded on to a Drax truck and then unloaded at one of its pellet plants.

Britain’s largest renewable power station is cutting down carbon-rich forests while receiving billions in green- energy subsidies from UK taxpayers, an investigation claims

The programme says that Drax’s power station burned more than seven million tonnes of imported wood pellets last year and that documents on a Canadian forestry database show that only 11 per cent of logs delivered to two of its pellet plants are the small, twisted or rotten timber the company says it uses.

Drax has already received £6billion in green energy subsidies even though burning wood gives off more greenhouse gases than burning coal, Panorama emphasised.

The two areas of environmentally important forest – in the Canadian province of British Columbia – where Drax bought logging licences have never been logged before.

One of the sites includes large areas that have been identified as rare, old-growth forest. Drax’s own responsible sourcing policy says it ‘will avoid damage or disturbance’ to primary and old-growth forest. However, satellite pictures show Drax is now cutting down this forest, according to the BBC.

Drax has already received £6billion in green energy subsidies even though burning wood gives off more greenhouse gases than burning coal, Panorama emphasised

The company told Panorama that logging at this site would reduce the risk of wildfires.

The second Drax logging licence is for a mature primary forest that has now been cut down. Drax told the BBC it hadn’t cut down the forest itself but transferred the logging licences to other companies.

However, the authorities in British Columbia confirmed to Panorama that Drax still holds the licences.

Drax later admitted to Panorama that it did use logs from the forest to make wood pellets, claiming they were species the timber industry didn’t want.

The company also said the sites identified by Panorama weren’t primary forest because they were near roads, yet the BBC pointed out that there is no mention of proximity to roads in the United Nations’ definition of primary forest. A Drax spokesman told the BBC that 80 per cent of material in its Canadian pellets is sawmill residuals, which would be disposed of anyway.

Last week it emerged that Drax had quietly agreed to pay out millions of dollars to settle air-pollution claims against its wood-pellet factories in the United States, according to an investigation by Unearthed, Greenpeace’s investigative unit.

A Drax spokesman said: ‘Drax does not harvest forests and has not taken any material directly from the two areas the BBC has looked at.’

Panorama: The Green Energy Scandal Exposed is on BBC1 at 8pm tonight

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