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Drax letter to Financial Times: Critical role of biomass in UK’s energy needs




Your editorial “Europe’s biomorass” (December 12) was right to highlight the need to ensure that biomass used for electricity generation comes from sustainable sources, but wrong in several key respects.

Drax has a robust, independently monitored sustainability policy to ensure it only uses sustainable biomass, and the UK is pioneering the development of mandatory standards. There is nothing “odd” about generating electricity from wood pellets. Biomass is the only renewable that can deliver electricity when it is needed and at scale in the UK. It therefore has a unique and critical role to play in meeting the UK’s future energy needs.

It is also low carbon. There are emissions associated with harvesting, processing and transporting it, but at Drax those emissions have been measured and independently verified for more than five years so we know the emissions are 80 per cent lower than if we were burning coal.

It is a gross oversimplification to claim that the carbon is neutralised by saplings which are replanted. Replacing trees is an essential component of sustainable forestry, but it is the fact that in a sustainable forest the rate of growth of the forest outstrips the rate of harvest which ensures there is no depletion of carbon stock. In fact there is 30 per cent more carbon in US forests now than in 1990 because demand for wood means forests are larger and better managed.

At £105 per MWh biomass is a low-cost renewable which also has none of the hidden costs of some other renewables. A balanced renewable energy mix is important, but to advocate reliance solely on more expensive, less reliable technologies is the wrong conclusion.

Dorothy Thompson, Chief Executive, Drax