Drax strengthens biomass sustainability policy and appoints Independent Advisory Board

Drax has strengthened its biomass sustainability policy and set up an Independent Advisory Board (IAB) of scientists, academics and forestry experts to ensure the biomass the company uses to generate renewable electricity meets the highest standards.

LaSalle BioEnergy catchment area working forests
  • Former UK government Chief Scientific Adviser Professor Sir John Beddington to chair new Independent Advisory Board (IAB) which will ensure Drax’s biomass sourcing meets latest scientific research and best practice

  • New biomass sustainability policy drawn from recommendations in a report commissioned by the European Climate Foundation

In the updated policy, Drax has outlined how it will use the latest science and best practice and work with academic institutions and non-profit organisations to meet its core commitments to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, protect the natural environment, support people and communities and carry out research and outreach.

Drax also details the evidence the company will gather to increase transparency on its biomass sourcing and impacts. These include using big data and satellite images to evaluate the impact on forest cover and biodiversity in areas that supply the biomass the company uses.

New rail line and wood pellet loading bay with sawmill residues in view at Drax LaSalle BioEnergy

New rail line and wood pellet loading bay with sawmill residues in view at Drax LaSalle BioEnergy. Click to view/download in high res.

This comes in addition to the company’s current commitment to certification through the Sustainable Biomass Program, a globally recognised certification system designed for biomass from wood for use in energy production.

Drax Group CEO Will Gardiner said:

Will Gardiner, CEO, Drax Group.

Will Gardiner, CEO, Drax Group. Click image to view/download in high res.

“We’re committed to continuously raising standards in biomass sustainability, so our sourcing policies must evolve as the science develops.

“With stronger policies in place and an independent board to challenge us every step of the way, we will be setting the standard for others to follow, which is important as sustainable biomass plays an increasing role in addressing climate change.”

The UK government’s former Chief Scientific Adviser Sir John Beddington will chair the six-member IAB, which will provide independent advice to Drax in all areas of its biomass sourcing including procurement practises and feedstock options.

IAB Chair Sir John Beddington said:

“The IPCC and Committee on Climate Change both recognise that sustainably sourced biomass will play an important role in meeting climate change targets. I decided to chair the IAB because it’s vital that biomass is sourced sustainably and takes the latest scientific thinking into account.

John Beddington

John Beddington. Click image to view/download in high res.

“As the science evolves, we will make recommendations to ensure that the biomass used at Drax makes a positive contribution to our climate and the environment.”

Drax’s biomass sustainability policy draws on recommendations made by Forest Research, the research agency of the Forestry Commission, in a report commissioned by the European Climate Foundation, a philanthropic foundation.

The Forest Research report recommends 15 key criteria to deliver sustainable biomass that has the best outcome for the environment. These include favouring biomass that is associated with activities to conserve and enhance forest growth and productivity and a commitment not to take from sources that lead to deforestation.

Following the conversion of two thirds of the North Yorkshire power station to use biomass instead of coal, last year Drax reduced its carbon emissions by over 80% since 2012, making it the UK’s biggest renewable power generator and Europe’s largest decarbonisation project.

The company has plans to go further in its decarbonisation with the development of bioenergy with carbon capture and storage technologies which could enable Drax to become the world’s first negative emissions power station in the 2030s.


Main photo caption: Working forest in Drax LaSalle BioEnergy catchment area. View/download in high res.

Media contacts

Ali Lewis
Drax Group Head of Media & PR
E: [email protected]
T: +44 7712 670 888

Selina Williams
Drax Group Media Manager
E: [email protected]
T: +44 (0)7912 230 393

Editor’s Notes

  • Members of Drax’s Independent Advisory Board are:
    • Professor Sir John Beddington (Chair) – Former UK Government Chief Scientific Adviser
    • Professor Lord John Krebs (Vice Chair) – Emeritus Professor of Zoology, University of Oxford and crossbench member of the House of Lords
    • Virginia Dale – Adjunct Professor, University of Tennessee
    • Professor Sam Fankhauser – Director of the LSE Grantham Institute
    • Elena Schmidt – Standards Director, Roundtable on Sustainable Biomass
    • Forest Research (Ex-Officio) – A representative from Forest Research, the UK’s primary organisation for forest science will also join the Board in an ex-officio capacity
  • The Board will provide independent advice to Drax on:
    • The role of biomass in Drax’s climate change mitigation activities and in supporting the transition to a net zero energy system
    • Feedstock options, sourcing decisions, forest science, forest carbon science and how Drax can optimise carbon impacts
    • Procurement practices
    • Societal expectations for responsible and sustainable biomass
    • And give feedback and recommendations on Drax’s sustainable biomass approach and performance
  • More information on the Board can be found here
  • Drax’s biomass sourcing policy contains four key commitments:
    • We will reduce CO2 emissions
    • We will protect the natural environment
    • We will support people and communities
    • We will carry out research, outreach and intervention
  • More information on Drax’s biomass sourcing policy can be found here (PDF)
  • The referenced Forest Research paper was commissioned by the European Climate Foundation and can be found here

About Drax

Drax Group’s ambition is to enable a zero carbon, lower cost energy future. Its 2,600-strong staff operate across three principal areas of activity – electricity generation, electricity sales to business customers and compressed wood pellet production.

Power generation:

Drax owns and operates a portfolio of flexible, low carbon and renewable electricity generation assets across Britain. The assets include the UK’s largest power station, based at Selby, North Yorkshire, which supplies five percent of the country’s electricity needs.

Having converted two thirds of Drax Power Station to use sustainable biomass instead of coal it has become the UK’s biggest renewable power generator and the largest decarbonisation project in Europe.

Its pumped storage, hydro and energy from waste assets in Scotland include Cruachan Power Station – a flexible pumped storage facility within the hollowed-out mountain Ben Cruachan.  It also owns and operates four gas power stations in England.


Drax owns two B2B energy supply businesses:

  • Haven Power, based in Ipswich, supplies electricity and energy services to large Industrial and Commercial sector businesses
  • Opus Energy, based in Oxford, Northampton and Cardiff, provides electricity, energy services and gas to small and medium sized (SME) businesses

Pellet production:

Drax owns and operates three pellet mills in the US South which manufacture compressed wood pellets (biomass) produced from sustainably managed working forests. These pellet mills supply around 20% of the biomass used by Drax Power Station in North Yorkshire to generate flexible, renewable power for the UK’s homes and businesses.

For more information visit www.drax.com/uk