Drax welcomes DECC carbon calculator’s contribution to sustainable biomass debate

Drax welcomes the publication of the DECC report ‘Life cycle impacts of biomass electricity in 2020’ and the contribution it can make to the debate surrounding carbon savings through the use of sustainable biomass in the production of electricity.

The study considers a broad range of scenarios from the believable to the implausible. As we would expect, the scenarios that more closely reflect real world practices in sustainable forestry and responsible biomass sourcing confirm that using biomass in place of coal can deliver significant carbon savings in the short, medium and long term.

The focus of the study, North America, was identified several years ago by Drax as one of our source areas due to the abundance of biomass which met with our own robust sustainability criteria. The biomass that Drax sources from this geographic area includes woody residues and thinnings from sustainably managed forests where the carbon stock is either stable or increasing. The study recognises both the low carbon impacts of biomass sourced in this way and the scale of the resource. Drax also sources biomass from Europe.

As an academic study it does not purport to represent actual supply chains, each of which has distinct attributes, but it does confirm the need to ensure that all biomass used for electricity production is sourced sustainably to deliver low carbon electricity. That is something Drax has campaigned for in the UK and Europe for many years and which the UK Government has already anticipated by introducing sustainability criteria which will be mandatory from next April.

Adding to the debate, Drax notes the recent publication of a report1, prepared for the European Commission, by another arm of UK Government, the research agency of the Forestry Commission. The report reviews scientific literature on the contributions of biogenic carbon to greenhouse gas emissions due to the production and use of bioenergy, and how these contributions may be appropriately included in methodologies for calculating greenhouse gas emissions. This highlights the importance of working with colleagues across the EU to develop a common understanding and methodology in this important and complex area.

Dorothy Thompson, Chief Executive of Drax, said:

“Sustainability has always been absolutely central to our biomass strategy. The academic study by DECC confirms what Drax has always argued, that there is a right way to source biomass and a wrong way. We welcome that it confirms the fact that where biomass is sourced sustainably major carbon savings can be delivered.

“This study adds to the growing breadth of analysis on sustainable sourcing of biomass as a fuel for low carbon electricity generation. We look forward to working closely with UK Government and other EU stakeholders to improve further the knowledge and analysis in this complex area.

“When we complete our plans to convert three of our generating units to burn sustainable biomass in place of coal we will be able to deliver cost effective, renewable electricity to the equivalent of over three million homes and reduce our carbon emissions by over ten million tonnes a year. No other renewable can make such an impact and provide electricity at scale day-in, day-out whatever the weather.”

Notes to editors

  • Forest Research, Review of literature on biogenic carbon and life cycle assessment of forest bioenergy, Final Task 1 report, DG ENER project, ‘Carbon impacts of biomass consumed in the EU’, 15 May 2014