Open Letter signed by 70 environmental groups, including York Green Party, denounces plans for UK’s largest gas power station

31 August 2018

On the final day -29th August 2018 – of a public consultation about Drax’s planning proposal for what would be the UK’s largest ever gas power plant[1], 70 UK-based and international environmental organisations have sent an Open Letter to the Planning Inspectorate and the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy denouncing those plans and urging that no subsidies be made available for such a development [2].

York Green Party and many other groups warn that Drax’s proposal to burn fossil gas is incompatible with the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement and will prevent the UK from meeting its international climate change commitments [3]. They point out that an increased demand for gas would incentivise fracking, which communities across the UK and beyond strongly oppose. They urge the Government to support genuinely renewable wind, wave and solar energy as well as energy efficiency and conservation instead.

Drax’s Yorkshire power station is currently the world’s largest biomass burning plant and the UK’s biggest coal burner.

Both its coal and biomass burning have been the focus of protests by environmental groups for many years due to their impacts on the climate, environment and communities affected by coal mining, logging and air pollution [4]. As the Government has announced that coal burning in power stations must end by 2025, Drax seeks to replace the coal units with even larger gas-powered ones, rather than closing them down.

Sally Clark from Biofuelwatch [5] states: “Drax has long been fuelling climate change through burning vast quantities of coal, as well as millions of tonnes of wood, many of them from the clearcutting of highly carbon rich and biodiverse forests in the southern US. If its gas power plans get the green light, Drax’s position as the UK’s single biggest CO2 emitter would be secured far into the future.”

Drax currently receives £2 million per day in subsidies for its biomass burning and it seeks significant new subsidies for its proposed gas units [6].

Oliver Hayes, climate change campaigner at Friends of the Earth [7], says: “Climate change is already here and its effects are devastating lives the world over. Allowing the development of a gas power station of this scale risks locking the UK into a high carbon future totally incompatible with our international obligations.”

Leigh Coghill from Frack Free Ryedale [8] adds: “If these plans go ahead, they could result in greater pressure to approve fracking applications across the north of England in order to provide feedstock for Drax. Fracking has no social licence in the UK, and will result in the industrialisation of our countryside, as well as driving further climate change. We therefore strongly oppose this planning application and ask that it be refused."

Shlomo Dowen from the United Kingdom Without Incineration Network [9] says: “UKWIN supports the campaign against Drax because we do not believe that public subsidies should go towards destroying the planet's natural resources, and because we do not believe that we can burn our way out of climate change.”

Contacts: biofuelwatch@gmail.com, Tel 0131-6232600

Notes:

[1] The planning application submitted by Drax is available here. 

[2] The Open Letter with the full list of signatures is available on Biofuelwatch's website.

[3] Drax admits in the Preliminary Information Environmental Report Non-Technical Summary, one of the planning documents, that its gas plans will: “represent a significant net increase in greenhouse gas emissions and have therefore negative climate impacts.” 

[4] Here is background information about the ongoing campaign against Drax’s coal and biomass burning. Evidence about Drax’s sourcing of wood pellets from the clearcutting of biodiverse and carbon rich forests in the southern US has been compiled by US conservation organisations including Dogwood Alliance and National Resource Defense Council and this is their report about Drax’s largest external pellet supplier, Enviva.

[5] Biofuelwatch is a non-profit organisation campaigning against large-scale industrial bioenergy and for energy policies which focus all support on genuinely low-carbon renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy conservation.

[6] The £2 million per day subsidy figure is calculated from the figures presented by Drax in its 2017 Annual Report and was confirmed by Drax in an email to Biofuelwatch.

[7] Friends of the Earth is an international community dedicated to protecting the natural world and the wellbeing of everyone in it. 

[8] Frack Free Ryedale and North Yorkshire is part of a UK-wide campaign opposing fracking proposals and activities. 

[9] UK Without Incineration Network (UKWIN) is a network of over 100 groups opposing mixed waste incineration and supporting a zero waste closed-loop circular economy.