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DECC responds to Daily Mail’s Drax criticism

The Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) has moved quickly to reject a newpaper’s claims about burning biomass for power.

The Daily Mail published a story alleging that government subsidies for the conversion of coal-burning furnaces to biomass burners at Drax’s Selby facility would add £23 to annual household energy bills for the next 13 years.

Biomass was also described as a “grotesque environmental charade” in the Mail article, which can be read here.

The paper claimed that Drax’s furnaces ran on trees chopped down in North America, and then shipped across the Atlantic.

The Mail said: “The vast generators of Drax are now living, humming, forest-destroying symbols of the shameful absurdity of European energy policies, and an extraordinary rebuke to this Coalition government, which claims, ever more ludicrously, to be saving the planet.”

DECC hit back at the article, saying it did not recognise the £23 figure used in the piece, and said the newspaper was wrong to describe the process as an environmental charade.

“[DECC’s chief scientific advisor] Professor David Mackay’s model shows that North American biomass used in the UK can be low carbon, for example, when sourced from diseased trees, broken branches or unused sawdust that would otherwise be burned as a waste,” DECC said.

Mackay produced a biomass calculator earlier this year that assesses the impact on carbon emissions of biomass sourced from North America to produce electricity. The calculator found that biomass, when sourced responsibly, can be used in a low carbon and sustainable way.

The department’s statement went on to say the UK was introducing “some of the toughest sustainability standards in the world”, including a requirement for generators to provide information on the type and source of biomass they use.

DECC said: “We are investing in sustainable biomass to help us transition to a low carbon future, which will strengthen our energy security and provide a better deal for consumers by reducing our reliance on polluting fossil fuels and volatile foreign markets.”

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