The ever increasing appetite for wood pellets, most notably for the Drax powerstation, from the United States has recieved some unwanted attention from several Environmental groups and the EPA. This has resulted in the Secretary of State Ed Davey agreeing to meet with the environmental groups to explain why they are wrong.
As part of the UK’s energy revolution and the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s (DECC) efforts to save the world from “Carbon Pollution”, the use of biomass has rocketed. According to Platts in July last year the UK imported 455,429 metric Tonnes of wood pellets, up 78% year on year. The largest supplier being the United States at 286 mt.
Inconveniently not all U.S. environmental groups support the efforts of DECC. Geographical reported on a 50,000 strong petition organised by the Dogwood Alliance, a U.S. NGO. More recently the United States Environment Protection Agency (E.P.A.) have taken an interest. As part of the EPA’s own Clean Power Plan, it is assessing the use of biomass in the U.S. On January 30th the EPA met with representatives of Drax powerstation to examine the powerstation’s increased use of biomass. In a presentation to journalists Drax said “Increasingly aggressive but misinformed environment NGO campaigns” were among the company’s “key supply chain development issues”
EE Publishing reports that on February 5th Secretary of State (DECC) Ed Davey met with representatives of environmental groups including the National Resources Defence Council and the Dogwood Alliance both opposed to wood energy. Part of the objection is that natural forest which is full of biodiversity, would be replaced by farmed monocultures. Their campaign bolstered by a letter from 78 leading scientists to the EPA challenging the Carbon math and warning the agency not to repeat the EU’s mistake.
Matt Willey, Corporate Communications manager for Drax, insists that Drax is not leading deforestation because the company uses low value trees and cuttings to manufacture pellets. Willey cited a recent report that concluded that increased pellet demand would result in growth not depletion of US forest area.
Meanwhile the European Union (EU) is to investigate the UK’s subsidy support for the Lynemouth powerstation’s biomass conversion. Biomass Magazine says that the EU investigation is to ensure that the UK taxpayers money is not used as overcompensation and assess whether the positive environmental effects of the conversion, outweigh potential competition distortions. The Lynemouth facility would have the capacity to generate 420MW of electricity from wood pellets.
It would appear that saving the world is not popular with everyone.