Drax ‘strengthens’ biomass sustainability policy with new advisory board

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

In its updated policy, Drax has outlined how it will use ‘the latest science and best practice’ and work with academic institutions to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and help to protect the environment. The company has also outlined evidence it will gather to increase transparency on its biomass sourcing and impacts, including using big data and satellite imagery to evaluate the impact on forest cover and biodiversity in areas that supply the biomass it uses.

Drax CEO Will Gardiner said: “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 Independent Advisory Board (IAB), which will provide Drax with advice on all areas of its biomass sourcing. “The IPCC and Committee on Climate Change both recognise that sustainably sourced biomass will play an important role in meeting climate change targets,” said Sir Beddington. “I decided to chair the IAB because it’s vital that biomass is sourced sustainably and takes the latest scientific thinking into account.

“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.”

As well as converting two-thirds of its North Yorkshire power plant to use biomass instead of Coal, Drax also reduced its carbon emissions by more than 80% since 2012, making it the UK’s biggest renewable power generator. However, Drax remains the UK’s single largest emitter of CO2 and has come under fire by environmental advocates in recent years due to its sourcing of biomass, which is shipped from the US.

Sasha Stashwick, senior advocate at the Natural Resources Defense Council, commented that if Drax is looking to ‘sustainability’ claims to provide assurances about the benefits of forest biomass, they are ‘barking up the wrong tree’. She said: “Greenwashing and outside advisors can’t get around the core reality that cutting down trees and burning the wood for electricity degrades forests, threatens wildlife and worsens our climate crisis.

“If Drax were serious about wanting to use the ‘latest science’, it would end its use of harmful biomass energy. The science is clear, and no amount of satellite imagery or sham ‘sustainability’ certification can justify shipping millions of tonnes of trees in from around the world to burn as fuel for electricity generation.”

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