Timber from primary forests in British Columbia has been used to fuel the UK’s largest power plant, according to a BBC investigation. The company it runs, which denies the allegations, has received more than $9 billion in green energy subsidies from the British government.
These allegations are troubling to Mike Morristhe regional representative of Prince George Mackenzie in central British Columbia, near where the company operates.
“It’s concerning to me that there is another country that takes the primary forests from our country and says they have an eco-friendly electrical system in that country, which is sustainable,” Morris told CTVNews.ca. “In British Columbia, I’m watching primary forests disappear.”
Drax Group bought two timber lots in British Columbia in 2021, then contractors registered them. BBC investigators said they have analyzed satellite imagery, logging licenses and drone footage, and even traced a truck transporting logs to the Drax facility in British Columbia. The company has denied harvesting Canadian forests to create the wood pellets it uses to release its massive “sustainable bioenergy”. power plant in the north of england.
“These harvesting licenses have been transferred to other companies that take high-value timber from sites for use in sawmills,” a Drax spokesperson told CTVNews.ca. “Eighty percent of the materials we use in our pellets are saw blade leftovers—the rest is low-grade wood that would otherwise be burned or discarded.”
We take the leftovers we left behind.
Located near her village of the same name in Yorkshire, England, the coal-fired Drax Power Plant opened in 1974. By 2018, it had been largely converted to burn biomass, like the millions of tons of wood pellets it now imports each year from United States and Canada.
Drax is the UK’s largest power plant by production, producing 12 per cent of the country’s “renewable” electricity. Media reports said the company received 6 billion pounds (about 9.3 billion Canadian dollars) in British taxpayer money through green energy subsidies, including 893 million pounds (or approximately 1.4 billion Canadian dollars) in 2021 alone. Drax’s operations are considered renewable because they largely use industry byproducts such as sawdust to make pellets, and new trees are planted to offset what’s been burned.
Drax 2021 Annual Report Canada makes clear its presence: seven wood pellet mills in British Columbia and two in Alberta, “operating in areas including old growth forests” and shipping through the ports of Vancouver and Prince Rupert. Canada’s Drax facilities produced 1.8 million tons of biomass in 2021, mostly from “sawmills and other timber industry residues”, but also nearly 182,000 tons of “low-grade roundwoods”. In 2021, 15 per cent of the biomass used in the UK’s Drax power plant came from Canada.
A company spokesperson told CTVNews.ca, “Drax does not harvest forests and forests are not harvested for biomass. They are harvested for the high-value timber used in construction. We take the leftover waste.”
The BBC investigation included 30 minute documentary. Before it aired on Monday, Drax posted an online statement criticizing the BBC’s coverage for focusing “primarily on vocal minority views opposing biomass”.
“The people who live in and around these forests are best placed to decide how to care for them, not the BBC.” Statement read. “Our lawyers have written to the BBC reminding them of their legal and regulatory obligations and we are considering further action.”
Drax shares fell during Tuesday’s trading, According to Bloomberg.
“A large stock of whole tree trunks in their yard”
Morris, the regional representative of Prince George Mackenzie, saw Drax’s pellet mills closely.
“I am familiar with the Drax plant south of Prince George,” Morris told CTVNews.ca on Monday. “Actually, I drove here just a couple of days ago. They have a great stock of whole tree trunks in their yard.”
Michelle Connolly, Director north conservation An environmental group, which visited the alleged Drax logging site with the BBC. Speaking to CTVNews.ca, she described it as a “death zone” that once housed “primary forests” that were “never industrialized”.
“Our biggest fear is that our government has made it possible,” Connolly told CTVNews.ca from Prince George. “In the age of climate change, the best thing we can do for the climate is not to convert these forests into energy; we really need to protect the natural forests.”
CTVNews.ca has reached out to the British Columbia Department of Forestry, which oversees and regulates the province’s forestry industry. A company spokesperson confirmed that Drax had purchased two broken pieces, a third of which were damaged Mountain pine beetleAnd he said that the ministry is following up with the company to ensure that quality records are not used in the manufacture of wood pellets, most of which are then exported.
“It would not make economic sense for the pellet company to use high-quality records to produce pellets,” the ministry spokesperson added. “More than 90 percent of industry inputs come from sawdust, sawdust, chips and harvest residues. It is better to convert waste into bioenergy that replaces fossil fuels globally than to burn it in open piles or leave it on the ground – which would increase risk of wildfires.
Wildfires have ravaged British Columbia in recent years, igniting an annual average of nearly 350,000 hectares of the province. Between 2010 and 2020. Climate change researchers say Compounding the loss of ancient forests in British Columbiawhich are already threatened by logging.
“Reliable Renewable Energy”
Drax describes biomass such as wood pellets as “reliable renewable energy… that replaces fossil fuels such as coal from energy systems, and supports climate goals.”
Professor at the University of British Columbia Gary Paul He agrees, saying that while it may not be particularly familiar in Canada, biomass is used throughout Central Europe and Scandinavia to power and heat large cities like Copenhagen and Stockholm.
“It’s definitely seen as renewable energy,” Paul, who is part of the university’s Department of Forest Resources, told CTVNews.ca. “It’s also seen as a very reasonable thing to do when you can’t make anything else with fiber, in terms of product.”
Bull recently participated in the Wood Pellet Association of Canada study, which tracked truckloads of materials used to make pellets. He says 85 percent of it is mill residue such as sawdust and bark husks, while 15 percent is “forest residue” such as “low-grade” wood.
Ball suggested that “if there is old growth going into (grains) or old trees that shouldn’t go into it, it will be less than one per cent”. “Obviously there is a log left in the leaning heap that could, under the right economic conditions, go to the sawmill.”
But for Morris and activists like Connolly, there is no such thing as low-value forest products.
“What they fail to take into account is that there is more value in the forest, especially your primary forest, than just the fibers themselves,” Morris said.
“Renewable energy is supposed to mean something that will come back,” Connolly said. “Trees may be renewable, but forests are not.”