Britain’s biggest power plant, Drax in North Yorkshire, produces around 6% of the UK’s electricity through burning biomass.
Drax claims to be Europe’s largest decarbonisation project, after pivoting from coal to biomass in the 2010s. In 2021 Drax officially ended its commercial coal generation, but remains the single biggest emitter of carbon dioxide in the UK, producing 13.2 million tonnes from burning wood pellets in 2020.
The energy produced by Drax is classified as renewable under UK and EU law, under the premise that it uses trees which can be replanted to recapture carbon and is therefore considered carbon neutral – though the sustainability of Drax’s wood pellets is disputed by some scientists and campaigners.
In 2020 Drax received over £830 million in direct subsidy from the UK government. The company has said it is relying on further government support for its bioenergy, carbon capture with storage (BECCS) plant, which it says will create “carbon negative” energy from 2027.
Image: Drax power station in North Yorkshire. Credit: Jono Brennan (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)