Skip to content

CCC Call For An End To Biomass Subsidies

March 10, 2023
tags: ,

By Paul Homewood


h/t Ian Magness



Bioenergy is classed as renewable, qualifying it for government subsidies. But the Climate Change Committee warned the cash for burning trees no longer delivers value for money. However, it supported plans to add carbon capture and storage to existing biomass plants.

The government should stop the flow of multimillion pound subsidies to energy companies that burn trees, its climate watchdog has urged.

The controversial energy source involves burning woody biomass pellets to generate electricity.

It is classed as renewable in the UK because new trees are planted to absorb the carbon dioxide released as trees burn.

That made companies like Drax, which used to burn coal but is now the UK’s largest bioenergy provider, eligible for £617 million in government subsidies last year.

In the same year, it posted bumper profits of £731 million as energy prices soared.

In its strongest edict on the issue yet, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) today warned for the first time that subsidies for biomass must end when the current round expires in 2027.

Bioenergy is too expensive and "even sustainable biomass supplies have significant lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions", the CCC said, in a much broader report about Britain’s energy future.

There never was any logic to burning trees in the pretence that it would reduce emissions. But if Drax closes as a result of the cancellation of subsidies, another 3GW of baseload will disappear from the grid. Without those subsidies, Drax would already be bankrupt.

The CCC however still support BECCS at Drax:


The CCC also said the UK should abandon biomass in its current form from around 2030.

But it threw its support behind plans to make biomass carbon negative by capturing and burying the emissions under the North Sea in depleted oil or gas fields.

The process is known as bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS).

BECCS will play an "important role" in meeting climate targets because it can remove CO2 from the atmosphere while also generating electricity, the CCC said.

Energy thinktank Ember estimates Drax’s proposed BECCS plant would require £31.7 billion in public subsidies.

It is not clear how many years these subsidies would be spread over, but I would guess about 15 years. Either way it is another £1000 + for households to fork out. And the savings in emissions will be tiny; according to Drax, 8 million tonnes a year of CO2, which is just 2% of total UK emissions.

Meanwhile virgin forests will continue to be destroyed in North America.

  1. Harry Passfield permalink
    March 10, 2023 10:43 am

    Hang on….I thought biomass was supposed to be carbon-neutral, for which they get a kick-back, so why shoukd we pay even more to subsidise their carbon capture?

    • magesox permalink
      March 10, 2023 10:50 am

      Because Harry, the CCS will mean that the totality of the Drax scam – I mean process – will be carbon NEGATIVE. Carbon accounting tells us this – isn’t that obvious? Destroy forests, chip them, transport them thousands of miles, burn them, bury the waste gases using large amounts of energy – obviously negative overall. A win-win scenario – how could anybody question the logic?

      • bobn permalink
        March 10, 2023 12:56 pm

        Hmm, So we are going to bury plant food. That’ll make groceries cheaper!

  2. Cheshire Red permalink
    March 10, 2023 10:50 am

    So just another 30-odd billion to subsidise one more begging bowl of the ‘low cost green energy revolution’? Righto. Seems like a right bargain. I’m feeling richer already.

  3. March 10, 2023 10:54 am

    It never made sense

  4. Ian Wilson permalink
    March 10, 2023 10:54 am

    Now here’s an idea – convert the Drax biomass units back to coal.

    • Chris Phillips permalink
      March 10, 2023 11:55 am

      Drax practically sits on a huge coal reserve – that’s why it was originally built where it is. It was highly efficient in its coal burning days but you can imagine the hysterical screams and howls of protest if any politicians even just mooted the idea of Drax going back to coal.

    • gezza1298 permalink
      March 10, 2023 1:05 pm

      We should be grateful that currently they are still there for them to revert back to coal use alongside the other units that they could not get taxpayer cash to convert.

    • March 10, 2023 7:46 pm

      Converting to gas was a Drax plan until 2021.

  5. sean2829 permalink
    March 10, 2023 10:55 am

    “Planet of the Humans by Michael Moore exposes what biomass burners are really all about (subsidies) and their impacts on the communities the burners are located and the Forrest’s the fuel comes from.
    The biofuel industry is essentially government subsidized industrial crimes against the environment mascarading as climate solutions.

  6. March 10, 2023 10:56 am

    What about all the particulates that are emitted when burning wood?

  7. Devoncamel permalink
    March 10, 2023 10:59 am

    I’d be interested for someone to post what the particulate emissions for Drax are. How do they compare say, to a coal power plant?

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      March 10, 2023 1:58 pm

      Drax emissions for 2020 according to the NAEI map:

      PM10 496 tonnes
      NO2 9,832 tonnes
      SO2 3,614 tonnes
      CO2 416,455 tonnes as carbon (i.e. multiply by 44/12 for CO2)

      Of course part of that will be from the coal units, although they were rarely run. In fact, the CO2 element is JUST from coal, because they consume about 7 million tonnes of wood pellets a year. I don’t think they are allowed to pretend that PM10 etc. doesn’t happen when burning wood, so the stack scrubbers are quite efficient. Drax provide their own data here:

      Click to access ESGXSupplement_v41_Single_Pages.pdf

  8. Joe Public permalink
    March 10, 2023 11:30 am

    CCS incurs a huge parasitic electricity demand, and, generating plant also has to be de-rated – so generating less electricity. A double negative whammy on electricity available to the grid.

  9. GeoffB permalink
    March 10, 2023 11:34 am

    I agree, for the first time ever, with the CCC. Chris Huhne was involved in the push for bio mass, he ended up chairmen of Zilkha Biomass Energy.

    • Ray Sanders permalink
      March 10, 2023 1:24 pm

      I have 3 points l’d like to take about Chris Huhne but it appears his wife already did!

  10. It doesn't add up... permalink
    March 10, 2023 11:53 am

    Of course running Drax with CCS would require even more trees be culled to feed it, while the subsidy required would increase to pay for the trees and the kit and the CO2 burial site. All the wizard udea of forever Drax board member for technology and CCC Committee member Rebecca “BECCS” Heaton. If we want the heat on, use coal.

  11. It doesn't add up... permalink
    March 10, 2023 12:05 pm

    wizard idea of former…

    Tiny screens are a hazard for typing and proof checking after being messed by autocorrect as well.

  12. John Brown permalink
    March 10, 2023 12:08 pm

    CCC know BECCS is totally uneconomic. They simply want to explosively demolish DRAX so it will not be available for use as a coal-fired plant when we eventually run out of power. Here is an official SSE video of our COP26 president explosively demolishing Ferrybridge in 2021 :×720/JwPnpycxEiyBmqVJ.mp4?tag=12

  13. Dave Ward permalink
    March 10, 2023 12:23 pm

    “Another 3GW of baseload will disappear from the grid”

    Which will promptly collapse, if it hasn’t already done so by then…

  14. March 10, 2023 12:45 pm

    Why does CCC stop at subs. for wood chips, why not abolish all subs. for all renewables ? After all, carbon is fake science from the get-go ?

  15. avro607 permalink
    March 10, 2023 5:46 pm

    Doesnt Drax record the CO2 emitted by burning wood chips?

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      March 10, 2023 8:04 pm

      Not publicly. But if we estimate from cellulose (C6H10O5 – molecular weight 162, of which 72 carbon) and the basic phenyl unit of lignin (C6H5O, m.w. 93 of which 72 C) around half is carbon overall, so that would be 3.5 million tonnes of carbon released as 12.83 million tonnes of CO2 for 7 million tonnes of wood. That may be a little high in view of residual moisture content etc.

      • Graeme No.3 permalink
        March 10, 2023 9:43 pm

        I thought that they (Drax) claimed that the CO2 emissions from wood were 32% higher than with coal. With transport?
        As for residual water the wood chips are sprayed with water to reduce the chance of spontaneous combustion. Subject to the old idea “if a little bit is good, a lot more would be better”.

        In any case higher water content reduces efficiency (increases CO2 emissions per MWh output) as shown with brown coal v black.

  16. March 10, 2023 7:51 pm

    I think I follow this: the trees are cut down using electricity generated from oil. They are turned into wood chips by similarly-powered machines and transported by diesel trucks to the railroad siding where they are loaded by similarly-powered machines onto diesel-hauled trains which transport them several hundred miles to the port. There they are loaded into oil-powered ships and taken across the Atlantic to the UK west coast where they are loaded onto diesel-powered trains and transported across the Pennines to Drax. There they are unloaded and used to generate electricity, releasing soot and CO2 into the atmosphere. But don’t worry, because the wood-chip suppliers will have planted another tree which after growing for 50 years will have soaked up all the CO2 the wood chips released. That’s carbon-neutrality for you!

  17. 4 Eyes permalink
    March 11, 2023 4:31 pm

    Maybe the CCC realizes just how stupid it is to burn trees for electricity and therefore how stupid they look. Trees burn a lot faster than they grow, the logical outcome over time would be obvious to my dog, and his breed was rated the 68 th smartest out of 70 breeds

  18. March 13, 2023 4:07 pm

    We blasted the whole Drax scheme.
    See “Getting Wood” last segment >

    Join us to push back. Free subscription. Send reinforcements!

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: