It is now one week before Drax's AGM and two simultaneous protests calling to #AxeDrax, one in York (outside the AGM), the other in London (outside the offices of Drax's two biggest investors, Invesco and Schroders). Please come along to York or London if you can and please help us spread the word!
#AxeDrax protest in London
Please join a colourful #AxeDrax protest outside the offices of Drax's two biggest investors. We will be meeting at 12 noon outside the offices of Schroders, 31 Gresham Street, London EC2V 7QA. After listening to some speeches, we will be walking across to Invesco's offices, 125 London Wall, EC2Y 5AS
London "Biomassive" campaigners are planning a banner painting and prop making session this Sunday, 9th April - if you're free and would like to join then please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for details. And please feel free to bring your own banners and placards, too.
#AxeDrax protest in York
Please meet from 10.30 am outside Drax's AM at the Royal York Hotel (soon to be called "The Principal York"), Station Road, York YO24 1AA, to leaflet shareholders as they enter the AGM and as they leave at 2pm. There will be a media photo call at 1pm.
This banner protest is oranised by Yorkshire campaigners against dirty energy, together with Coal Action Network. Please bring banenrs, placards and lots of friends.
Click here to see and share the Facebook event page here.
Drax power station is the UK's single biggest emitter of cabron dioxide. Last year, it burned pellets made from over 13 million tonnes of wood. By comparison, the UK only produces a total of 10.8 million tonnes of wood annually. US conservation NGOs have shown that many of Drax's pellets come from clearcut biodiverse coastal wetland forests in the southern US, which form part of the newest Biodiversity Hotspot. This is disastrous for biodiversity, and bad news for the climate, too. Drax also burned 2.9 million tonnes of coal in 2016, most of it from Colombia, where small farmers and indigenous communities have been evicted to make way for opencast coal mines and where others have seen their food and air polluted, their freshwater depleted and are facing malnutrition and ill health as a result.
Recently, Drax has acquired Opus Energy and plans for four new gas power stations. So they've now expanded their portfolio to include three dirty energy sources!
We believe that energy subsidies must go towards clean, low-carbon renewable energy such as sustainable wind and solar power, and towards energy efficiency and conservation, Renewable energy (or for that matter any other) subsidies must never go to dirty energy which worsens climate change, destroys forests or harms communities, all of which Drax is doing.
Fontainebleau Hotel Miami Beach, which hosts an annual biomass conference. Credit: Fotoluminate LLC / Shutterstock.com
One of parliament's strongest champions of biomass, Nigel Adams MP, has received tens of thousands of pounds in political donations and hospitality from the controversial industry, Energydesk can reveal.
The Conservative MP accepted £62,411 in donations to fund his political work between 2012 and 2016, including £30,376 to attend a series of conferences at luxury hotels in Miami Beach and New Orleans.
Adams has consistently called for increased public subsidies for the industry and in 2012 lobbied then Prime Minister David Cameron to divert onshore wind farm subsidies to fund biomass power stations.
The MP also chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on biomass, which Drax – one of the UK's leading biomass players – helped to set up and fund.
The news comes after a recent report by think tank Chatham House claimed that most forms of biomass energy – which the industry argues is a solution to climate change – actually produce more carbon than coal.
When contacted by Energydesk, Adams described concerns over the donations as an attempt to "smear the biomass industry and those associated with it".
"It should not come as a surprise to anyone that I am a champion for electricity generation via biomass given that two of the largest employers in my constituency, Drax and Eggborough, who between them directly employ well over 1100 local people, are involved in electricity generation using sustainably sourced biomass."
"Additionally, as Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Biomass, it is not unusual for domestic and international companies looking to invest in my constituency or the wider UK energy sector to want to engage with me at meetings or conferences on broader energy issues. It is also not unusual for these companies to fund the cost of travel and accommodation for MP's including myself to take part in these conferences or meetings", he continued.
Large scale biomass involves burning wood pellets in power stations to generate electricity – often old coal plants that have been converted to use wood instead.
According to the new report: "while some instances of biomass energy use may result in lower lifecycle emissions than fossil fuels, in most circumstances, comparing technologies of similar ages, the use of woody biomass for energy will release higher levels of emissions than coal and considerably higher levels than gas."
Operators of biomass power stations, such as Drax, have managed to secure billions of pounds in subsidies by presenting it as a low carbon form of energy.
The new report raises the prospect that public subsidies intended to help tackle climate change could have been wasted on supporting a technology that actually makes it worse.
However, both the biomass industry and a biomass subgroup of the International Energy Agency have said that the Chatham House report is flawed and that sustainable biomass can help tackle climate change.
Nigel Adams MP (centre) chairing an APPG on Biomass event
Ditch onshore wind and fund biomass
Adams' interventions on behalf of the biomass industry include lobbying ministers; securing parliamentary debates; hosting parliamentary events; penning op-eds and asking numerous parliamentary questions.
According to the register of MPs interests and Electoral Commission data, Adams has received £62,411 in political donations and foreign trips from power station operators – most of which has been donated in the last two years.
Drax and Eggborough power stations – which are located in Adams' Selby and Ainsty constituency – have made numerous donations.
In 2016, the companies jointly paid £4,950 for a five day trip to Miami Beach, where Adams delivered a keynote speech at a biomass conference held at the luxury Fontainebleau hotel.
Between them the companies have paid for Adams to make five trips to this conference, which has been held in Miami since 2013.
Fontainebleau Hotel lobby Credit: Wikimedia Commons
However, more than half of the industry contributions were made by donors outside Adams' constituency.
Simec Uskmouth Power Ltd – which is owned by industrialist Parduman Gupta through his company, Simec Group – has donated £20,685 to Adams since August 2015.
Uskmouth is a 393MW coal power station in South Wales that can co-fire with biomass and is being converted to run fully on wood pellets. It also plans to construct a plant to manufacture biomass pellets to feed the power station.
The company's donations include a four day visit to the United Arab Emirates in April 2016, costing £2,885. The purpose of the trip was for Adams to attend meetings on energy and biomass, as well as a Brexit event for expats.
Sanjeev Gupta, Parduman Gupta's son and executive chairman of Liberty House Group, has donated £11,350 to Adams. Liberty House Group works with Simec Group under a "strategic alliance" called the Gupta Family Group Alliance.
A spokesperson for the Gupta Family Group Alliance said thatbiomass is a significant part of its strategy to develop a low carbon steel industry in the UK:"We believe that with the right sourcing and shipping of pellets that Biomass can give new life to existing infrastructure and provide a vital green energy source. Biomass is not the only renewable energy source we are pursuing. We are already actively delivering hydro and biodiesel power and are investing significantly in the development of other sources including tidal lagoon power and gasification of waste"
"Contributions to any public representative's travel and accommodation costs by the company to attend meetings or donations at fundraising events by the company or individuals associated with our company are made with full transparency and declared in the appropriate manner", he continued.
Back Biomass campaign
Adams' efforts to secure ongoing subsidy support for biomass have formed part of a wider political campaign by the biomass industry.
This has primarily been coordinated through the Back Biomass campaign, established by the Renewable Energy Association (REA) in 2011 on behalf of the biomass industry. Its sponsors include coal power station owners and the North American wood-chip industry.
The initial focus of both the Back Biomass campaign and the biomass APPG was to lobby MPs and ministers for the continuation of subsidies for biomass under the Renewables Obligation scheme.
These efforts were successful and in July 2012 Drax welcomed the government's announcement that biomass would be eligible for subsidies under the scheme between 2013-17.
More recently, in 2014, the biomass industry was successful in gaining £4.7 billion in subsidies – through a scheme that has been heavily criticised by the National Audit Office for being uncompetitive and too expensive. Drax alone secured a contract for £1.7 billion.
When contacted by Energydesk a spokesperson for Drax said: "Drax, along with others in the industry, was involved in setting up the APPG on biomass. Its role is to explain how sustainable biomass provides reliable and affordable renewable electricity and heat."
"As you'd expect, our local MP, Nigel Adams, plays a vital role in chairing the APPG, and championing the important role that the largest employer in his constituency plays both nationally and in the Selby area."
A spokesperson for the REA said: "The Back Biomass campaign was set up in 2011 by a wide range of companies across the biomass sector, including miscanthus, straw, combined heat and power, dedicated power and conversion projects. The campaign was focused on promoting the benefits of the cost effectiveness, energy security and sustainability of biomass and was coordinated by the REA."
"The work of the Biomass APPG is led by parliamentarians, with the REA taking over the secretariat in 2015″, he continued.
Full statements from individuals and companies connected to this story can be found here.
In a surprise move, Drax is holding its 2017 Annual General Meeting (AGM) in York instead of London, on April 13. Biofuelwatch will be holding a demonstration in London targetting Drax's two largest investors. At the same time our allies in Yorkshire will be demonstrating outside the AGM itself.
#AxeDrax in London
Biofuelwatch's #AxeDrax protest in London will this year target Drax's two biggest investors: Invesco and Schroders. We will gather at 12 outside Schroders, on Gresham Street, EC2V 7QA, where we will have speakers from different organisations, banners and props, and we will then head over to Invesco, Drax's largest investor, on London Wall. There is a Facebook event here.
London Biomassive will be having one more meeting and one prop making session before the demo - contact us, or keep an eye on the Biomassive Facebook page, if you want to come.
#AxeDrax in York
The York demo will be outside Drax's AGM at the Royal York Hotel, starting from 10.30 so we can leaflet delegates as they enter the AGM, and finishing by 2pm. This is being organised by local activists against dirty energy in Yorkshire, with support from Coal Action Network. There will be a photo call at 1pm, so if you can't make the whole thing, the latter part only is great.
Please note, the hotel is in the process of changing its name to the Principle York. It is conveniently situated very close to York train station (Station Road, York YO24 1AA).
Despite describing itself as 'Europe's largest decarbonisation project', Drax remains the UK's largest coal burner, the largest burner of biomass in the world and the UK's single biggest emitter of greenhouse gases. Nearly all of Drax's wood pellets are imported, mainly from the southern US. Many of them are sourced from clearcut coastal wetland forests, others from monoculture tree plantations which have replaced biodiverse forests. A lot of Drax's coal comes from Russia and Colombia, where communities have been evicted and have seen their livelihoods destroyed by opencast coal mining.
Recently, Drax bought Opus Energy and four gas-fired power stations soon to be built, so the company now works across three forms of dirty energy.
Researchers estimate that around 590 people a year are dying early due to air pollution from Drax Power Station.
In return for trashing forests and digging up communities, Drax is receiving massive subsidies – paid out of a surcharge on our electricity bills – when it should have been closed down years ago. Drax received £584 million of public money in 2016 – that's over £1.5 million every day!
We believe that energy subsidies should be going towards clean, low-carbon renewable energy such as sustainable wind and solar power, and towards energy efficiency and conservation. Renewable energy subsidies should not be paid for dirty energy that destroys forests, communities and the climate.
We need a just transition to a genuinely low carbon energy system. Home insulation, wind and solar power can create large numbers of clean jobs.