Government can't prove biomass is sustainable, spending watchdog warns

Drax Power Station near Selby, North Yorkshire.Drax Power Station near Selby, North Yorkshire.
Drax Power Station near Selby, North Yorkshire.
The Government is unable to prove that biomass fuel is sustainably sourced amid a watchdog investigation into Drax’s green energy claims, the National Audit Office has warned.

An NAO report published yesterday said that there are inadequate safeguards in place to make sure that companies are not contributing to the destruction of nature in procuring wood to burn in furnaces.

Biomass is currently considered green if 70 per cent of it is produced using strict sustainable criteria covering where the wood has come from and how the forest is managed, with calls for this to be raised to 100 per cent in the future.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Companies independently audit their biomass supply which is then checked by the regulator Ofgem, which makes sure that government subsidies are not incorrectly claimed.

However, the NAO warned that the current oversight of the system was not sufficient to confidently say that a company is adhering to the rules.

Gareth Davies, head of the NAO, said: “If biomass is going to play a key role in the transition to net zero, the Government needs to be confident that the industry is meeting high sustainability standards.

“However, Government has been unable to demonstrate its current assurances are adequate to provide confidence in this regard.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

It comes as Drax, which runs a North Yorkshire-based biomass power plant, faces an Ofgem investigation into its own sustainability submissions, with a result expected within weeks.

The Government has so far supported the industry with £22 billion and is considering supporting Drax beyond the current subsidy scheme deadline in 2027 to help it develop carbon capture technology at its plant in North Yorkshire.

A spokesperson for Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ) welcomed the report, claiming that it had found no evidence of firms not complying with sustainability rules, something which the report did not look at in its remit.

“As set out in the Biomass Strategy, we will be consulting later this year on how we can go further than our peers,” they added.