The European Union is not renowned for the sanity of some of its regulations, straight bananas anyone?
With the willing collusion of the UK Parliament the British energy sector has become uninvestable. Npower is set to write off hundreds of millions of pounds on the value of its British power plants. Companies have stopped building new power stations amid a political and regulatory backlash, sparked last year by Ed Miliband’s pledge to freeze energy prices.But is there anything more insane than this?
The UK is committed by law to a radical shift to renewable energy. By 2020, the proportion of Britain’s electricity generated from ‘renewable’ sources is supposed to almost triple to 30 per cent, with more than a third of that from what is called ‘biomass’.
The only large-scale way to do this is by burning wood, man’s oldest fuel – because EU rules have determined it is ‘carbon-neutral’.
So our biggest power station, the leviathan Drax plant near Selby in North Yorkshire, is switching from dirty, non-renewable coal. Biomass is far more expensive, but the consumer helps the process by paying subsidies via levies on energy bills.
That’s where North Carolina’s forests come in. They are being reduced to pellets in a gargantuan pulping process at local factories, then shipped across the Atlantic from a purpose-built dock at Chesapeake Port, just across the state line in Virginia.
Carbon neutral because trees recently sequestered the carbon and will sequester it again as they grow again but …
Drax’s wood-fuelled furnaces actually produce three per cent more carbon dioxide (CO2) than coal – and well over twice as much as gas: 870g per megawatt hour (MW/hr) is belched out by wood, compared to just 400g for gas.
Then there’s the extra CO2 produced by manufacturing the pellets and transporting them 3,800 miles … when all that is taken into account, using biomass for generating power produces 20 per cent more greenhouse gas emissions than coal.
Our whole business case is built on subsidy, like the rest of the renewable energy industry. We are simply responding to Government policy.All this has required an investment of £700 million. Thanks to the green subsidies, this will soon be paid off. Even if all Britain’s forests were devoted to Drax, they could not keep its furnaces going. ‘We need areas with lots of wood, a reliable supply chain”.