Energy ministry D-BEIS is pledging a further £26 million to secure innovation in new materials and manufacturing techniques for biomass feedstock.
Cultivation and harvesting of organic alternatives to the wood pellets burned at Drax, such as algae, seaweed, hemp and other grasses, are to be incentivised by today’s announcement.
Funding available from today comes under Phase 2 of the government’s Biomass Feedstocks Innovation Programme
A total of 25 projects, from start-ups to research institutes and universities, have already received a share of £4 million under Phase 1 of the programme.
Under Phase 2, the projects will be developed from the design stage into full demonstration projects, showcasing new methods to grow biomass materials, which can be used to produce low-carbon energy.
Each project will be able to bid for up to £4 million in funding, or up to £5 million for bids from the multi-site demonstrator projects that will showcase new biomass feedstock production projects in multiple locations across the UK.
“Developing greener fuels like biomass is key to helping the UK slash carbon emissions and drive down costs for consumers”.
Political sensitivities have grown around the import of pellets derived from specially grown American forests for combustion by Drax, near Selby.
In July a consortium of conservation groups including the RSPB, WWF, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth signed a letter to the Johnson administration, requesting it withdraw support for the Yorkshire plant’s expansion of its bioenergy carbon capture and storage (BECCS) activities.
The plant defended itself, maintaining in a statement that “Drax does not burn whole trees or trees harvested solely for bioenergy”, relying instead on residues left as by-products from other forestry use such as construction and furniture.
“The UN’s IPCC, the world’s leading science-based climate authority and backed by thousands of scientists, clearly states that sustainable biomass is low carbon and renewable and its use is critical to achieving global climate targets”, a spokesperson for Britain’s former biggest coal burner said.
The forests in the southern USA providing its wood had doubled in size since the 1950s, the plant asserted.
Burning anything in air will produce the family of nitrogen oxides (NOx) which are harmful to our health and to the environment. So Drax should be moving away from burning anything in the long term, and concentrating their resources into generating electricity from non-fossil sources that do not require burning in air, such as small modular reactors using molten salt heat transfer fluid rather than dangerous high pressure water reactors used in conventional nuclear power stations such as Hinkley Point C.