Drax, NFU partner to boost UK energy crop market

  • Sep 22, 2021
  • Biomass Magazine

World leader in sustainable bioenergy Drax Group has teamed up with the National Farmers Union of England and Wales (NFU), to identify opportunities to scale up perennial energy crop production and help the U.K. meet its ambitious climate goals.

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has previously stated that if the U.K. is to meet its decarbonization objectives, a substantial area of energy crops must be planted each year to deliver the low carbon, renewable fuel required over the coming decades.

Through the partnership announced today, Drax and the NFU plan to develop a roadmap for boosting the market in perennial energy crops, identifying how they can be used sustainably.

The program of work will help to provide insights into important diversification opportunities for U.K. farming businesses as they adapt to new agricultural policies and will seek to identify new revenue streams that may include utilizing marginal land unsuitable for food crops, as well as delivering meaningful climate action.

It will also support Drax’s ambition for British farmers to supply some of the biomass needed for its plans to develop the vital negative emissions technology bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS).

The partnership demonstrates clear intent from the bioenergy and agricultural sectors to accelerate the delivery of negative emissions in the U.K. following calls to action this summer from the UN’s IPCC, the National Infrastructure Commission, and the Coalition for Negative Emissions.

Drax Group’s Chief Innovation Officer Jason Shipstone said, “If we can source some of Drax’s sustainable biomass for our BECCS units from domestically grown energy crops, we could further reduce our supply chain emissions at the same time as stimulating innovation within British farming. 

“By encouraging British farmers to plant energy crops here in the U.K., the agricultural sector can join the bioenergy industry, and support national efforts to address the climate crisis, driving down emissions and building back greener.”

NFU Deputy President Stuart Roberts said, “There is a huge opportunity for the growth of perennial energy crops in the U.K., with large areas of suitable land potentially available for diversification into the growing of sustainable biomass for renewable energy generation. This would support the U.K.’s decarbonization plans as well as our own agricultural net zero ambition, alongside continuing to provide quality, affordable and climate-friendly food for the nation. 

“By working with Drax Group, we can unlock this potential and ensure our farmers are ready to take advantage of the opportunity energy crops create, one which will provide a boost to both farm businesses and the U.K.’s climate credentials. It’s exciting that the carbon dioxide captured by the crops grown by U.K. farmers for Drax would be permanently removed from the atmosphere.”

The partnership follows an announcement last month from the Government which outlined the provision of £4 million in funding to increase British biomass production for green energy through the Biomass Feedstocks Innovation Programme.

Drax Group, which has converted Drax Power Station in North Yorkshire to use sustainable biomass instead of coal to become the U.K.’s largest single site renewable generator, plans to deploy the essential negative emissions technology BECCS in the 2020s. This has the potential to create the world’s largest carbon capture power project and deliver a significant proportion of the negative emissions needed for the U.K. to meet its climate targets.

By using BECCS, Drax could permanently remove 8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year by 2030, becoming a carbon negative company. The energy crops grown by U.K. farmers would support this ambition.