Drax: Don't Burn Canada’s Old Growth Forests for Electricity

Friday February 12, 2021

Unceded Coast Salish Territories (VANCOUVER, BC) — Drax, a massive utility in the UK, is set to worsen its impacts on critical forests around the globe with a new acquisition of Pinnacle Renewable Energy—all under the guise of renewable energy and climate solutions. 

The majority of Pinnacle’s wood pellet facilities are in Canada - with a concentration in British Columbia - where some sourcing overlaps with threatened caribou habitat and the carbon-dense and globally rare Inland Temperate Rainforest.

"UK residents may be shocked to learn that their power is being generated by burning some of the last stands of old and natural forests in British Columbia, home to endangered wildlife like caribou and among the most carbon-rich in the world—right up until they are clearcut to make wood pellets,” said Tegan Hansen, Forest Campaigner, Stand.earth. “In no world is this acceptable, and to be growing this sector during a global climate crisis is horrifying. Old growth forests in BC are nearly gone, and the provincial government campaigned on a commitment to protect old forests while pursuing a paradigm shift for forestry. We were promised a new future for forests, but allowing them instead to be clearcut and shipped overseas to be burned in coal converted plants is medieval. People living in the UK and Canada must come together to oppose this industry and support real, clean renewable energy that protects forests and our climate.

The B.C. government has touted wood pellet exports as an opportunity to make use of waste, such as sawdust and slash piles. However, Stand.earth’s investigations have shown with absolute certainty that wood pellets are being made from whole trees in British Columbia. 

At the smokestack, burning wood pellets for power generation is worse than coal in terms of climate pollution. It can take decades to centuries for forests to regain the majority of their carbon storage capacity compared to pre-harvest levels, whereas carbon is instantly emitted to the atmosphere when wood pellets are burned.  In Canada, and especially in British Columbia, we are seeing an alarming trend of existing pellet plants shifting their supply to be more dependent on logging primary forests, as well as proposed pellet plants that would source entirely from logging operations in old, carbon-rich natural forests like the Boreal. 

Forests in Canada are too valuable to be pelletized and shipped overseas and burned in coal converted plants, and there is growing risk connected to Drax’s problematic wood sourcing history and its impacts on critical forests. Shareholders at each company should reject the Drax / Pinnacle acquisition.


Media Contact: 

Tyson Miller, Forest Programs Director, tyson@stand.earth