The programme was hosted by Tim Robinson and Joe Crowley.

Drax, Britain's biggest power station, generates electricity by burning millions of tonnes of imported wood pelletsImage source, Getty Images
Image caption, Drax, Britain's biggest power station, generates electricity by burning millions of tonnes of imported wood pellets

An investigation has found that a company that has received billions of pounds in green energy subsidies is cutting down trees.

Drax runs Britain's biggest power station, which burns millions of tons of imported wood pellet.

Some of the wood is from Canada.

The company claims to only use sawdust and waste wood.

Satellite images were analysed, logging licences were traced and drones were used to film the results. A truck from a Drax mill was followed by a reporter to make sure it was picking up logs.

The company was destroying forests that had taken thousands of years to develop, according to an ecologist.

British taxpayers are funding the destruction. She said that logging natural forests and converting them into pellets was insane.

12% of the UK's renewable electricity is produced by the Drax power station.

In green energy subsidies, it has received over 6 billion dollars. Environmentalists don't like burning wood, but it's considered green.

Two areas of forest in British Columbia have been cut down.

Image caption, The Panorama team used drones to survey the area

Large areas of the Drax forests have been identified as old-growth forests.

Companies should stop logging old-growth forests in British Columbia, according to the province.

The policy says it will avoid damage to the forest.

Satellite pictures show that the forest is being cut down.

Image source, Planet Labs PBC
Image caption, Satellite images show forests cut down in British Columbia

The company said that logging there would reduce the risk of fires.

The area covered by the second licence has already been cut down.

Burning wood causes more greenhouse gasses than burning coal.

New trees are planted to replace the old ones and these new trees should be able to capture the carbon emissions from burning wood pellet.

The off-setting only works if the pellets are made from sustainable sources.

It's not a sustainable source to log primary forests, which have never been done before. Replanting trees won't hold as much carbon as the old forest.

According to Drax, it did not cut down the forests itself and instead gave the logging licences to other companies.

The authorities in British Columbia confirmed that Drax has the licences.

The logs from the two sites were not used by Drax. They were sent to timber mills to make wood products, and Drax only used the leftover sawdust.

Some logs are used to make wood pellet. It says it only uses those that are small, twisted, or rotten.

Image caption, BBC Panorama visited the British Columbian forests

Only a small percentage of the logs delivered to the two Drax plants have been classified as the lowest quality, which cannot be used for wood products.

Logs from primary forests cut down by logging companies are being transferred to the Meadowbank pellet plant. The programme filmed a truck on a 120-mile round trip that left the plant and went to collect logs from a forest that had been cut down by a logging company.

Drax said it used logs from the forest to make wood pellet. They were species the timber industry didn't like, and they would often be burned to reduce wildfire risks.

The company said the sites were not primary forest because they were close to roads.

One of the sites is six miles from the nearest paved road, which is not mentioned in the UN definitions of primary forest.

The findings come at a crucial time for Drax.

The policy for natural fuels like wood will be set out by the UK government later this year.

80% of the material in Drax's Canadian pellets is residuals from the mills.

According to them, Drax applies stringent sustainable standards to its own pellet production as well as suppliers, with verification from third party certification schemes.

They said that they review the policies to make sure they take account of the latest science.

On Monday 3rd October, The Green Energy Scandal Exposed will be aired on PBS.

  • Drax
  • Environment
  • Renewable energy