United Kingdom

Government climate adviser works for power station getting subsidies from taxpayers to go green

A senior government climate adviser works for a major power station that is getting huge subsidies from taxpayers to go green – sparking claims of a conflict of interest.

Dr Rebecca Heaton sits on the Climate Change Committee (CCC) which this week published a bombshell report warning that the UK is unprepared for the effects of global warming. 

But she is also head of sustainability at Drax Group, which receives billions in public money to run a massive woodburning power station. 

It is set to get even more over the coming decades to develop a controversial new technology known as BECCS – which has been recommended by the CCC as a way to achieve net zero carbon emissions. 

It has prompted claims that her position on the climate body means she could help formulate policies that benefit her employer. 

Dr Rebecca Heaton sits on the Climate Change Committee (CCC) which this week published a bombshell report warning that the UK is unprepared for the effects of global warming

Tory peer Lord Randall, who was environment adviser to Theresa May, has called for the public spending watchdog to look into her unusual dual role. 

He told the National Audit Office (NAO) there may be a 'real or perceived conflict between her role with Drax and her ability to offer impartial expert advice on such policies' given the 'significant commercial interests of her employer'. 

The NAO declined to investigate but Lord Randall said last night: 'There is a rapidly growing feeling that the subsidies to Drax should not be continued past the current date.' 

Drax runs a huge power station in North Yorkshire but has been moving from burning coal to wood pellets called biomass. 

Recent analysis claims it has already received £4.7billion in government subsidies for burning biomass over the past decade and will get another £10billion by 2027. 

And Drax is now working on a project to build a pioneering new plant that will receive even more of taxpayers' cash. 

Drax runs a huge power station in North Yorkshire (pictured) but has been moving from burning coal to wood pellets called biomass

Called Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS), it involves capturing the carbon emitted when biomass is burned and burying it underground. 

Experts estimate it will receive a staggering £31.7billion in government subsidies over the 25-year lifetime of the plant – adding £16 a year to each household's energy bills. 

And Drax even highlighted a report by the CCC which claimed BECCS was needed to help achieve the goal of net zero. 

Sally Clark, from campaign group Biofuelwatch, said Dr Heaton was 'exactly the wrong kind of person to be advising the Government on climate change' because she has worked for oil giants Shell and BP as well as Drax. 

She added: '[Her] dual appointments provide the company with an opportunity to influence government policy.' 

Drax insisted Dr Heaton does not advise the CCC, on which she has sat since 2017, on topics such as biomass which 'ensures there is no conflict of interest'. 

Chris Stark, CCC's chief executive, added: 'The Comptroller and Auditor General considered the CCC's conflicts of interest procedure and was satisfied that it was not necessary to carry out any further investigation.'

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