Stansted airport claim “66% cut in net carbon footprint” this year – they are buying biomass-generated electricity from Drax

Stansted airport has produced its “Sustainability Report” for 2013. It announces the remarkable claim that:  “Our net carbon footprint for 2013/14 was 9,940 tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions – a reduction of 66% compared to 2012/13.” It does not specify what a “net” carbon footprint is though. Unfortunately the format of the 2013 Sustainability Report and the format of earlier years makes comparison impossible.  However, the claim of a 66% cut – written to imply a cut in the carbon footprint of the whole airport – is only referring to its use of electricity. The press release says: “… 66% reduction in the carbon footprint achieved by moving the airport onto MAG’s group contract for purchasing low carbon electricity, which is generated using only biomass such as wood and straw rather than coal.”  It turns out that MAG has a contract with Haven Energy, that is part of Drax, which is turning its generators from burning coal to burning biomass, in the form of wood pellets from forest in the southern USA, doing considerable environmental harm. While Drax claims its biomass electricity has 80% less CO2 than coal, some consider it to produce more, not less. That 66% claim is highly dubious …


Stansted reports 66% reduction in carbon footprint in first year of MAG ownership

21 Oct 2014

Reducing carbon footprint by 66%, diverting 93% of waste from landfill and trialling new technologies to improve aircraft performance on set departure routes are just a snapshot of the highlights in Stansted Airport’s corporate responsibility report published today, reflecting on performance during the first year of M.A.G ownership.

As the biggest single site employer in the region, providing direct employment for 10,850 people across 190 companies based at the airport, Stansted is a gateway to Europe offering more scheduled connections than any other UK airport; and having returned to growth under M.A.G ownership for the first time since 2007 and with a £260million investment programme underway to improve services and facilities for passengers we are a turning point in the airports history.

Stansted CSR Table

As Stansted continues to grow, carefully managing the airport’s operations is at the centre of M.A.G’s CSR strategy, which seeks to ensure the social and economic benefits of the airport are shared as widely as possible whilst minimising environmental impacts.

M.A.G’s Director of CSR, Neil Robinson, has lead the transition to bring a renewed focus on CSR at Stansted and commenting on the report published today he said:

“The team at Stansted shared our desire to drive forward a new CSR strategy with great progress made in just the first year, with the most significant saving being a 66% reduction in the carbon footprint achieved by moving the airport onto M.A.G’s group contract for purchasing low carbon electricity, which is generated using only biomass such as wood and straw rather than coal.  [ It emerges, by separate research, that MAG is buying its power from Drax, which is converting its generators from coal to biomass. It uses pellets obtained largely from forests in the USA, doing environmental harm, and shipping these across the Atlantic. Drax is claiming there is an 80% carbon saving of its wood pellets compared to coal. See below. But opponents suspect that, taking everything into account, the carbon emissions from wood pellets could be even worse than those from coal. Huge subsidies are involved. Stansted can get this electricity at a low price, due to Climate Change Levy Exemption Certificates. AW note] 

“Our commitment to waste management was recognised when Stansted was awarded Gold accreditation by National Recycling Stars and with the volume of waste recycled or recovered increased by 24% we finished the year having diverted 93% of waste from landfill putting us firmly on-track to achieve our target of sending zero waste direct to landfill by the end of 2015.

“We had very encouraging results from a trial carried out in partnership with easyJet and in agreement with the CAA of new technology that helps aircraft stay closer to the centre line on set departure routes, which will help reduce the noise footprint of people affected by aircraft noise on the ground and we’re now expanding this trial to other airline partners.

“Our drive to improve staff engagement got off to a flying start when we introduced a dedicated team for internal communications and through renewed focus of our community strategy a new work experience programme was introduced, we increased staff volunteering, set up a mentoring scheme for GCSE students and established the London Stansted Community Network to bring together the 190 companies based at Stansted to talk as one community.

“This report outlines just some of the first stepping stones laid by M.A.G for the new CSR strategy being implemented at Stansted and we’re currently out to public consultation on our draft Sustainable Development Plan which will set the future business objectives and the CSR agenda as we take the business forward.”

The full report is available online at

Some of the key achievements under each of the objectives are:

Our Environment

  • 66% reduction in carbon footprint compared 2012/13 (29,199t 2012/13 down to 9,940t 2013/14)
  • 93% waste diverted from landfill (75% in 2012 up to 93% 2013)
  • Awarded Gold accreditation in National Recyling Stars
  • 51% passengers used public transport maintaining Stansted’s position as the leading major airport for public transport use

Our Communities

  • 450 people employed through the airport employment academy
  • 500 hours of employee volunteering to support the local community
  • Over £112,000 donated to local community groups
  • Trialled new technology to improve aircraft performance on departure routes and to help reduce noise footprint of people affected by aircraft noise

Our Business

  • £774 million in gross added value to the region
  • £1.8 million in new contracts generated at the annual Meet The Buyers event
  • Provided direct employment for 10,850 people across 190 companies on-site
  • Over 700 recruits attend free job fair offering 120 vacancies

Our Colleagues

  • Achieved British Safety Council’s 5 star rating and retained OHSAS 18001 accreditation for health and safety systems
  • Launched new employment engagement strategy to improve internal communication channels
  • Led new approach to engagement with unions
  • Introduced new format of all colleague briefings and met over 90% of work force face to face to update on business strategy and future plans



 Stansted’s 2013 Sustainability Report

Stansted’s report section on its carbon footprint states:

Preventing emissions and improving efficiency

At London Stansted Airport, energy efficiency and carbon emissions are considered at every stage of a project and it is our policy to install energy efficient technology wherever possible in new developments and refurbishment projects. For example, throughout the first stage of the redevelopment and refurbishment of the London Stansted terminal building, we have installed LED lighting systems in the passenger search area and the new toilet block in the international departure lounge. We have also installed LED lighting in office block lobbies, lifts and a number of escalators. We will continue to install LED lighting wherever possible in the building upgrades planned for 2014/15 and are developing plans to change more of our existing traditional

lighting to LED throughout 2014-15. This will include the wholesale change out of lighting in our terminal service tunnel to LED technology.

We have also focused on the terminal building’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. During 2013/14 we undertook improvements to our chilled water systems, which have delivered further reductions in energy consumption. We are currently upgrading the air-handling units in the main terminal building to increase efficiency with variable speed drives and better sensors and controls and we will be looking at HVAC systems in a number of other buildings.

These projects have helped to deliver a 6% reduction in the energy consumed by the
airport’s operations.

Monitoring and targeting is another key element of our approach to energy management. In
2013/14 we commenced a major programme to upgrade our electricity metering. This will
include the installation of over 100* meters and the connection of meters in our main buildings to an automatic meter reading system (AMR). This programme should be completed by the end of 2014 and will significantly improve our ability to analyse consumption and prioritise energy efficiency measures.

This year we have amended our carbon footprint reporting to align with the wider MAG group and to improve the transparency of our reporting of emissions we can directly control and those we can only influence.

Our net carbon footprint for 2013/14 was 9,940 tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions – a reduction of 66% compared to 2012/13. This very substantial reduction is largely due to emissions avoided through our purchase of grid electricity from renewable sources.  [No details of figures, or assumptions made, are given.   The government presumes the carbon emissions from any source of renewable electricity  are zero, though this in actually not accurate. AW note].  Our biomass boiler which we installed in 2008 has had some technical difficulties and we are currently reviewing options for low carbon heat generation for the terminal along with our overall approach to on-site generation from renewables.

We continue to work with our partners to support efforts to reduce their emissions. A number
of the measures described in the noise section also contribute to reduction of emissions from aircraft. We have maintained our record on public transport with over 50% of passengers using public transport to travel to and from the airport.

Page 13 of



 By contrast, the 2012 Stansted Sustainability Report stated:

Stansted Airport Limited has been producing a carbon footprint since 2008. [sic!!]                 By thinking creatively about energy efficiency and working closely with business partners,
passengers and our employees we have been able to reduce our carbon emissions by over 60,000 tonnes of CO2 over the last four years. This is the equivalent to taking
5,335 vehicles off the road for a year.

In 2012, we continued with this trend, reducing our full carbon footprint by 6.2%. This equates to a saving 26,788 tonnes of CO2. This is a greater reduction than would have been expected based on reduced passenger numbers which fell by 585,674 or 3.3% compared to 2011 figures. In defining our carbon footprint we have followed Greenhouse Gas reporting protocols and split the emissions into key groups. Direct emissions relate to those emissions Stansted has direct or indirect control of such as gas or electricity use and are technically known as Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions. The other emissions result from the operation of the airport which Stansted has limited control or influence over and are known as indirect or Scope 3 emissions. Our direct emissions reduced by 3% primarily due to reduction in the use of gas and electricity and improved management of aircraft and surface transport emissions. The increase in business travel emissions is due to improved data collection and ability to determine precise emissions. The airport’s five yearly data table can be accessed on

It is actually on Page 14 of



Manchester Airports Group (MAG) buy their electricity from Haven Power, which is part of Drax.


“As part of our commitment to make ground operations carbon neutral across the Manchester Airports Group by 2015, we are always looking at ways to reduce energy demand, produce our own renewable energy on site or where this is not feasible, source renewable power. Haven Power’s dedication to renewable energy mirrors our own sustainability values and we are therefore looking forward to developing a long term partnership with them.”

Neil Robinson, CSR Director Manchester Airports Group

Haven Power gets supplies of Climate Change Levy (CCL) exempt electricity. To avoid paying CCL, businesses can request power that is accredited by Levy Exemption Certificates (LECs). electricity through its parent company, Drax Power.  This is what MAG has done.

Haven Power publishes a breakdown of the fuel mix used to generate all the electricity it supplies. This is produced on an annual basis in accordance with the terms of Haven Power’s Electricity Supply Licence and the relevant Regulations.

Customers who purchase Climate Change Levy exempt electricity are provided with the appropriate documentation.


Haven Power say:

Haven Power can supply businesses with Climate Change Levy (CCL) exempt electricity.

This option has been developed for businesses committed to being more sustainable, without increasing their electricity costs.

CCL is a tax levied by the government on fuels used by businesses, including electricity. This cost is passed onto customers by their supplier who collects this Levy with their electricity bills.

To avoid paying CCL, businesses can buy power that is accredited by Levy Exemption Certificates (LECs).

Levy Exempt power does not attract CCL, so despite a slightly higher energy cost, once the CCL tax is removed the overall price is the same as standard power. This option is available on all of products.*

*Available for customers using more than 15,000 kWh [per annum] and with no other form of exemption in place.

To learn more about levy exempt power call us on 01473 725943.

Details of the fuel mix for electricity supplied by Haven Power

Under Haven Power’s licence to supply electricity, we are required to let our customers know about the fuel mix of the electricity we supply.

The fuel mix for electricity supplied by Haven Power during the year ending 31 March 2014 is shown below as well as the contribution of each energy source to the total amount of electricity purchased by Haven Power Ltd.

Haven Power’s Fuel Mix 2014

Source of Electricity Percentage
Coal 34%
Natural Gas 20%
Nuclear 6%
Renewable 36%
Other fuels 4%

Environmental impact 420g CO2/kWh plus 0.00055g high level radioactive waste/kWh.


Drax Power

Drax and biomass

Drax is transforming itself into a predominantly biomass-fuelled generator through burning sustainable biomass in place of coal. We plan to convert three of our six generating units to burn biomass. The first unit was converted in April 2013.

Drax only burns sustainable biomass. Our calculations show that the range of biomass materials we have burnt over the last few years has a far lower carbon footprint than that of fossil fuel-fired power stations.

We measure the full carbon life cycle of generating electricity from biomass, which means we measure the carbon emissions at each step of the supply chain, including harvesting, processing and transportation.

The average carbon dioxide saving, over the full life cycle, resulting from burning biomass in place of coal is above 80%.


Biofuelwatch says on burning biomass to generate electricity in the UK

Power station operators such as Drax Plc and E.On are getting some good PR for supposedly “going green”, but the truth of course, is far from that. As we discuss below, burning biomass actually emits more CO2 from their smokestacks than burning coal does. These conversions are really about keeping old, dirty power stations alive for longer, and cashing in on government subsidies.

These power stations shouldn’t be burning coal or biomass because of the huge impacts both have on communities, the environment and the climate.

Read our coal-biomass conversions briefing below or download it as a pdf here


 Some news items about the problems with burning imported wood pellets as biomass to burn in UK power stations:

Drax renewable energy move ‘could harm forests’

22.9.2014 (BBC)

The UK’s biggest coal power station has been accused of causing environmental damage as it moves to produce electricity from “renewable” resources.

Drax in North Yorkshire is converting half of its boilers to burn wood.

Environmentalists are worried the huge demand for wood pellets from Drax and other UK power stations will damage forests in the US.

Drax chief executive Dorothy Thompson said pellets would come from areas that are “not protected”.

“When you burn trees, the CO2 goes straight out the chimney and into the atmosphere,” said Harry Huyton, head of climate change at the RSPB.

“For a long time it was thought that the forest will re-grow and absorb that carbon dioxide, but it’s common sense that trees take a bit of time to grow.”

‘Preserve jobs’
The wood pellets are to be shipped across the Atlantic as there are not enough trees in the UK to supply the power station.

Environmentalist Derb Carter, of the Southern Environmental Law Center in North Carolina, said: “People can see there’s a lot that will be lost if these trees are cut and burnt for fuel.”

But Ms Thompson said: “We would only deal with pellet producers who deliver biomass from areas that are not protected.

“By turning us into a renewable power station, biomass gives us a long-term future, it preserves jobs in Yorkshire and actually it’s a really good renewable.”


Forests could face threat from biomass power ‘gold rush’

Sustainability fear over new power stations’ demand for wood pellets after report says their use has implications globally

Bt Jamie Doward (The Observer)

Britain’s new generation of biomass power stations will have to source millions of tonnes of wood from thousands of miles away if they are to operate near to their full capacity, raising questions about the claims made for the sustainability of the new technology.

Ministers believe biomass technology could provide as much as 11% of the UK’s energy by 2020, something that would help it meet its carbon commitments. The Environment Agency estimates that biomass-fired electricity generation, most of which involves burning wood pellets, can cut greenhouse gas emissions by up to 90% compared with coal-fired power stations. Eight biomass power stations, including one in a unit in the giant Drax power station, are operating in the UK and a further seven are in the pipeline. None operates near capacity.

But now environmental groups are questioning where the new plants will source their wood if the technology takes off. A campaign group, Biofuelwatch, calculates in a new report that the UK could end up burning as much as 82m tonnes of biomass each year – more than eight times the UK’s annual wood production. If Drax were to operate at full capacity, it alone would get through 16m tonnes of wood a year, according to the report, which claims a Europe-wide demand for biomass is triggering a “gold rush” for wood pellets that could have implications for global land use.

The report highlights the example of Portugal, where 10% of the country is now covered by eucalyptus plantations much of which is used for biomass energy production. Two campaign groups, the Dogwood Alliance and the US Natural Resources Defence Council, have issued critical reports about the way that forests in the southern states of the US are being used for biomass production. There are also concerns that tracts of Brazil are being used to supply the wood pellets.

But the concerns have been fiercely rejected by the biomass industry. Enviva, which supplies Drax with wood pellets, said its biomass came mainly from offcuts from poor-quality trees that are left over from those grown for the construction and paper industries. It said it would be uneconomic to cut down forests purely for biomass and that the cost of shipping a tonne of wood pellets from the east coast of the US to the UK was similar to transporting the same amount some 225 miles within the UK. It said that even the most optimistic forecasts for global wood pellet demand suggested it would not exceed 40m tonnes – equivalent to 80m tonnes of wood – a year by 2020.

“Biomass is the only renewable energy source that can replace coal quickly and cost-effectively, providing the same operational benefits while dramatically improving the environmental profile of energy generation,” a company spokesman said.

MGT Power, which is behind a proposed biomass plant on Teesside, potentially the largest of its kind in the world, told the Observer it had dropped plans to source its wood from Brazil, although it denied this was to do with sustainability concerns.

A spokesman said that biomass could be an important green technology for the UK. “We feel very strongly that biomass can provide energy at lower prices than offshore wind,” the spokesman said.






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