DRAX has denied claims in a BBC current affairs programme that it has cut down environmentally-important forests.

Panorama yesterday claimed that Drax, which runs a power station near Selby and has received billions of pounds in green energy subsidies, has been using wood from primary forests in Canada.

Drax runs Britain’s biggest power station, which burns millions of tonnes of imported wood pellets - which is classed as renewable energy.

Panorama analysed satellite images, traced logging licences and used drone filming to prove its findings, it says.

But a Drax spokesperson said: “Drax does not harvest forests and has not taken any material directly from the two areas the BBC has looked at. The forests in British Columbia are harvested for high value timber used in construction, not the production of biomass.”

The spokesman continued: “The United Nation’s IPCC, the world’s leading climate authority, says sustainable biomass will play a critical role in meeting global climate targets.  “Drax’s own world-leading sustainable sourcing policies are aligned with the rigorous regulatory frameworks set by both the Canadian and UK governments, ensuring that our operations provide benefits to nature, the climate and people.”

The BBC claims reporter Joe Crowley followed a truck from a Drax mill to confirm it was picking up whole logs from an area of precious forest.

The Drax power station near Selby is a converted coal plant, which now produces 12 per cent of the UK’s renewable electricity.

The BBC reported the site has already received £6bn in green energy subsidies. Burning wood is considered green, but environmentalists are split over the issue as burning wood pellets produces more carbon dioxide than coal.

Panorama says it discovered Drax bought logging licences to cut down two areas of environmentally-important forest in British Columbia. The programme used drones to identify the area.

Drax’s own responsible sourcing policy says it “will avoid damage or disturbance” to primary and old-growth forest.

But the BBC said the latest satellite pictures show Drax is now cutting down the forest.

The company responded to Panorama saying many of the trees there had died, and that logging would reduce the risk of wildfires.

The company says it only uses sawdust and waste wood.

The entire area covered by the second Drax logging licence has already been cut down, the programme also reported.

Panorama: The Green Energy Scandal Exposed is on BBC1 at 8pm tonight.