After decades as one of the UK’s biggest coal plant generators, Drax has scrapped controversial plans to build Europe’s largest gas power plant in North Yorkshire thanks to opposition from climate groups.
Following its announcement to end commercial sales of coal-fired electricity from the end of March, the FTSE-listed company had been planning to build two combined-cycle gas turbines (CCGTs) to replace its coal-burning units.
However, this decision was met with fierce opposition from climate groups who have been arguing for the last three years that the plan was inconsistent with the UK’s aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Such opposition even included a legal challenge against the government after ministers overruled the climate change concerns that had been raised by the UK’s planning authority.
Following raging climate protests, Drax has decided to scrap the controversial plans – a move which will cost the company £13 million (according to its annual financial reports). Instead, the coal giant has switched its focus to burning wood pellets to generate electricity, starting with a plan to acquire Pinnacle Renewable Energy, a major manufacturer of wood pellets in Canada.
Chief Executive of Drax Group, Will Gardiner, stated this strategy would “position Drax as the world’s leading sustainable biomass generation and supply business”, paving the way for the development of “bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS)” and making the plant “carbon negative” by 2030.
Despite their claims to aim for “decarbonisation”, the company may still build another four 299MW small-scale gas plants to provide electricity during peak times.