Climate campaigners could shut biggest power plant

Climate campaigners are trying to shut down Britain's biggest power station this week in an attempt to highlight the need for replacing coal and other 'dirty' energy sources by clean renewables.

The coal-powered Drax power station in North Yorkshire produces 7% of Britain’s electricity, it capacity of 4000MW making it the UK’s as well as Europe’s biggest. It also emits 20.8 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, making it the largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK, campaigners say.

Up to 800 protesters are camping out in a field neat the station, some of them determined to shut down the station for a short time on Thursday.

Following a week of banner-painting, peaceful protesting and eco-workshops at the camp, attempts to get onto the site led to two arrests early on Thursday. Two other protesters were arrested on suspicion of carrying offensive weapons.

Drax was granted an injunction banning unauthorized persons from the site and from an adjacent footpath earlier this month, having argued this is necessary “to ensure a peaceful protest” and to avoid danger to the campaigners.

The company also justified the injunction by the need to protect what is the UK’s most important electricity source, with the country facing blackouts if protesters succeed in shutting down the station.

Climate Camp campaigners want to highlight the fact that half of Britain’s electricity comes from coal-powered stations – the most polluting electricity sources. They say changes are urgently needed to reduce carbon emissions and avoid catastrophic climate change.

“Drax is a large part of a system which has to change – a system where profit and power are valued over sustainability and co-operation. By challenging it, we challenge our whole way of life,” the Climate Camp organisers said.

Built in 1974, Drax is one of the UK’s newest and cleanest coal-powered stations – others are much more polluting, both in terms of carbon and sulphur dioxide. With gas and oil supplies declining, coal use is on the rise.

Drax Power, the owners of the plant, argue that the contribution of coal power to the UK’s future energy mix has an essential role to play in ensuring energy security, and that technological advances can help reduce its climate impacts.

“There are several ways to address the carbon challenge through investment in both existing coal-fired power stations and new build clean coal technology plants,” the owners of Drax Power Station said in a paper entitled Coal: Fuelling our future generation.

“With the potential for significant improvements in environmental performance of coal-fired plant, this contribution need not be at the expense of the environment.”

More information about the protests can be found on the Climate Camp site.

Goska Romanowicz

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