Drax to end coal generation in 2021
Drax has announced plans to end commercial coal generation at its coal-fired power station in North Yorkshire in 2021 - ahead of the UK's 2025 deadline - in a move expected to cost up to £35m and lead to job reductions off at least 200.
Following a review of operations and discussions with National Grid, Ofgem and the UK Government, Drax has decided to move its commercial closure of coal generation to March 2021. The two coal units at the station will remain available to meet Capacity Market obligations until September 2022.
Drax will now commence a consultation process with employees and trade unions, but estimates that a one-off closure cost in the region of £25-35m will be required. The energy company also expects a reduction in jobs of between 200 and 230 from April 2021.
Drax Group’s chief executive Will Gardiner said: “Ending the use of coal at Drax is a landmark in our continued efforts to transform the business and become a world-leading carbon negative company by 2030. Drax’s move away from coal began some years ago and I’m proud to say we’re going to finish the job well ahead of the Government’s 2025 deadline.
“By using sustainable biomass we have not only continued generating the secure power millions of homes and businesses rely on, we have also played a significant role in enabling the UK’s power system to decarbonise faster than any other in the world."
Drax announced its ambitions to become carbon negative by 2030 at the UN's COP25 summit in December last year. The move will see the firm use bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) technology to remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere that it produces – creating a negative carbon footprint.
The firm is currently running a BECCS pilot at its power station, capturing a tonne of carbon dioxide every day. The CCS array, which is being used in partnership with C-Capture, first began capturing carbon in February. Drax claims that it is the first of its kind anywhere around the globe and could eventually enable its Yorkshire site to become the world’s first “negative emissions” power station.
The news follows an announcement in the summer that Drax had cut its absolute carbon emissions for the first half of 2019 by 52%, compared to the same period last year.
Commenting on the coal phase-out, the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit’s (ECIU) head of analysis Dr Jonathan Marshall said: “The accelerated closure of the UK’s coal power fleet shows how rapidly the renewable revolution has changed our power system. Undercut by ever-cheaper clean power, coal units have been struggling for years and closing early is a sign of the times.
“All the evidence now points to a clean energy system also being the best for energy security and for lower bills. A low carbon grid will underpin the UK’s transition to a climate-neutral nation, powering our cars and keeping us warm at home. Getting the UK back on track to meet these goals is the next step for the Government, which will surely be beginning to plan a similar retreat from high carbon natural gas."