Energy giant says half a century of coal-fired power generation will come to an end at its North Yorkshire plant in March 2021, well ahead of the government's deadline
Half a century of coal-fired power generation will come to an end next year at the UK's largest power station, years ahead of the UK government's national deadline to stop using the high-carbon fuel.
As part of its earning statement this morning, Drax announced it is now planning to cease using coal at its Selby power station in North Yorkshire in March 2021.
The decision comes after a comprehensive review of its operations, the firm said, and forms part of Drax's commitment to go from being the UK's single largest source of carbon emissions to being carbon negative by 2030, as it pivots from its previous reliance on coal power to a mix of biomass, gas, and battery storage technologies.
"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," said Drax CEO Will Gardiner. "Drax's journey 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."
Drax Power Station, built in the heart of the North Yorkshire coalfields, first started generating electricity using coal in the 1970s. Once the second half of the power station was built in the 1980s, it became the largest power station in the UK with enough capacity to generate electricity for six million households.
But over the last decade four of the power station's six generating units have been converted to use sustainable-certified biomass, delivering carbon savings of more than 80 per cent compared to coal use, according to the company.
The transition has transformed Drax to become the UK's largest renewable power generator and the biggest decarbonisation project in Europe, the firm said.
"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," Gardiner added. "Having pioneered ground-breaking biomass technology, we're now planning to go further by using bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) to achieve our ambition of being carbon negative by 2030, making an even greater contribution to global efforts to tackle the climate crisis."
The company also revealed it is talking to the government, trades unions, and industrial businesses across the North about joining with Drax to establish a new Zero Carbon Skills Taskforce to help people in the region gain the skills and expertise required to seize new job opportunities as the UK moves towards a net zero economy.
"Stopping using coal is the right decision for our business, our communities and the environment, but it will have an impact on some of our employees, which will be difficult for them and their families," said Gardiner. "In making the decision for the UK to stop using coal and to decarbonise the economy, it's vital that the impact on people across the North is recognised and steps are taken to ensure that they have the skills needed for the new jobs of the future."
Boris Johnson announced earlier this month that the UK government is bringing forward its deadline for the phase-out of unabated coal power by one year to 2024. He added that the UK has slashed its coal-fired power form a 70 per cent share of electricity supply in 1990 to just three per cent today.
The news came as Drax reported profits rose 64 per cent to £410m in its 2019 Full Year Results.
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