British power generation company Drax pursues its ambition to be carbon-negative by 2030 by ending its coal generation at the North Yorkshire power station next year, four years before the scheduled 2025 deadline for the UK to eradicate the sale of the polluting fossil fuel.
The decision made by Drax comes after nearly 50 years of generating power using coal at the station, with some of its generation units having been converted to biomass in the past few years.
Carbon neutral by 2030
Drax’s power station in North Yorkshire will be phasing out coal-based power generation in 2021 to carve towards its decarbonisation by 2030. This move supports the UK’s ambitious goal of a net-zero economy by 2050 and is in line with the nation’s deadline for ending the use of polluting fuels like coal and wet wood by 2025.
The company stated that the use of coal would be discontinued after March 2021, although it will ensure that the operation of the remaining coal units will be available until September 2022, which follows the Capacity Market agreements.
Winn Gardiner, Drax CEO, said the phase-out of coal use at Drax highlights the firm’s dedicated effort to support the transformation of its business to become a world leader in promoting carbon-negative transition by 2030.
Gardiner further said the company had shifted its focus away from coal starting from a few years ago. He expressed the firm’s pride in seeing the completion of their goal ahead of the UK’s deadline for the phase-out of polluting fossil fuels by 2025.
Drax also acknowledged the strong possibility of employees losing jobs due to the company’s decision to stop using coal. It has stated the firm will coordinate with employee representatives and trade unions through consultations to determine the ways to manage the forthcoming change in the weeks ahead.
Opposition from environmentalists
While Drax has been gearing up for its transition, some environmental activists have waged protests to some of the firm’s big plans. The company unveiled its proposal of building the largest gas-powered station in Europe but has since been put on hold following a High Court challenge mounted by lawyers who are against the UK government’s support of the said project.
ClientEarth environmental lawyers said in a statement that they are challenging Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom’s approval of the firm’s gas plans.
Drax, owning a large power plant between Selby and Goole, has announced its intention of utilising four new gas turbines instead of its existing coal-fired units to be on track its 2030 deadline for a carbon-negative business.
The government’s Planning Inspectorate received the application and later on recommended refusal for the company’s proposal.
The body indorsed to ministers that Drax’s 3.6GW gas station should be refused permission since it undermines the UK government’s commitment to cutting its greenhouse emissions, as stated in the Climate Change Act of 2008. The Planning Inspectorate cited significant adverse effects should the project push through.
This proposal is the first big project rejected due to the urgent climate crisis
Leadsom gives go-ahead
However, BEIS secretary Andrea Leadsom overruled the body’s advice and gave the project a nod in October 2019. She argued the potentially high emission levels were not a reason to disapprove of the proposal based on existing rules.
ClientEarth has since been given consent by the high court to sue the ministers, which is expected to be heard in the coming weeks. Previously, the environmental lawyers have inflicted three defeats on the government over the lack of action to tackle air pollution.
A Drax spokeswoman affirmed the company’s ambition was to remove carbon emissions by 2030 and not add to the growing climate crisis. She stated the firm plans to burn wood or plants then do a capture-and-store process to reduce emissions.
She further expressed the company’s belief that this ambition can be pushed towards success with a new, high-efficiency gas power station to boost the firm’s portfolio and deliver power despite the lack of sun or wind on a given day.