Drax ends coal-fired generation as part of a wider global trend

The UK and Europe’s largest bio-mass power station ends all coal-fired generation at a cost of £35m.

The Drax Power Station, in North Yorkshire, is bringing forward its plans to end commercial coal generation to March 2021, ahead of the UK Government’s deadline of 2025.  Already Europe’s largest biomass-fuelled plant, Drax announced the decision as part of its target to become “a world-leading carbon negative company by 2030.”

The decision is likely to cost the generator as much as £35m and lead to between 200 and 230 job losses from April 2020.  The company is now undertaking a consultation with employees and trade unions.

Although the site’s two coal-fired units are set to stop generation in March 2021, they will remain operational to meet Capacity Market obligations until September the following year.  The decision was taken after consultation with National Grid, Ofgem and UK Government officials.

According to Drax CEO, Will Gardiner: “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.”

He continued: “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 is not alone in taking the decision to end its dependence on coal. In Germany, generator Uniper has also brought forward plans to stop coal-fired production after discussions with the Federal Government. The company’s plan is to shut-down some 1,500mW of hard-coal capacity from three units at its Schloven station as well as Wilhelmshaven by the end of 2022, with further closures by 2025 at the latest.  Overall, the shutdowns are set to yield annual carbon savings of as much as 18m metric tons.

With manufacturing industries closing down around the world as a result of the coronavirus pandemic debate has been intensified around pollution sources as maps show the impact of commercial closures.  Some analysts believe that while government policy may be the greatest influence in an orderly (or otherwise) move away from coal to other energy sources, specific climate change policy is already being overtaken by market forces demanding cleaner energy sources. However, for some countries – India being a particular example – coal is set to remain the primary source of power generation for many years to come.