Drax will stop using coal in 2021, ahead of the UK’s 2025 deadline. After almost 50 years of coal-fired electricity generation, Drax Power Station has committed to ending the use of coal in March 2021, marking a major milestone in the company’s ambition to become carbon-negative by 2030.
The company’s decision follows a comprehensive review of its operations. Although Drax does not expect to use coal after March 2021, it will ensure that its two remaining coal units are available until September 2022, in line with its existing capacity market agreements.
“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 near Selby, North Yorkshire first started generating electricity using coal in the 1970s. Once the second half of the plant was built in the 1980s, it became the UK’s largest power station, with the capacity to generate electricity for six million households. Over the last 10 years, four of the facility’s six generating units have been converted to use biomass (wood pellets), delivering carbon savings of more than 80% compared with coal.
Gardiner added: “By using sustainable biomass, we have not only continued generating the secure power that 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.
“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.”
Drax will consult with trade unions and employee representatives following the move away from coal, as it will lead to a reduction in the workforce. It is also talking to the government, trade unions and industrial businesses across the north of England about joining Drax in establishing a new ‘Zero Carbon Skills Taskforce’ to help people in the region gain the necessary skills and expertise to gain job opportunities as the UK shifts towards a net-zero economy.
The company also hopes that its BECCS plans could play a significant part in the Zero Carbon Humber initiative, which aims to bring industrial businesses together to make the region the first net-zero industrial economy in the world.