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Drax power station

Jobs to be cut as Drax power station drops coal next year

Image credit: Dreamstime

The Drax power plant is planning to drop its remaining coal-fired generators from March 2021 after 50 years in operation as it moves to lower its carbon emissions.

The decision, which will see the loss of 200 to 230 jobs, follows plummeting coal use in the UK and comes ahead of a 2025 Government deadline for banning coal altogether.

The power station has long been a testing bed for projects designed to reduce carbon emissions, such as last year’s use of carbon capture technology in its biomass reactors which it said was a world first. In December it said it would become the first “carbon negative” company by using carbon capture.

The two remaining coal units will remain available until September 2022 in line with its existing Capacity Market agreements, but it expects not to have to use them.

Drax, which is located near Selby in North Yorkshire, 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 the capacity to generate electricity for six million households.

Over the last decade, four of the power station’s six generating units have been converted to use sustainable biomass. Drax says this delivers carbon savings of more than 80 per cent compared to when they used coal.

“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 CEO Will Gardiner said.

“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.”

The closure of the two coal units is expected to involve a one-off cost in the region of £25-35m in the period leading up to it, followed by a reduction in operating costs at the facility of £25-35m per year once complete.

It is the latest in a line of coal plants being closed, with many deciding to shut down before the Government’s 2025 deadline. SSE plans to shut Fiddler’s Ferry in Cheshire this March.

Britain has increasingly managed to wean its electricity supply off coal. Last year the country went for more than a fortnight without burning any, thought to be the first time since the 1880s.

At around 8am on Thursday, coal was supplying only 1.9 per cent of the country’s energy needs. It has largely been replaced by gas, which provided 50 per cent on Thursday morning, and wind, 17 per cent.

However, coal is still used for industrial purposes, such as steelmaking.

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