drax power station

Drax could delay closure of coal-fired generators as energy crisis looms

Image credit: DT

Energy firm Drax may delay the closure of its coal-fired power plant on Yorkshire due to the current energy crisis and the fragility of the UK’s electricity supplies, the Financial Times (FT) has reported.

Last year, Drax announced plans to drop its remaining coal-fired generators in 2021 after 50 years in operation as part of efforts to lower its carbon emissions.

It originally planned to replace them with gas-fired generators but ultimately dropped that plan, too, following backlash from environmental campaigners. It then delayed the closures to September 2022, with plans to convert the generators to biomass instead.

Speaking to the FT, the company’s chief executive Will Gardiner said that the ongoing energy crisis places the UK in a tough position going into the winter, but that his firm’s coal plant could help to fill some of the gap before it finally closes.

Gas prices have recently reached record highs due to a number of factors including rising global demand as economies start opening due to the ease in Covid-19 restrictions; a cold winter last year which depleted gas reserves, and a reduction in gas supplies from Russia to central Europe. Wholesale electricity prices also soared last week after a fire at an interconnector linking the French and British power networks.

Gardiner told the FT that Drax was considering all options although did not mention whether the coal plants would be running at full capacity or not.

“We’re very aware that the country might have a significant problem and if there’s something Drax can do we will absolutely think about doing that,” he said. “Over the next 10 years there’s going to need to be a very clear view of how we’re going to make sure there’s enough security of supply.”

The Drax power station has long been a testing bed for projects designed to reduce carbon emissions, such as the introduction of carbon capture technology in its biomass reactors in 2019, and its stated goal to become the first “carbon negative” company by using that technology.

With coal typically being the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel used for electricity generation, the UK is already planning to close all power plants that use it by 2024 as part of its efforts to meet its climate target of net-zero emissions by 2050.

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