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Drax calls time on coal

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Drax have today announced the official end of coal-fired generation at their power station in North Yorkshire, ending 50 years of power generation from this source.

Construction of the coal-fired Drax Power Station began in Selby in 1967, following the discovery of the nearby coalfield. The power station started generating power out of its first unit in 1974 and in 1975, following the completion of two additional generators, the site officially opened. At the time, this provided enough power for around two million homes and in 1986, power generation capacity was doubled to just under 4GW.

Once the largest coal-fired power station in Western Europe, the plant is now the single largest generator of renewable power in the UK, following the conversion of four of the power station’s six generating units to use sustainable biomass, which generated 12.7TWh of electricity in 2022.

Will Gardiner, Drax Group CEO, said:

“Ending the use of coal at Drax is a landmark moment in our efforts to become a world-leading carbon negative company.

“I’d like to thank the many hundreds of people, including our staff, suppliers, and local communities, for all the hard work it has taken to transform Drax Power Station into the UK’s biggest renewable power source by output.

“By converting the plant to use sustainable biomass we have not only continued generating the secure power millions of homes and businesses rely on, but we have also played a significant role in enabling the UK’s power system to decarbonise faster than any other in the world.

“We’re now planning to go further by using bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) to permanently remove millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year, and we are engaged in discussions with the UK Government to move this £2bn project forward.

“The global momentum for converting coal-fired power stations to biomass is growing as more countries work to reduce their emissions by moving away from fossil fuels to renewables while maintaining their energy security. In recent months, new projects have been announced in countries from Japan to Hungary. If BECCS were eventually added to each of these sites they would be able to remove carbon from the atmosphere while generating power.”

The UK Government aims to deploy 23Mt of engineered CO2 removals per year from BECCS and other engineered GGR technologies by 2035, followed by 81Mt by 2050 as part of the nation’s efforts to achieve its climate and energy related targets.

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