Green campaigners are urging the Government to turn down plans for the UK’s largest gas power plant to replace coal units at Drax in North Yorkshire.
The company is seeking planning permission to modify two of its coal-fired units to burn gas, as the Government seeks to phase out all polluting coal generation by 2025.
But the plans for up to 3.6 gigawatts of gas-fired generating capacity – more than the new nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point, Somerset – have come under fire from campaigners who warn burning gas will add to climate change.
A petition with more than 96,000 signatures and an open letter signed by dozens of environmental groups have been handed in to the Department for Business urging Business Secretary Greg Clark to refuse planning permission for the scheme.
Drax has converted four of its six coal units at the power plant to burn wood pellets, known as biomass.
It wants to “repower” its two remaining coal-fired units to burn gas, which would make it the UK’s largest gas power plant, and create up to 200 megawatts of battery storage to help balance the grid.
Duncan Law from campaign group Biofuelwatch said the UK does not need the gas capacity the proposals would create, even under Government projections.
He warned: “Drax’s vast gas plans must not go ahead.”
Ash Hewitson, from campaign group Reclaim the Power, said: “We don’t need this dirty infrastructure, which will increase demand for imported and fracked gas and take us further away from meeting our obligations under the Paris climate treaty to stay within 1.5C of global warming.
“Drax has no social licence to continue burning fossil fuels for the next 30 years.
“We urgently need to reduce our energy demand and switch to genuinely low-carbon renewables.”
But Andy Koss, chief executive at Drax Power, said: “By using high-efficiency gas turbines we can continue to deliver flexible and reliable generating capacity as well as system support services, which are vital for maintaining secure power supplies as more intermittent renewables, like wind and solar, come online – ensuring the electricity we need is available when we need it – whatever the weather.
“If the Repower project goes ahead we could stop using coal ahead of the Government’s 2025 deadline, reducing emissions, protecting jobs.
“Building modern, high-efficiency gas power stations will enable ageing, less efficient plants to close, reducing emissions and supplying the reliable and flexible power needed to provide vital system support services.”