Europe's biggest renewable energy plant completes switch from coal to biomass

by Search Gate staff. Published Mon 09 Dec 2013 12:06
Drax will produce enough renewable energy to power 1 million homes

Britain’s largest coal-fired power station is set to become one of Europe’s biggest renewable electricity generators today, with the potential for new future generation on the site to be based on truly clean coal.

Energy Secretary Ed Davey opened the Drax coal-to-biomass conversion plant, and announced the Government was awarding funding to further the White Rose CCS project, also based at the site.

At Drax, the £700 million planned conversion project will burn wood pellets rather than coal. Its operators calculate that this will reduce carbon emissions by 80 per cent compared to coal. The facilities opened today will provide enough low carbon power to supply the equivalent of around 1 million homes, and help to safeguard 1,200 jobs and many more in the supply chain and in local communities.

The Government is looking to fill an emerging energy gap as coal-fired power stations come offline with a mix of renewables, Carbon Capture and Storage technology, nuclear and some gas.

It believes this will help to protect consumers from price spikes caused by importing expensive gas, and will lower people’s bills in the long-run with households getting £50 off their bills a year by early next year.

The multi-million pound FEED study funding will support the White Rose project, which is designing a £2 billion state-of-the-art coal power plant with full CCS that will be able to provide clean electricity to more than 630,000 homes.

It also includes the planned development of a CO2 transport and storage network – the Yorkshire Humber CCS Trunkline – which would have capacity for additional CCS projects in the area.

This innovative project has the potential to create up to 2,000 jobs and safely capture 90% of the plant’s emissions.

Together, the two projects could support 3,200 jobs in Yorkshire and the Humber, and provide carbon transport infrastructure to help build a clean energy industry in the region.

Mr Davey said: “It’s crucial that we safeguard our energy security by generating green electricity on UK soil that protects bill payers from volatile foreign energy imports.

“Our coal industry has powered Britain for more than a century, and today we’re seeing a clear roadmap for its future – whether by converting existing coal plants to cleaner fuels, or building state-of-the-art power stations that mean coal is truly clean. While at the same time creating new green jobs for Yorkshire.

“I’m proud that the UK is at the forefront of developing Carbon Capture and Storage – which could be a game-changer in tackling climate change and provide a huge economic advantage not just to this region, but to the whole country.”

White Rose is the first project to be allocated funds under Government’s £1 billion CCS Commercialisation Programme.

CCS allows the safe removal and permanent storage of carbon dioxide emissions from coal and gas power stations, as well as from industrial processes.

Dr Luke Warren, Chief Executive of the Carbon Capture and Storage Association, commented:
“We are tremendously pleased that the Government has successfully reached the next milestone in delivering the first UK CCS projects. This is a major step forward for the White Rose project and we also anticipate a positive announcement on the Peterhead CCS project in the near-future.

“These commercial-scale CCS projects will show that fossil-fuel power stations can continue to contribute to a secure and affordable electricity system without compromising our climate change goals.

“We also believe that these projects only represent the beginning of the potential for CCS in the UK and we expect momentum to be retained by the UK’s Electricity Market Reform which must support investment in CCS projects outside of the current competition.

“Delivering these first two projects signals the start of CCS in the UK, enabling us to join those countries of the world that are pioneering the development of this critical technology, creating not only thousands of UK jobs but positioning the UK to compete in what will be a huge global industry.”

Old and polluting coal plants are being phased out and will be replaced by 2030 with clean coal or sustainably sourced biomass that has been fitted with CCS. DECC anticipates up to 12GW of CCS could be deployed by 2030, rising to 40GW by 2050. This could well be generating more electricity than total domestic electricity demand, and provide 22% of the UK’s energy by 2050.

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