Drax, the UK's largest power station, is set to become the UK's largest single renewable electricity generator through the operation of the new biomass facilities being launched on the site today.
Energy and Climate Change Secretary, the Rt Hon Edward Davey MP, will open new systems to receive, store and distribute sustainable biomass and fully support Drax Power Station's first converted biomass unit, as well as further units as they are converted.
The biomass conversion will ultimately see three of the six generating units at the power station converted to burn sustainable biomass in place of coal. The first unit has been running successfully on sustainable biomass since the beginning of April, with the second planned for next year and the third in 2016. Each converted unit will provide enough renewable electricity to meet needs of over 1 million homes.
As a low cost, low carbon and reliable form of renewable power, sustainable biomass is an essential part of the energy mix which can be counted on to be available when it is needed.
Across its full life cycle sustainable biomass can deliver major carbon savings of around 80% relative to coal. Drax has operated a robust and independently audited sustainability policy for over five years. This means that all of the biomass used is sustainable, protects biodiversity, prevents deforestation and delivers genuine carbon savings over the short, medium and long term.
Dorothy Thompson CBE, Chief Executive of Drax, said:
"Today marks the transformation not just of our power station, but of our whole business. I am enormously proud of the team at Drax. The facilities being opened today are a unique feat of engineering and remarkably they have been delivered at an operational power station which the country depends on to deliver 7-8% of the power we need.
"This fundamental change has implications far beyond Drax and even our supply chain. Sustainable biomass has a critical role in the UK's electricity mix. It is the only renewable which can deliver low carbon electricity on demand, at the scale the grid needs and precisely when it's needed. It is also a low cost renewable which will help to manage the expense of the UK's transition to a low carbon economy."
Mr Davey said:
"Today is a real landmark for Drax and for Britain's energy security. Drax's ambitious plans have made it one of Europe's biggest renewable generators, helping to increase our green energy supplies.
"In August we announced challenging and tough sustainability criteria for biomass, and we'll be monitoring the sector against those standards."
Drax Power Station is currently the largest single emitter of carbon dioxide in the UK, but conversion of three of its six generating units to sustainable biomass will see its emissions reduced by around 10 million tonnes on today's levels. This will help to tackle climate change and will form a crucial part of the UK's power mix.