Drax’s new gas plans: bad climate news

Drax Plc plans to rebuild either one or both of its two remaining coal-burning units to run on gas instead. The plans have been announced at the same time as the UK government is looking to phase out coal by 2025.

Gas field in the Netherlands, where Drax may source some of its gas. Photo by Groenfront!

Drax currently burns more biomass than any other plant in the world – importing around 13 million tonnes of compressed wood pellets each year, including from trees felled in biodiverse coastal forests and processed in areas already suffering from environmental injustices in the southeastern USA. It is also amongst the UK’s two top burners of coal, with much of the coal imported from Colombia where it has been associated with human rights abuses. For more information on Drax and the campaign against it, see our AxeDrax campaign page.

The new proposal would mean that, as well as destroying forests and cooking the climate through its use of biomass, Drax would  once more become the UK’s largest burner of fossil fuels and retain that position into the 2040s.

While the fossil fuel industry has rebranded gas an acceptable alternative to coal, it is still a fossil fuel and emits far more greenhouse gases than we can afford to if we are to stay within 1.5 degrees of global warming. Gas emissions include methane from leaking wells and pipelines, which companies don’t have to report on. Building this infrastructure will lock us into continuing our dependence on dirty energy at a time when we urgently need to be reducing our energy use and switching to genuine no-burn renewables. Further, it will contribute to demand for fracking in the UK and worldwide, a dirty and unpopular process that is increasingly the target of community protests.

If we are to have any chance of a safe climate in the future, we can’t afford to burn any gas, coal or large-scale biomass. Instead of diversifying into other forms of polluting power, Drax needs to be shut down and replaced with appropriate, genuinely 100% renewable energy such as wind, waves and sun alongside strong measures to reduce the UK’s fuel use.

See our briefing for more information, and watch this space for updates. For more context, see our briefing about the coal phase out. Updates from Drax are at repower.drax.com.