#AxeDrax – Climate campaigners denounce government’s approval of UK’s biggest ever gas power project

The 4th October decision by the Secretary of State for  Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to allow Drax Plc’s planning application for the UK’s largest ever gas-fired power capacity will lock the UK into dirty energy production for at least another two decades, climate campaigners have said.

Government overruled Planning Inspector’s recommendation to refuse the gas plant

The Secretary Of State overruled the Planning Inspector’s recommendation to refuse the plant, with the bizarre claim that the new gas plant didn’t contradict the “move towards net zero carbon”.

The Planning Inspector’s recommendation agreed with key objections made to Drax’s planning appliction, and with the arguments Biofuelwatch and others including ClientEarth put forward.

For example, he stated:

“There is a significant risk of high carbon lock-in, which goes against the on-going and rapid transition to low carbon energy generation as advocated by NPS EN-1.”

Frances Howe from Biofuelwatch stated:

“We are disappointed by the Secretary of State’s decision. Drax already burns more wood than any other power station in the world, and now it will return to its former position as the UK’s largest fossil fuel burner, too. The public money Drax will require for this project needs to be spent on renewable power from wind, waves or sun.”

Ash Hewitson from Reclaim the Power said:

“The Government has shown that it listens more to dirty polluting energy companies than the communities it claims to represent. Thousands of people have said that they do not want new gas.”

Drax gas plants can’t go ahead without big new subsidies

Drax wants to replace its remaining two coal-fired units with far larger gas units. This will be the UK’s largest gas power capacity to date. For this project, Drax is asking for substantial new subsidies, in addition to the £2.16 million a day it already receives for burning wood.

The Secretary of State’s decision is bad news – but Drax’s Annual Report made it clear that they can’t actually go ahead without big new subsidies for burning gas. Preventing them from getting such subsidies is by far the best chance of stopping this project. And a subsidies decision isn’t imminent. In fact, the whole Capacity Market this depends on remains suspended by the European Court.

Drax Power Station is already the world’s biggest biomass plant, burning over 7 million tonnes of imported wood pellets, many of them sourced from the clearcutting of forests that lie at the heart of a global biodiversity hotspot in the southern USA.

Two huge trainloads of these pellets barrel through Hebden Bridge station twice a day.

Photo credit Dangerous Andy – video here

In April this year campaigners handed in a petition of over 96,000 signatures and an open letter signed by 92 organisations internationally to the then Secretary of State for BEIS, Greg Clark, asking him to reject Drax’s proposal.

6 thoughts on “#AxeDrax – Climate campaigners denounce government’s approval of UK’s biggest ever gas power project

  1. Hello Jenny, Our views on climate change, our NHS, and many more items aren’t so very different. I always play Devils Advocate in an attempt to get a debate started. Unfortunately, just like this attempt to draw more people into joining in and sharing their views and ideas on climate change, very few people show any interest in anything until it hits them personally. You know and I know, climate change will eventually affect everyone of us, not just human beings, but every living thing. How to get the attention of ordinary folk like myself interested in stopping our headlong dash to the end of the World is beyond me, when even the leader of the supposedly free world doesn’t believe how dire the situation is

    • Thanks for your efforts in drawing attention to the Drax problem David. It’s true it’s hard to get people’s attention – for what it’s worth, I think the way to do it is to start from where they are and then try and bring them with us. Which basically means LISTENING to people before TALKING to them. Easier said than done, I know. But the most productive conversations I’ve had, in terms of people starting to get their heads round various social, economic and environmental justice issues, have started from me asking people what issues matter to them, and then asking them what they think of these possible solutions…

  2. I’m just telling it as I see it Jenny.I don’t have a degree in geography or maths, but I would say China, India and the USA cause more greenhouse gasses in 1 day than Drax does in a year. And on a different pollution issue, I feel sorry for the dolphins and whales that choke on plastic bottles, but until India cleans up the mighty but filthy River Ganges, our plastic is literally, just a drop in the ocean.

    • I’m not sure what point you’re making David, but it seems to be that because Drax produces fewer carbon emissions than China, India or the USA it doesn’t matter and we shouldn’t bother trying to reduce them. a) I don’t agree with that position (if that is what you’re saying). Permaculture principles – which can apply to any activity, not just farming/gardening – suggest that you do what you can with the resources to hand. b) As for China’s carbon emissions, a lot of them are our own outsourced carbon emissions, because so many of our productive businesses closed down here and shipped off to China because wages are cheaper there. So China produces our goods and our carbon emissions, and we then import the goods. We should rightfully also count the carbon emissions created by their production and transportation as our own.

  3. Lets start from where we are. We need power, it’s just a question of what we use to generate that power. My personal view is gas is the worst option, not just because of the pollution, but where is the gas being sourced. The supply could be turned off by the suppliers at any time. What are the alternatives? Solar panels? I don’t know how many square miles of countryside would be covered with solar panels to generate as much power as Drax. Wind turbines? If any one dares to suggest a wind farm, the same people who are protesting against Drax Gas would be up in arms against the idea. Of course wind farms can spoil the view, but if the choice was between a turbine or a Drax outside my window, the turbine would win hands down. If the protesters don’t have an alternative to Drax, they are protesting for protestings sake.

    • Where do you get the idea that the protesters don’t have an alternative to Drax or that they would be up in arms against the idea of wind farms? Frances Howe from Biofuelwatch is quoted as saying “The public money Drax will require for this project needs to be spent on renewable power from wind, waves or sun.” And I’ve been at AxeDrax protests where it’s been very clear that the demand is for investment in solar, wind and tide/wave energy generation – and, of course, for reduction in energy use.