Will Gardiner is the CEO of Drax. This is a sponsored post by Drax.
The stark warnings delivered by the world’s leading climate scientists this summer made it clear that we are “on code red” – not enough is being done to prevent a climate catastrophe. The science is clear; it’s no longer enough to reduce emissions, we need to start removing carbon dioxide (CO2) already in the atmosphere to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
The world’s leading climate scientists at both the UK Climate Change Committee (CCC) and the UN IPCC recognise that carbon capture and storage technologies – which permanently remove CO2 from the atmosphere – are vital to global efforts to combat the climate crisis.
One such proven technology is being developed in the heart of North Yorkshire. At Drax Power Station near Selby, alongside our partners, we have pioneered and developed bioenergy with carbon capture and storage – known as BECCS. After years of testing and millions of pounds in research and development, we are now applying for planning permission to develop this technology at industrial scale by 2027.
This climate-saving technology will capture at least eight million tonnes of carbon dioxide every year, creating the world’s largest single site carbon capture project. Independent analysis shows that deploying BECCS technology could reduce the costs of getting to Net Zero by as much as £75 billion, saving £85 every year for every UK household, as well as significantly reducing the UK’s emissions and helping ensure we reach Net Zero in a fair and affordable way.
The project is uniquely placed to help level up the North and put Yorkshire and the Humber on the world stage. By converting from coal to sustainable biomass, we have already protected local jobs for thousands of workers, and helped keep the lights on across the UK. Now, we want to go further.
Delivering BECCS at Drax will protect and create over 10,000 green jobs across the region through our UK supply chain. It will generate hundreds of new apprenticeship opportunities, drive investment in green skills, and equip local communities to fulfil the careers of the future.
Drax is an anchor project for the Humber’s green ambitions. Alongside our partners in Zero Carbon Humber and the East Coast Cluster, we can help protect 55,000 industrial jobs across the region, enabling harder to abate sectors offset their emissions, making the region a centre for international investment in climate-saving technologies.
We want businesses of all sizes to capitalise on the benefits of BECCS. During the project’s construction phase, Drax will spend hundreds of millions across our supply chain – with an ambition that 80 per cent of construction materials and services will go to UK companies. This will generate transformational opportunities for local and UK businesses, from large multi-nationals to the smallest SME.
To realise this ambition, Drax will host a series of events throughout 2022 in partnership with the West & North Yorkshire and Hull & Humber Chambers of Commerce, as well as further events across the North, Midlands and South of England. These will help build our supply chain and ensure the project can be accelerated as soon as planning approval is received.
As well as construction, BECCS presents a unique opportunity to support UK agriculture and create opportunities for British farmers. Our partnership with the NFU will develop a roadmap for boosting the UK’s energy crops market. This could deliver some of the sustainable biomass for our BECCS units, as well as boosting the domestic energy crop market to help the UK achieve its climate goals.
BECCS at Drax will generate benefits and opportunities nationwide; but the global prize should not be underestimated either. By delivering the first commercial scale BECCS project, the UK will be in prime position to export this technology internationally – creating significant trading opportunities, jobs and growth. Other countries including the US and Norway are moving at pace, so the UK’s competitive advantage is not guaranteed. The UK must act now to lead the global race to deliver this climate-saving technology.
Drax is driving this project forward; we are signing landmark agreements with our partners, advancing through the planning process, and preparing our supply chain so the project is ready to go. We have experience of delivering new technologies at scale; we have already transformed the UK’s biggest coal-fired power station into the largest decarbonisation project in Europe by using sustainably sourced biomass. Our track record speaks for itself.
But like wind, solar and bioenergy before, every new technology needs help to get it off the ground. We are calling on Government to back BECCS at Drax and urgently bring forward a negative emissions policy and investment framework that will enable us to begin construction in 2024, remove millions of tonnes of carbon from 2027, and tackle climate change while protecting and creating new green jobs. Scaling up BECCS at Drax will help deliver Net Zero, level up the North, and make the UK a world leader in solving the climate emergency.