Drax Power Station, once one of the biggest polluters in Europe, has been given the all clear to upgrade a third power generating unit to biomass, which means that half the power station will produce renewable electricity, saving 12 million tonnes of carbon each year.
The news was welcomed by local MPs and MEPs, who said the decision would secure the 850 jobs at Drax and more in the wood pellet supply chain.
A third generating unit at Drax has been given European Commission (EC) approval to be fully powered by sustainable biomass.
The third unit upgrade started in July 2015 and now Drax produces enough renewable electricity to power three million homes. In the first six months of this year 20 per cent of the country’s renewable power was provided by Drax.
Nigel Adams, MP for Selby and Ainsty, said: "It is very good news that Drax has state-aid clearance approval for its third Biomass unit conversion.
"It is a pity that this approval has taken so long and in future British companies hopefully will not need to seek such approval from the EU.
"Drax can now get on with providing even more green power onto the grid and continue its decarbonisation strategy."
Andy Percy, MP for Brigg and Goole, said: "This is great news for Drax and for the local community, many of whom work at the power station. Biomass is an environmentally friendly generating option as we transition from coal generation.
"The news that this third unit has now received final approval is great news for Drax but also for those who work in northern ports where much of the biomass in imported through."
The Government has set out proposals to end coal-fired generation by 2025 as part of its plan to stimulate more clean energy generation. The EC’s decision gives approval to the Government’s support for the upgrade of Drax power station from coal to biomass, and marks the culmination of a £650m investment.
Yorkshire and Humber Conservative MEP Amjad Bashir, said the decision would secure the 850 jobs at Drax.
"This announcement is hugely welcome, if a long time coming," he said.
"Drax and its employees can now look forward to an exciting future. Half the plant will be running on biomass, the most efficient form of renewable energy, positioning it as a world leader in the field."
Andy Koss, Drax Power CEO, said: “Drax now leads the world in biomass technology - three million households are powered with renewable energy generated by Drax and we’re the largest carbon saving project in Europe.
“We have demonstrated how to reinvent a coal-fired power station, using an existing asset, so there are no hidden costs to the Grid and it is quick to achieve. This is a testament to the expertise and ingenuity of our engineering team and everyone at the power station.”
But not everyone welcomed the news.
Linde Zuidema, bioenergy campaigner at Fern, the forests and rights NGO, said: “The European Commission’s decision is a grave error. By approving UK Government subsidies for Drax, the Commission has effectively issued a license for the continued devastation of US forests and increasing carbon pollution. With this decision, the Commission goes directly against its own proposal to cancel biomass burning in electricity-only installations."