COP26: Why Yorkshire's landscape places it at the centre of the green energy revolution

If you were looking at potential sources of renewable energy and green technologies at the turn of the century, Drax would have been an unlikely place to start.

As a coal-fired power plant, the North Yorkshire facility was far from environmentally conscious and a target of environmental activists over its carbon footprint.

Fast forward to 2021 and Drax is set to embark on a remarkable change in direction which everyone from Government ministers to the head of the CBI believe can make Yorkshire to green industry what the City of London is to financial services.

Sign up to our Business newsletter

Sign up to our Business newsletter

Its multi-million pound conversion to biomass saw its coal fired generation of energy officially discontinued this year.

Yorkshire is in 'poll position' to make the most of the green energy revolution, Drax chief executive Will Gardiner says

And, with the news that the so-called East Coast Cluster, encompassing both the Humber and Teesside areas, is to be one of the UK’s first carbon capture, usage and storage clusters the region will have the potential to transport and securely store nearly 50 per cent of all UK industrial cluster CO2 emissions - up to 27 million tonnes of CO2 emissions a year by 2030.

For Drax chief executive Will Gardiner, the journey has been a long time coming, but one that he believes will make the region world leading.

“The story of Drax moving toward biomass started as long ago as 2003 when Drax started to use co-fire biomass with coal,” he said.

Read More

Read More
Morrisons commits to net zero carbon emissions by 2035

“It started thinking about what a world would be like beyond coal. And as Drax, as a single-site coal fired power station back then, it really had an imperative to figure out what to do.”

Drax has gone from being the largest coal fired power station, emitting 20 million tonnes of CO2, to now being carbon neutral and in the process.

Like the energy production that emanated from the Industrial Revolution, Mr Gardiner believes that the reason that Yorkshire can play such an important role in greening the economy lies in its natural geography.

On land, the ECC is relatively concentrated geographically, meaning that building a pipeline infrastructure allows for efficient construction.

He added: “Probably most importantly there is all of the offshore storage capacity. The capacity in the acquifere can store more than 10 million tonnes a year and that can grow. The UK is ideally suited in that way to a combination of offshore aquifers but also depleted offshore oil and gas wells, which is a key part of the puzzle.

“And the skills we have in the UK to do this type of thing are all there. The offshore oil and gas capacity and infrastructure, the capability that Drax has and the number of jobs that ultimately can come from this would be spectacular.

“The BECCS project on its own, at its peak, would support about 10,000 jobs. When we think about things like a transition and everyone getting to benefit, as many as 50,000 jobs would continue in a zero or low carbon way which we think is a massive benefit for the north.

“I couldn’t be more excited. I am absolutely passionate about the opportunity we have to achieve all the things we have been talking about the opportunity to make a real difference in terms of climate change.

“We are absolutely in poll position.”

Carbon Capture has been talked about in Yorkshire for many years but suffered a major fale dawn when the then Coalition Government cancelled the so-called White Rose project.

However, Mr Gardiner is adamant that, with tackling climate change now a worldwide imperative, the opportunity this time needs to be realised.

He said: “When I joined Drax just before the White Rose project was cancelled the world had just committed to the idea of 2 degrees of climate change and limiting it.

“What was interesting about that point is there was no clear sense of how that would happen. If you roll that picture forward to now and many countries if not all have a net zero by 2050 target and importantly the pathways for how we will get there are much more clear

“In that context carbon capture has clearly got a place as a major part of the puzzle.

“The global understanding of how we are going to get to net zero and how we are going to do it is just so much more clear.”