Drax promotes strategy director to chief executive at power generator in group shake-up

Drax has promoted its strategy director to become chief executive of its power-generating arm as part of a reorganisation at the FTSE 250 group.

Andy Koss. Picture: Shaun Flannery

Andy Koss steps up to take responsibility for Drax Power Ltd, while Dorothy Thompson remains in overall command as group CEO at one of Europe’s largest power stations.

She has divided the group into three business units; the new biomass supply operations in the United States, the generation business in Yorkshire and the £1.1bn retail business Haven Power.

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The news follows the surprise departure two weeks ago of long-serving group finance director Tony Quinlan, which sent shares down nearly two and a half per cent, although Drax said they are not linked.

Mr Koss, 44, told The Yorkshire Post: “We have obviously implemented a new structure, of which I’m a part, that recognises the business is growing and we now have the production upstream in the US of pellets, we have generation at Drax and we also have the supply down at Haven.

“I think the structure recognises we are becoming a more grown-up business and there’s not just the focus around the power station itself.”

He said Drax has had a stable management team for a number of years, including Mr Quinlan who served seven years and whose departure coincided with the change in structure. He is joining electronic components maker Laird in July.

Asked if he was part of succession planning for future leadership of the group, Mr Koss said: “What I want to do is focus on the job here, which is chief executive of Drax Power, but clearly there are a number of us, there is a very good management team and we are all working together to run the business.”

Mr Koss is a 10-year veteran of the group, joining as treasurer and working on the refinancing as part of the stock exchange listing in 2005. He has since held senior roles in corporate finance, investor relations and commodity risk management.

For the last 18 months, he was director of strategy, reporting straight to Ms Thompson, working on business development, sustainability and regulation.

Mr Koss said his priorities for the next year are the conversion of the third unit from coal to biomass and the resolution of a Brussels probe into whether the UK Government broke state aid rules with its subsidies for the £700m conversion scheme.

He also wants to persuade ministers to support the conversion of a fourth coal-fired unit to biomass. Drax has six units in total.

The Government published a consultation paper in December 2014, warning that it would not guarantee long-term support for biomass conversions.

Mr Koss said: “Because all these investments are large amounts of money and we need to commit to long-term contracts of biomass, if we don’t have that certainty of support - that’s us and everyone else considering a biomass conversion - then it’s very hard to see you could make the investment case. Everyone has put their plans on hold.”

He is confident of a good working relationship with the new Government and met new Energy Secretary Amber Rudd while she served as under-secretary.

He said: “We have found the Conservatives get our arguments.

“This is back to the trilemma of decarbonisation, security of supply and affordability and I think our dealings with the Conservatives over the last five years show they do understand the arguments of biomass as not only helping to hit the 2020 target but also helping to manage security of supply and also the affordability argument.”

He said Drax remains a strategic asset for the UK.

“Whether the units are running on coal or biomass, with increasing amounts of intermittent renewables on the system, the fact that we are reliable and flexible stands us in very good stead,” added Mr Koss.

Changes at Drax

Drax confirmed a number of other changes to its management team.

Peter Bennell, is chief executive at Haven Power, Pete Madden is chief executive of Drax Biomass and Peter Emery is group operations director.

Paul Taylor, formerly retail and trading director, now has a group role as commercial director.

Phil Cox, the energy industry veteran, took over as group chairman at the annual general meeting in April, replacing Charles Berry.

Dorothy Thompson, 53, has been chief executive of Drax since 2005 and has championed biomass.