One of the UK’s largest energy producers wants to convert two of its remaining coal-fired power units to gas.
The move by Drax, which generates 7% of the UK’s electricity, has been driven by the shift away from coal power.
The Government announced in 2015 that all coal-fired power stations would be closed by 2025, prompting Drax to switch three of its units from coal to wood pellets recently.
The company, which also operates in the US, wants to install 3.6 gigawatts of gas-fired power capacity, replacing up to two of its coal-burning turbines near the town of Selby in North Yorkshire.
Drax said the project would only go ahead with a “positive investment decision” and a 15-year contract in Britain’s capacity market auctions.
Drax Power’s chief executive Andy Koss said that, if all went to plan, the project could extend the operation of the company’s coal assets into the 2030s.
Image: Drax Power chief executive Andy Koss. Pic: Drax
Meanwhile, it is also pushing ahead with plans to convert a fourth coal unit to sustainable biomass.
Drax said that three of its six units had already been successfully upgraded to wood biomass pellets, accounting for 70% of the electricity the company produces – enough to power Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield and Liverpool. They also account for 16% of the UK’s total renewable power.
The second part of the plan is to build a battery storage site of up to 200 megawatts, in what could be one of the world’s biggest power storage facilities.
Drax has notified the planning inspectorate and said it expects to begin consulting with local communities and other stakeholders in the coming weeks.
Mr Koss said: “We are at the start of the planning process but if developed these options for gas and battery storage show how Drax could upgrade our existing infrastructure to provide capacity, stability and essential grid services, as we do with biomass.
“This would continue to keep costs low for consumers and help to deliver Government’s commitment to remove coal from the UK grid.”
Shares in Drax Group were up just over 1% by the close of Wednesday trading.