Will Gardiner is the CEO of Drax Group.
Leading climate scientists at the IPCC are clear: as a planet we are not doing enough to avert catastrophic climate change. At the current rate, temperatures will increase by 3.2 degrees Celsius — more than double the 1.5C target.
At the same time, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine means countries are scrambling to address energy supply and security concerns amid a cost-of-living crisis.
Generating reliable, renewable power in Britain for British homes and businesses is the best way to reduce emissions, deliver energy security and cut costs.
Drax already produces 12 per cent of Britain’s renewable electricity, more than any other generator – and this power keeps the UK’s system stable whilst also playing a critical role in decarbonising the energy sector.
But we aren’t stopping here, and in the future we will transforming our power station in Yorkshire into the world’s largest carbon capture and storage project.
To keep the Paris Agreement’s 1.5C target alive it is not enough to simply reduce emissions. Alongside significant carbon reductions across every sector, we must remove emissions that are already in the atmosphere.
Globally, we need to remove the equivalent of more than double the UK’s annual CO2 emissions each year from now to 2025.
To get there, the UK needs to support and accelerate investment in carbon removals technologies which can deliver negative emissions. Not only crucial to achieving net zero, carbon removals also represent a trillion dollar global opportunity which will bring jobs, investment and opportunity to first-mover countries.
For Britain to lead the way in these new industries and not fall behind international competitors, we need policies, action, and an attractive, long-term investment environment to be in place.
Drax has already invested over £2 billion into delivering its renewable technology, and is ready to invest a further £3 billion into expanding its pumped hydro capabilities and also into bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) — the only carbon removal technology that generates renewable electricity.
This means BECCS supports energy security, while also removing millions of tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere.
The BECCS project – already trialled and proven at our North Yorkshire power station – could start capturing millions of tonnes of CO2 as soon as 2027, permanently storing those emissions under the North Sea.
BECCS at Drax will protect and create over 10,000 jobs and create employment and supply chain opportunities across the North. We have an ambition to source 80 per cent of construction materials and services for BECCS from British firms, boosting small and large businesses across the UK.
To this end, we hosted supplier engagement events last month in Hull and Teesside with over 600 businesses of all sizes in attendance, learning about BECCS technology and the hundreds of millions of pounds worth of contracts to be won.
We’re also pleased to announce today that we have signed an agreement with British Steel to explore opportunities to source steel for the BECCS project from right here in the UK.
Drax is committed to supporting UK plc, and this relationship further demonstrates how BECCS will support heavy industry, protect harder-to-abate sectors, and create opportunities up and down the country.
Beyond supporting British businesses and creating jobs, BECCS is the most cost-effective carbon removal technology, and could save the UK over £26 billion to reach its net zero target. Half of that saving — £13 billion — will come this decade, according to energy consultancy Baringa.
Working with government to create the right conditions and policy framework to unleash investment will allow Drax to capture eight million tonnes of CO2 each year with BECCS technology. BECCS at Drax will deliver the world’s largest carbon capture project in power from 2027 and a significant proportion of carbon removals the UK needs to reach net zero.
Britain’s strategy and our climate commitments are set, we have the tools we need, and we’re making progress — we just need to go faster to protect our energy security, and remove carbon to reach net zero
With the right policies to unlock investment, the UK can lead the world in these technologies, which are urgently needed to prevent catastrophic climate change and deliver clean, secure, lower-cost energy.
With the right conditions, we have an incredible opportunity to mitigate the climate crisis, support Britain’s energy security, and level up the country. Drax is ready to deliver.