Drax Re-power

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Drax Re-power

Received 24 July 2018
From David Somervell


Dear colleagues, I object in the strongest possible terms to the so-called "Drax Repower" proposal at Drax to burn natural gas. The proposal is absolutely not a sustainable development as defined in the National Planning Policy Framework, since it is not compatible with a transition to a low-carbon future.

I refer to the recent decision by the then Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government to reject planning permission for an open-cast coal mine at Druridge Bay in Northumberland in March this year. The incompatibility of the proposed coal mine with climate goals was cited as one of the grounds of the decision by the Secretary of State: “The negative impact on greenhouse gases and climate change receives very considerable adverse weight in the planning balance.” [Redacted]

Reasons why the proposal is incompatible with a transition to a low carbon economy and thus not a sustainable development:

Drax is already the U.K.’s single largest emitter of carbon dioxide and admits in its Preliminary Environmental Information Report that the burning of fossil (natural) gas at the power station will: “represent a significant net increase in greenhouse gas emissions and have therefore negative climate impacts.”

To enable the UK to meet our Paris Accord obligations to try and keep global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees, it is vital for the UK to phase out all fossil fuel emissions as soon as practicable, not increase them.

Since the Oil Change International report is very clear that “... the coal, oil, and fossil gas in the world’s currently producing and under-construction projects, if fully extracted and burned, would take the world far beyond safe climate limits. Opening new fossil gas fields [and thereby new fossil fuel consuming facilities] is inconsistent with the Paris climate goals.” [Redacted]

Permitting power stations such as Drax to burn natural (fossil fuel) gas will undoubtedly push global climate disruption beyond the 1.5 degree limit and prevent the UK from meeting its international commitments to tackle climate change.

Drax proposes to build the largest gas-burning power capacity ever built in the UK. It comes at a time when the UK’s North Sea gas production is in long-term decline and Norwegian gas production (the main source of gas imports) is predicted to peak around 2022. This means that increased reliance on gas would require either increased Russian imports (an unlikely option for geopolitical reasons), or, more likely, reliance on unconventional gas, especially hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and horizontal drilling. There are already 3 active shale gas sites in the UK and a Freedom of Information request to The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) revealed the government expects there to be approximately 17 sites by 2020 and around 30 to 35 sites by 2022 [Redacted]

Please consider the following points when considering the application:

1. Unconventional gas production is associated with significant leakage of methane – far more so than conventional gas production [Redacted] Research published in Environmental Science and Technology suggests that a gas plant can become a bigger source of greenhouse gas emissions than a coal one if just 3% of the gas leaks into the atmosphere. [Redacted] Leakage of methane in the production of gas for Drax would therefore significantly increase carbon emissions over and above the smokestack emissions of burning the gas.

2. The smokestack CO2 emissions from new gas units will exceed the longer-term average CO2 emissions per unit of electricity (which have been dropping rapidly due to greater wind and solar power use) and thus contribute to higher long-term UK CO2 emissions.

3. Drax’s Repower plan to burn large quantities of gas will hamper rather than help the U.K.’s transition to low carbon energy. Drax argues that gas can be a useful ‘transition fuel’ between coal and renewable energy as the UK government phases out the burning of ‘unabated coal’ by 2025. The alternative to Drax’s Repower proposal will be the closure of the two coal power units, resulting in genuine and significant carbon reductions. Replacing coal with another fossil fuel cannot help us to decarbonise, particularly since Drax has said that repurposing two coal units to burn gas will “extend their operation into the 2030s.” As the ecosystem scientist, Professor Robert W Howarth, from Cornell University, states: “the only path forward is to reduce the use of all fossil fuels as quickly as possible. There is no bridge fuel, and switching from coal to shale gas is accelerating rather than slowing global warming.” [Redacted]

Please recognise that more fossil fueled developments merely prolong the huge risk of climate disruption and potentially constrain options for renewable energy from wind and solar contributing to the rapid decarbonisation of the national grid.

I urge you to take note of these concerns and refuse permission for Drax to start burning gas.

Yours sincerely,