Drax Re-power

The views expressed in this page do not represent those of the Planning Inspectorate. This page consists of content submitted to the Planning Inspectorate by the public and other interested parties, giving their views of this proposal.

Drax Re-power

Received 26 July 2018
From Susan Francis

Representation

Dear Planning Inspectorate,

I wish to object to the Drax Repower proposal to replace the final two coal-burning units at Drax with much larger ones to burn natural gas. I am objecting because I believe the proposal is 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."

The proposal is incompatible with a transition to a low carbon economy and thus not a sustainable development, because 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."

In order to meet the Paris Climate Agreement to keep global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees, it is vital for the UK to phase out our fossil fuel emissions, not increase them. Permitting power stations such as Drax to burn large quantities of natural gas will push us beyond the 1.5 degree limit and prevent the UK from meeting its international commitments to tackle climate change.

This would be by far the largest gas-burning power capacity ever built in the UK, 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. The plant would therefore require either increased Russian imports (an unlikely option for geopolitical reasons) or reliance on unconventional gas, especially hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and horizontal drilling.

Unconventional gas production is associated with significant leakage of methane, making it worse for the climate than coal if just 3% of the gas leaks into the atmosphere. 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.

Drax's plan to burn large quantities of gas will hamper rather than help the U.K.’s transition to low carbon energy. The smokestack CO2 emissions from new gas units would 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. The alternative to this proposal is 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."

I believe that, rather than being forced to pay for an unnecessary gas development which is bad for the climate, we should instead invest in genuinely renewable wind, wave and solar energy which can help us to meet our climate targets.

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

Yours sincerely,