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 16 August 2018
From Dr Nicola Hall


Dear Sir or Madam,

I write to object to the Drax Repower proposal that would replace the final two coal-burning units at Drax with far larger, natural gas ones. I object because this proposal is not "sustainable development" (as defined in the National Planning Policy Framework) - it is not compatible with transition to low-carbon future.

The recent decision (March 2018) by then Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, rejecting planning permission for an open-cast coal mine at Druridge Bay in Northumberland is salient. Incompatibility of the proposed coal mine with climate goals was one of the grounds for 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]

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. Its Preliminary Environmental Information Report admits that the burning of fossil (natural) gas at the power station would: “represent a significant net increase in greenhouse gas emissions and have therefore negative climate impacts.”

To meet the Paris Climate Agreement to keep global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees, the UK MUST phase out fossil fuel emissions, not increase them. A recent Oil Change International report said: “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 is inconsistent with the Paris climate goals.” [Redacted]

To permit power stations like Drax to burn large quantities of natural (fossil fuel) gas will push us beyond the 1.5 degree limit and prevent the UK from meeting its international commitments to tackle climate change.

Drax proposes to build by far the largest gas-burning power capacity ever in the UK, although the UK’s North Sea gas production is in long-term decline and Norwegian gas production (the main source of gas imports) will peak soon - circa 2022. So 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]

+ Unconventional gas production is associated with significant methane leakage, far more so than conventional gas production [Redacted] Research published in the journal, Environmental Science and Technology points out that a gas plant can become an overall bigger source of greenhouse gas emissions than a coal one if a mere 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 gas.

+ The smokestack CO2 emissions from new gas units will exceed the longer-term average CO2 emissions per unit of electricity (which have been dropping due to wind and solar generation) and so contribute to higher long-term UK CO2 emissions.

+ Drax’s Repower plan to burn large quantities of gas will hamper, not 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]
Instead of paying for, and buying into, unnecessary gas development that is bad for the climate, we should instead invest in genuinely renewable wind, wave, tide and solar energy to meet our climate targets.

Please act on these vital concerns and refuse permission for Drax to start burning gas.

Yours sincerely,

Nicola Hall (Dr)