Taxpayer billions for Drax carbon capture

Carbon capture, Central Government

Taxpayer billions for Drax carbon capture, it is claimed, are being made to a company that generates around 4% of the country’s power and 9% of the UK’s renewable electricity by output and is seen as an energy source when weather conditions preclude significant wind and solar power generation.

Drax has received government permission to fit carbon capture technology to its wood-burning power plant, in a project that could cost bill-payers more than £40bn. The Guardian reports that analysts have predicted that the revamp of the North Yorkshire site could be one of the most expensive energy projects in the world. The plant burns some 8m tonnes of wood a year mainly imported from US forests.

At the same time, the climate think tank Ember published a report claiming that the facility’s development and running will cost the UK taxpayer billions, some £43.3bn over 25 years, and could require subsidies of up to £1.7bn per year. The company added that Drax’s rationale behind building the facility was to financially stabilise its existing power plant, the UK’s biggest CO2 emitter.

Phil MacDonald, the chief operating officer at Ember, said the report ignored the “immediate real costs” of building the plant, which are likely to fall to taxpayers or energy users.

The decision is also likely to anger environmentalists, who have campaigned against burning imported wood pellets and have opposed the multi-billion-pound subsidy paid to Drax over the past 12 years.

On 16 January Drax issued its own self-funded analysis, undertaken by management consultant firm Baringa, which claims the plant would actually save UK taxpayers £700m per year between 2030-50 totalling around £15bn.

Meanwhile the Energy Secretary is facing a revolt from green Tories over plans to approve millions of pounds in subsidies for Drax, as reported by Jonathan Leake in the Telegraph (15.1.24).