Tag: Will Gardiner

At the heart of the energy transition

Tree nursery in Mississippi

Will Gardiner opened the second day of the Chatham House Energy Transitions conference. Watch his keynote address below or scroll down the page to read his speech in full.

The energy transition is central to our purpose of enabling a zero carbon, lower cost energy future.

Drax has been at the heart of Britain’s energy system for decades. And we have played a key role in the decarbonisation of the power sector: Drax Power Station in Selby, North Yorkshire, is the UK’s largest power station and Europe’s largest decarbonisation project. Cruachan, our Scottish Pumped Storage facility is a key complement to Britain’s ever increasing supply of offshore wind.

Our transition from coal to biomass has allowed us to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by over 80% while providing clean and flexible energy to millions of homes and businesses across the UK. This month saw the end of commercial coal generation at Drax power station – a milestone in the history of our company and of the UK economy, too.

But the scale of the climate crisis means that we cannot stop here.

Which is why we have committed to a world-leading ambition to be carbon negative by 2030.

We will achieve this by making a transformational investment in bioenergy with CCS, or BECCS, which will enable us to permanently remove carbon emissions from the atmosphere while continuing to supply the renewable electricity that millions of British homes and businesses depend upon.

Water outlet into Loch Awe from Cruachan Power Station

Water outlet into Loch Awe from Cruachan Power Station

Today, we are pioneering BECCS at Drax Power Station as part of the Zero Carbon Humber Cluster, a coalition of diverse businesses with one ambition: to create the world’s first net zero emissions industrial cluster.

The benefits are enormous

BECCS is a vital technology in the fight against climate change. Expert bodies such as the Climate Change Committee here in the UK and the IPCC at a global level are clear that we need negative emissions technologies including BECCS to reach net zero, and BECCS is central to the UK and Europe’s decarbonisation plans.

As the world’s largest, and most experienced, generator and supplier of sustainable bioenergy there is no better place to pioneer BECCS than at Drax. The economic, social and environmental benefits are enormous.

BECCS at Drax will permanently remove millions of tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere and help heavy industry in the UK’s largest emitting area decarbonise quickly and cost effectively;

It will enable the creation of tens of thousands of green jobs in the North of England, levelling up the economy and delivering a green recovery from the Covid crisis;

And it will put the UK at the forefront of global efforts to develop carbon removal technology in this, the year that we host COP26 in Glasgow.

The scale of the climate crisis means that we cannot stop here.

A proven technology

We know that BECCS works and that the technology is available now. Looking at cost projections from the CCC, we also know that it is the best value negative emissions technology.

Engineer at BECCS pilot project within Drax Power Station

Engineer at BECCS pilot project within Drax Power Station

We have already successfully run two BECCS pilots at the power station. In 2019 we demonstrated that we can capture CO2 from a 100% biomass feedstock. And in 2020, we began a second pilot working with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to further enhance the potential for delivering negative emissions.

We aim to deploy BECCS at scale by 2027. To that end, earlier this month, we kickstarted the planning process for our proposals to build our first BECCS units, marking a major milestone in the project and putting us in a position to commence building BECCS as soon as 2024.

The support we need

Drax Power Station has a proud history of transformation. And today we are making rapid progress in further decarbonising our operations and making bold commitments about our future.

The core of our successful decarbonisation has been a close partnership with government. And it is this partnership that will make BECCS a reality and enable the multiple benefits that come with it. An effective negative emissions policy and regulatory framework from government will enable further investments from companies such as Drax.

We believe it is possible for such a policy framework to emerge in the coming months.

With COP26 later this year, making that policy commitment will allow us to accelerate our own decarbonisation journey and support the industries of the future here in the UK.

BECCS in context

But we know that there is no silver bullet solution to tackling climate change.

Negative emissions technologies such as BECCS will be needed alongside others, for example more renewables, electric vehicles, energy storage, energy efficiency and hydrogen.

BECCS will enable us to permanently remove carbon emissions from the atmosphere while continuing to supply the renewable electricity that millions of British homes and businesses depend upon.

BECCS complements – and does not – and should not – substitute for ambitious decarbonisation plans. Technologies such as BECCS have a clear and unique role to play by helping harder to abate sectors such as heavy industry, aviation and agriculture – decarbonise.

This is critically important if we are to meet our legally binding 2050 net zero target. The CCC estimates that 51m tonnes of CO2 will need to be captured via BECCS to meet net zero.

Sustainability at our core

We know that BECCS can only make a meaningful contribution to tackling climate change if the bioenergy is sustainably sourced. This has been fundamental to Drax’s transition from coal to biomass, and it remains fundamental as we progress our plans for BECCS.

Infographic showing how BECCS removes carbon from the atmosphere

Biomass, as the UK Government has stated, is one of our most valuable tools for reaching net zero emissions. So we need the right framework to ensure it is sourced sustainably.

As the world’s largest bioenergy producer and generator, we recognise our responsibility to be the world leaders in sustainability, too.

At Drax, we have invested in world leading policies, tools and expertise to ensure that our biomass is sustainably sourced. We go beyond regulatory compliance and have set up an Independent Advisory Board, Chaired by the UK Government’s former Chief Scientific Advisor, to help us and challenge us on sustainable biomass and its role in Drax’s transition to net zero.

front cover of 'Responsible sourcing' PDF

[click to read]

Thanks to our independent catchment area analyses, we know more about the forests we source from than ever before. We know and can demonstrate how demand for biomass can support healthy forests. For example, in the South East US where Drax sources most of its biomass, there is more than double the carbon stored in forests than there was 50 years ago.

A partnership with our stakeholders

The purpose of today’s session is to discuss all these issues and more. Our aim is clear: to enable a successful energy transition.

At Drax we stand ready to invest hundreds of millions of pounds to scale up BECCS technology;

To put the UK at the forefront of global efforts to reach net zero emissions;

And to help create tens of thousands of green jobs in the North of England.

But I want your help in making BECCS as sustainable and successful as it can be.

We know and can demonstrate how demand for biomass can support healthy forests.

Thank you very much for listening and I wish you a good and constructive session tackling this critical global challenge.

Will Gardiner delivered this keynote address at Energy Transitions 2021.

The video of Will’s speech can be watched in full here and with subtitles here.

Attracting investment in emerging low carbon technologies

Biomass dome at Drax Power Station

Hello everyone. My name is Will Gardiner and I am the CEO of the Drax Group. It is great to have the opportunity to speak to you today at the Utility Week Investor Summit and to discuss attracting investment in emerging low carbon technologies.

Drax at the heart of the energy transition

My company Drax has been at the heart of Britain’s energy system for decades. And we have played a key role in the decarbonisation of the power sector: Drax Power Station in Selby, North Yorkshire, is the UK’s largest power station and Europe’s largest decarbonisation project. Cruachan, our Scottish Pumped Storage facility, is a key complement to Britain’s ever-increasing supply of offshore wind.

Our transition from coal to biomass has allowed us to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by over 80% while providing clean and flexible energy to millions of homes and businesses across the UK.  This month saw the end of commercial coal generation at Drax power station – a milestone in the history of our company and of the UK economy, too.

But the drive to create a more sustainable, net zero economy means that we cannot stop here.

Which is why at Drax we have committed to a world-leading ambition to be carbon negative by 2030.

Engineer in the workshop at Drax Power Station

Engineer in the workshop at Drax Power Station

We will achieve this by increasing our capacity to generate renewable electricity, and by making a transformational investment in bioenergy with CCS, or BECCS, which will enable us to permanently remove carbon emissions from the atmosphere.

We are pioneering BECCS at Drax Power Station as part of the Zero Carbon Humber cluster, a coalition of diverse businesses with the same ambition: to create the world’s first net zero emissions industrial cluster.

I am delighted to confirm today that the Zero Carbon Humber Cluster project has received more than £21m in funding from the Government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund to help accelerate our plans and to help transform our vision of a zero carbon industrial cluster into a reality.

The benefits are enormous

BECCS is a vital technology in the fight against climate change. Expert bodies such as the Climate Change Committee here in the UK and the IPCC at a global level are clear that we need negative emissions technologies including BECCS to reach net zero. And BECCS is central to the UK government and Europe’s decarbonisation plans.

As the world’s largest, and most experienced, generator and supplier of sustainable bioenergy there is no better place to pioneer BECCS than at Drax.  The economic, social and environmental benefits are enormous.

BECCS at Drax will permanently remove millions of tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere and help heavy industry in the UK’s largest emitting area decarbonise quickly and cost effectively;

It will enable the creation of tens of thousands of green jobs in the North of England, levelling up the economy and delivering a green recovery from the Covid crisis;

And it will put the UK at the forefront of global efforts to develop carbon removal technology in this, the year that we host COP26 in Glasgow.

A proven technology

We know that BECCS works and that the technology is available now. Looking at cost projections from the CCC, we also know that it is the best value negative emissions technology.

We have already successfully run two BECCS pilots at the power station. In 2019 we demonstrated that we can capture CO2 from a 100% biomass feedstock. And in 2020, we began a second pilot working with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to further enhance the potential for delivering negative emissions.

We aim to deploy BECCS at scale by 2027. To that end, earlier this month, we kickstarted the planning process for our proposals to build our first BECCS unit, marking a major milestone in the project and putting us in a position to commence building BECCS as soon as 2024.

A partnership between industry and government

Successful decarbonisation has always been a partnership between industry and government.

This is evident looking at the incredible rise of Britain’s offshore wind sector. As a direct response to government’s political commitment, a strong price signal, and an investable Contract for Difference mechanism, offshore wind capacity has grown from 1GW to over 10GW in a decade. And build costs are now two thirds lower than what they were 10 years ago.

Pylon that takes excess wind power to be stored at Cruachan pumped hydro storage power station in Scotland

Pylon that takes excess wind power to be stored at Cruachan pumped hydro storage power station in Scotland

At Drax, our conversion from coal to biomass was benefited from much the same framework:

  • The UK Government was – and continues to be – very strong in its support for biomass as a renewable technology to replace coal;
  • Our CfD mechanism has given investors the certainty they need to invest;
  • And successive government’s commitment to a carbon price that matches or exceeds that of our European neighbours has told the market that Britain is serious about decarbonising the power sector rapidly.

That combination of factors – a clear, transparent, investable framework for renewables, combined with a strong price signal from the UK government discouraging fossil fuel power generation – has been the key to driving private sector investment in renewable power technology in the UK. As a result, the UK leads the world in decarbonising its electricity sector, while also enabling a global technology revolution in offshore wind power. Importantly, the whole effort has been underpinned by transparency, competition and confidence in the regulatory and legal framework, all of which are critical.

Building a partnership for the future

By continuing this partnership between industry and government, the UK could become the world leader in emerging green technologies such as BECCS.

Right now, markets and regulatory frameworks for BECCS or negative emissions more broadly either don’t exist – or aren’t flexible enough – to support the scaling of the technologies we need to get to net zero. But the first-generation framework, as I have just described, provides a great model.

Fundamentally, we believe that we can do BECCS at a cost of less than £100/t of CO2, which is less than any other negative emissions technology available.

We know this investment will help the UK reach net zero at a lower cost than it otherwise could do.

Maintenance inside a water cooling tower at Drax Power Station

Maintenance inside a water cooling tower at Drax Power Station

But although we’re ready to make the investment – the UK’s regulatory system isn’t yet ready to support it.

Despite being world leaders in these areas, our carbon pricing system and financial markets don’t yet recognise the value of negative emissions, even though our political institutions and scientists say they are vital to tackling climate change.

There is no government defined business model for BECCS, which will be essential to signalling long term political support as well as operational support.

And despite being the best placed country in the world to develop BECCS, we risk losing out as other countries race to deploy this technology first. Just last week we saw Aker, Microsoft and Orsted sign a memorandum of understanding to develop BECCS in Denmark.

However, in its ten-point plan, the UK government has committed to outline what role biomass and BECCS will play in the UK’s transition to net zero by the end of this year. Soon it will be consulting on a new bioenergy strategy. And it has already taken evidence on Greenhouse Gas Removal technologies and consulted on CCS clusters.

This, we believe, demonstrates that a set of policies could emerge in the coming months that will support investment in BECCS.

At their core, we think these policies should capture the stability and investability of a CfD for the renewable power that we will produce, as well as deliver payment for the negative emissions. By compensating negative emissions with a credit for every ton of CO2 they remove from the environment, the government can properly reward those technologies, and add a critical new set of tools to the fight against climate change – ultimately lower the cost of winning that battle.

This would enable Drax to invest in BECCS, begin delivering negative emissions and helping to decarbonise the North of England as soon as 2027.

With COP26 later this year, making this policy commitment will allow us to accelerate our own decarbonisation journey and support the industries of the future develop here in the UK.

BECCS in context

We know that there is no silver bullet solution to tackling climate change.

Negative emissions technologies such as BECCS will be needed alongside others, for example more renewables, electric vehicles, energy storage, energy efficiency and hydrogen.

Drax employee charging an electric car at Haven Power in Ipswich

Drax employee charging an electric car at Haven Power in Ipswich

BECCS complements – and does not – and should not – substitute for ambitious decarbonisation plans. Technologies such as BECCS have a clear and unique role to play by helping harder to abate sectors such as heavy industry, aviation and agriculture – decarbonise.

This is critically important if we are to meet our legally binding 2050 net zero target. The CCC estimates that 51m tonnes of CO2 will need to be captured via BECCS to meet net zero.

Sustainability at our core

We know that BECCS can only make a meaningful contribution to tackling climate change if the bioenergy is sustainably sourced. This has been fundamental to Drax’s transition from coal to biomass, and it remains fundamental as we progress our plans for BECCS.

Wood residues at Morehouse Bioenergy, Louisiana

Sustainably sourced wood residues at Morehouse Bioenergy pellet plant in Louisiana

Biomass, as the UK Government has stated, is one of our most valuable tools for reaching net zero emissions. So we need the right framework to ensure it is sourced sustainably.

As the world’s largest bioenergy producer and generator, we recognise our responsibility to be the world leaders in sustainability, too.

At Drax, we have invested in world leading policies, tools and expertise to ensure that our biomass is sustainably sourced. We go beyond regulatory compliance and have set up an Independent Advisory Board, Chaired by the UK Government’s former Chief Scientific Advisor, to help us and challenge us on sustainable biomass and its role in Drax’s transition to net zero.

Thanks to our independent catchment area analyses, we know more about the forests we source from than ever before. We know and can demonstrate how demand for biomass can support healthy forests. For example, in the South East US where Drax sources most of its biomass, there is more than double the carbon stored in forests than there was 50 years ago.

Ready to deliver

BECCS will be a critical green technology. And with the right support and policy framework we could be pioneers in making it a reality.

There is no better place to deliver BECCS than at Drax, and no better time to deliver it than now.

At Drax, we stand ready to invest hundreds of millions of pounds to scale up BECCS technology;

To put the UK at the forefront of global efforts to reach net zero emissions;

And to help create tens of thousands of green jobs in the North of England.

Thank you very much for listening.

Will Gardiner delivered this keynote address at the Utility Week Investor Summit

Standing together
against climate
change

Global leadership illustration

Tackling climate change requires global collaboration. As a UK-US sustainable energy company, with communities on both sides of the Atlantic, we at Drax are keenly aware of the need for thinking that transcends countries and borders.

Joe Biden has become the 46th President of my native country at a crucial time to ensure there is global leadership and collaboration on climate change. Starting with re-joining the Paris Agreement, I am confident that the new administration can make a significant difference to this once-in-a-lifetime challenge.

This is why Drax and our partners are mobilising a transatlantic coalition of negative emissions producers. This can foster collaboration and shared learning between the different technologies and techniques for carbon removal that are essential to decarbonise the global economy.

Biomass storage domes at Drax Power Station in North Yorkshire at sunset

Biomass storage domes at Drax Power Station in North Yorkshire

Whilst political and technical challenges lie ahead, clear long-term policies that spur collaboration, drive innovation and enable technologies at scale are essential in achieving the UK and US’ aligned targets of reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Collaboration between countries and industries

What makes climate change so difficult to tackle is that it requires collaboration from many different parties on a scale like few other projects. This is why the Paris Agreement and this year’s COP26 conference in Glasgow are so vital.

Sustainable biomass wood pellets being safely loaded at the Port of Greater Baton Rouge onto a vessel destined for Drax Power Station

Our effort towards delivering negative emissions using bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) is another example of ambitious decarbonisation that is most impactful as part of an integrated, collaborative energy system. The technology depends upon sustainable forest management in regions, such as the US South where our American communities operate. Carbon capture using sustainable bioenergy will help Drax to be carbon negative by 2030 – an ambition I announced at COP25, just over a year ago in Madrid.

Will Gardiner at Powering Past Coal Alliance event in the UK Pavilion at COP25 in Madrid

Will Gardiner announcing Drax’s carbon negative ambition at COP25 in Madrid (December 2019).

Experts on both sides of the Atlantic consider BECCS essential for net zero. The UK’s Climate Change Committee says it will play a major role in tackling carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions that will remain in the UK economy after 2050, from industries such as aviation and agriculture that will be difficult to fully decarbonise. Meanwhile, a report published last year by New York’s Columbia University revealed that rapid development of BECCS is needed within the next 10 years in order to curb climate change.

A variety of negative emissions technologies are required to capture between 10% and 20% of the 35 billion metric tonnes of carbon produced annually that the International Energy Agency says is needed to prevent the worst effects of climate change.

We believe that sharing our experience and expertise in areas such as forestry, bioenergy, and carbon capture will be crucial in helping more countries, industries and businesses deploy a range of technologies.

A formal coalition of negative emissions producers that brings together approaches including land management, afforestation and reforestation, as well as technical solutions like direct air capture (DAC), as well as BECCS, would offer an avenue to ensure knowledge is shared globally.

Direct air capture (DAC) facility

Direct air capture (DAC) facility

It would also offer flexibility in countries’ paths to net zero emissions. If one approach under-delivers, other technologies can work together to compensate and meet CO2 removal targets.

As with renewable energy, working in partnership with governments is essential to develop these innovations into the cost-effective, large scale solutions needed to meet climate targets in the mid-century.

A shared economic opportunity

I agree whole heartedly that a nation’s economy and environment are intrinsically linked – something many leaders are now saying, including President Biden. The recently approved US economic stimulus bill, supported by both Republicans and Democrats in Congress and which allocates $35 billion for new clean energy initiatives, is a positive step for climate technology and job creation.

Globally as many as 65 million well-paid jobs could be created through investment in clean energy systems. In the UK, BECCS and negative emissions are not just essential in preventing the impact of climate change, but are also a vital economic force as the world begins to recover from the effects of COVID-19.

Engineer inside the turbine hall of Drax Power Station

Government and private investments in clean energy technologies can create thousands of well-paid jobs, new careers, education opportunities and upskill workforces. Developing BECCS at Drax Power Station, for example, would support around 17,000 jobs during the peak of construction in 2028, including roles in construction, local supply chains and the wider economy.

Additional jobs would be supported and created throughout our international supply chain. This includes the rail, shipping and forestry industries that are integral to rural communities in the US South.

We are also partnered with 11 other organisations in the UK’s Humber region to develop a carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS) and hydrogen industrial cluster with the potential to spearhead creating and supporting more than 200,000 jobs around the UK in 2039.

The expertise and equipment needed for such a project can be shared, traded and exported to other industrial clusters around the world, allowing us to help reach global climate goals and drive global standards for CCUS and biomass sustainability.

Clear, long-term policies are essential here, not just to help develop technology but to mitigate risk and encourage investment. These are the next crucial steps needed to deploy negative emissions at the scale required to impact CO2 emissions and lives of people.

Engineer at BECCS pilot project within Drax Power Station

At Drax we directly employ almost 3,000 people in the US and UK, and indirectly support thousands of families through our supply chains on both sides of the Atlantic. Drax Power Station is the most advanced BECCS project in the world and we stand ready to invest in this cutting-edge carbon capture and removal technology. We can then share our expertise with the United States and the rest of the world – a world where major economies are committing to a net zero future and benefiting from a green economic recovery.

The UK is the leader the world needs to tackle climate change

Snow on mountains near Cruachan Power Station, Scotland

December 2020 marks the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement. It represented a landmark moment in the global effort to combat climate change and build a better future. However, global progress is not moving at the speed it needs to in order to meet the treaty’s target of keeping global warming below 1.5-2 degrees Celsius.

Countries have set their own decarbonisation targets and many companies have laid out plans to become carbon neutral or even carbon negative – as we at Drax intend to achieve by 2030. While these leading ambitions are important for the UK and the world to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, real action, polices and investment are needed at scale.

We have a clearer view of the path ahead than five years ago. We know from the recent 6th Carbon Budget that renewable energy, as well as carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS) are essential for the UK to reach its target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

In that detailed, 1,000-page report, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) was clear that progress must be made immediately – the country as a whole must be 78% of the way there by 2035. By investing where it’s needed, the UK can lead the world in a whole new industry. One that may come to define the next century.

Leading the world in decarbonisation

It was a combination of resource and ingenuity that enabled the UK to launch the Industrial Revolution some 250 years ago. Today the country is in a similar position of being able to inspire and help transform the world.

As a country – one that I moved to over 20 years ago now – we have decarbonised at a greater pace than any other over the past decade. Investing in renewable generation such as wind, solar and biomass has allowed the UK to transform its energy systems and set ambitious targets for net zero emissions.

To remain resilient and meet the increased electricity demand of the future, power grids will require vastly increased support from energy storage systems such as pumped hydro – as well as flexible, reliable forms of low and zero carbon power generation.

However, the urgency of climate change means the UK must go beyond decarbonisation to implementing negative emissions technologies (which remove more carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere than they emit). The CCC, as well as National Grid’s Future Energy Scenarios report have emphasised the necessity of negative emissions for the UK to reach net zero, by removing CO2 not just from energy but other industries too.

The UK can build on its global leadership in decarbonisation to invest in the cutting-edge green technology that can take the country to net zero, establishing it as a world leader for others to follow.

Creating an industry, exporting it to the world

When the Paris agreement was signed, I was just joining Drax. I had been impressed by the power station’s transformation from coal to biomass – Europe’s largest decarbonisation project – supporting thousands of jobs in the process.

Five years on and I’m excited for the next stage: delivering negative emissions. By deploying bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) we can permanently remove CO2 from the atmosphere while producing renewable electricity.

Drax has successfully piloted BECCS and is ready to deploy it at scale as part of our Zero Carbon Humber partnership.

I’m confident the partnership with other leading energy, industrial and academic organisations can act as a revitalising force in a region that has historically been under-invested in, protect 55,000 jobs and create 50,000 new opportunities.

Developing the supply chain surrounding a world-leading zero-carbon cluster in the Humber could deliver a £3.2 billion economic boost to the wider economy as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.

I believe we can establish a new industry to export globally. The Humber’s ports have a long history of trade and we can build on this legacy. The machinery, equipment and services needed to develop BECCS and Zero Carbon Humber will be an essential export as the rest of the world races to decarbonise.

Unloading sustainable biomass wood pellets destined for Drax Power Station from a vessel at the port of Immingham

Unloading sustainable biomass wood pellets destined for Drax Power Station from a vessel at the port of Immingham

By providing training and partnering with educational institutions we can increase scientific and technical skills. Net zero industrial clusters can enable more in society the opportunity to have rewarding and fulfilling engineering, energy and environmental careers.

This model can reach around the world – positioning people and businesses to help countries to reach the collective goals of Paris Agreements.

The economic benefits for such achievements far outweigh the costs of failing to stem global warming and we are ready to invest in the technologies needed to do so. With robust government policies in place, a net zero future could cost as little as 1% of GDP over the next 30 years.

Countering climate change is a once-in-a-lifetime challenge for the world, but also a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build a sustainable future with sustainable jobs, improved standards of living, health and wellbeing. The UK has a responsibility to use its expertise and resources, setting in place the structures that can allow companies like mine – Drax – to lead the world to reaching the Paris Agreement’s targets and beyond.

Find out how our cutting-edge carbon removal technologies will help the UK, and the world, hit net zero. Explore the future here.

A net zero UK will be good for people and the planet

Peak district walker

For the UK to reach net zero CO2 emissions by 2050 and do its part in tackling the biggest challenge of our time, all sectors of the economy must reduce their emissions and do it quickly.

I believe the best approach to tackling climate change is through ‘co-benefit’ solutions: solutions that not only have a positive environmental impact, but that are economically progressive for society today and in the future through training, skills and job creation.

As an energy company, this task is especially important for Drax. We have a responsibility to future generations to innovate and use our engineering skills to deliver power that’s renewable, sustainable and that doesn’t come at a cost to the environment.

Our work on Zero Carbon Humber, in partnership with 11 other forward-thinking organisations, aims to deploy the negative emissions technology BECCS (bioenergy with carbon capture and storage), as well as CCUS (carbon capture, usage and storage) in industry and power, and ramp up hydrogen production as a low carbon fuel. These are all essential technologies in bringing the UK to net zero, but they are also innovative projects at scale that can benefit society and the lives of people in the Humber, and around the UK.

New jobs in a new sector

The Humber region has a proud history in heavy industries. What began as a thriving ship building hub has evolved to include chemicals, refining and steel manufacturing. However, these emissions-intensive industries have grown increasingly expensive to operate and many have left for countries where they can be run cheaper, leading to a decline in the Humber region.

If they are not decarbonised, these industries will face an even greater cost. By 2040, emitters could face billions of pounds per year in carbon taxes, making them less competitive and less attractive for international investment.

Deploying carbon capture and hydrogen are essential steps towards modernising these businesses and protecting up to 55,000 manufacturing and engineering jobs in the region.

Capturing carbon at Drax: Delivering jobs, clean growth and levelling up the Humber. Click to view executive summary and case studies from Vivid Economics report for Drax.

A report by Vivid Economics commissioned by Drax, found that carbon capture and hydrogen in the Humber could create and support almost 48,000 new jobs at the peak of the construction period in 2027 and provide thousands of long term, skilled jobs in the following decades.

As well as protecting people’s livelihoods, decarbonisation is also a matter of public health. In the Humber alone, higher air quality could save £148 million in avoided public health costs between 2040 and 2050.

I believe the UK is well position to rise to the challenge and lead the world in decarbonisation technology. There is a clear opportunity to export knowledge and skills to other countries embarking on their own decarbonisation journeys. BECCS alone could create many more jobs related to exporting the technology and operational know-how and deliver additional value for the economy. As interest in negative emissions grows around the world, the UK needs to move quickly to secure a competitive advantage.

A fairer economy

This is in many ways the start of a new sector in our economy – one that can offer new employment, earnings and economic growth. It comes at just the right time. Without intervention to spur a green recovery, the COVID-19 crisis risks subjecting long-term economic damage.

Being at the beginning of the industrial decarbonisation journey means we also have the power to shape this new industry in a way that spreads the benefits across the whole of the UK.

We’ve previously seen sector deals struck between the government and industry include equality measures. For example, the nuclear industry aims to count women as 40% of its employees by 2030, while offshore wind is committed to sourcing 60% of its supply chain from the UK.

Wind turbines at Bridlington, East Yorkshire

At present, the Humber region receives among the lowest levels of government investment in research and development in the UK, contributing to a pronounced skills gap among the workforce. In addition, almost 60% of construction workers across the wider Yorkshire and Humber region were furloughed as of August 2020.

A project such as Zero Carbon Humber could address this regional imbalance and offer skilled, long term jobs to local communities. That’s why I welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement of £1bn investment to support the establishment of CCUS in the Humber and other ‘SuperPlaces’ around the UK.

As the Government’s Ten Point Plan says, CCUS can ‘help decarbonise our most challenging sectors, provide low carbon power and a pathway to negative emissions’. 

Healthier forests

The co-benefits of BECCS extend beyond our communities in the UK. We aim to become carbon negative by 2030 by removing our CO2 emissions from the atmosphere and abating emissions that might still exist on the UK’s path to net zero.

Background. Fir tree branch with dew drops on a blurred background of sunlight

This ambition will only be realised if the biomass we use continues to be sourced from sustainable forests that positively benefit the environment and the communities in which we and our suppliers operate.

Engineer working in turbine hall, Drax Power Station, North Yorkshire

Engineer working in turbine hall, Drax Power Station, North Yorkshire

I believe we must continuously improve our sustainability policy and seek to update it as new findings come to light. We can help ensure the UK’s biomass sourcing is led by the latest science, best practice and transparency, supporting healthy, biodiverse forests around the world; and even apply it internationally.

Global leadership

Delivering deep decarbonisation for the UK will require collaboration from industries, government and society. What we can achieve through large-scale projects like Zero Carbon Humber is more than just the vital issue of reduced emissions. It is also about creating jobs, protecting health and improving livelihoods.

These are more than just benefits, they are the makings of a future filled with opportunity for the Humber and for the UK’s Green Industrial Revolution.

By implementing the Ten Point Plan and publishing its National Determined Contributions (NDCs) ahead of COP26 in Glasgow next year, the UK continues to be an example to the world on climate action.

In a crisis people come first

This crisis will be remembered for many things. Many are not positive, but some are inspiring. Around the world we’ve seen tremendous acts of kindness and witnessed remarkable resilience from people continuing to live, work and to support one another. The actions we are all taking as individuals, businesses and communities will not only help us get through this crisis, they will shape how we emerge from it.

At Drax we are proud of the ongoing role we’re playing in supporting the UK and its essential services, continuing to generate and supply the electricity needed to keep people healthy and the economy running.

It is what we have always done, and it is what we will continue to do.

This is possible because our people have continued to carry out their important work in these uncertain times safely and responsibly. My leadership team in the UK and US must continue to support them, and we must also support the communities they are a part of.

Employees Drax Power Station show their support and appreciation for the heroic efforts of those within the NHS by turning one of its cooling towers blue at 8pm each Thursday

Employees Drax Power Station show their support and appreciation for the heroic efforts of those within the NHS by turning one of its cooling towers blue at 8pm each Thursday

Our communities are at the core of what we do and who we are. They support our business globally and enable us to supply energy to the country. We have a responsibility to do what we can to help them through this crisis.

To do this we have put together a Covid-19 support package totalling more than three quarters of a million pounds that goes beyond just financing to make a positive impact. I’d like to highlight a few of these.

Supporting communities in Great Britain and the US

The Robinson family collect their laptop at Selby Community Primary School

The closures of schools and the need to turn homes into classrooms has been one of the biggest changes for many families. With children now depending on technology and the internet for schooling, there’s a very real chance those without access may fall behind, with a long term negative impact on their education.

We want to ensure no child is left out. So, we have donated £250,000 to buy 853 new laptops, each with three months of pre-paid internet access, and delivered them to schools and colleges local to our sites across the UK.

This has been implemented by Drax, working closely with headteachers. As one of our local heads Ian Clennan told us: “Schools don’t just provide education – they’re a whole support system. Having computers and internet access means pupils can keep in touch with their teachers and classmates more easily too – which is also incredibly important at the moment.”

In the US, we’re donating $30,000 to support hardship funds for the communities where we operate. Our colleagues in Louisiana are playing an active role in the community, and in Amite County, Mississippi, they have helped provide PPE to first responders as well as supporting charities for the families worse affected.

Helping businesses, starting with the most vulnerable

As an energy supplier to small and medium sized businesses (SMEs), we must act with compassion and be ready to help those who are most economically exposed to the crisis. To do this, we are launching a number of initiatives to support businesses, starting with some of the most vulnerable.

It’s clear that care homes require extra support at this time. We are offering energy bill relief for more than 170 small care homes situated near our UK operations for the next two months, allowing them to divert funds to their other priorities such as PPE, food or carer accommodation.

But it is also important we understand how difficult a period this is for small businesses of all kinds. Many of our customers are facing financial pressure that was impossible to forecast. To help relieve this, we have agreed deferred payment plans with some of our customers who are unable to pay in full. We have also extended current energy prices for three months for 4,000 customers of Opus Energy who have not been able to secure a new contract during this period.

The impact of this crisis will be long term, so we made a significant, two-year charitable donation to Business Debtline. A dedicated phoneline and webpage will be provided to our small businesses customers, offering free debt advice and helping them to recover for the future.

An engineer looks up at flue gas desulphurisation unit (FGD) at Drax Power Station. The massive pipe would transport flue gas from the Drax boilers to the carbon capture and storage (CCS) plant for CO<sub>2</sub> removal of between 90-95%.

An engineer looks up at flue gas desulphurisation unit (FGD) at Drax Power Station. The massive pipe would transport flue gas from the Drax boilers to the carbon capture and storage (CCS) plant for CO2 removal of between 90-95%.

Change for the future recovery

While there is still uncertainty around how the UK, the US and the world will emerge from the pandemic it is the responsibility of the whole energy industry to show compassion for its customers and to take the actions needed to soften the economic blow that Covid-19 is having across the globe.

The disruption to normal life caused by the pandemic has changed how the country uses electricity overnight. In the coming weeks we will be publishing a more in-depth view from Electric Insights showing exactly what effect this has had and what it might reveal for the future of energy.

No matter what that future holds, however, we will remain committed to enabling a zero carbon, lower cost energy future. This will mean not only supporting our people, our communities and our countries through the coronavirus crisis, but striving for a bright and optimistic future beyond it. A future where people’s immediate health, safety and economic wellbeing are prioritised alongside solutions to another crisis – that of climate change.

Letter from Will Gardiner to the Independent Advisory Board on Sustainable Biomass

Dear John, 

Thank you for your letter of the 9 January, detailing the findings and recommendations from the first meeting of the Independent Advisory Board on Sustainable Biomass.

I want to begin by reiterating how important the work of the IAB is to Drax’s purpose and ambition. As you know, we recently announced our intention to become the world’s first carbon negative company by 2030 by scaling up our pioneering biomass with CCS (BECCS) pilot project. This ambition will only be realised if the biomass we use makes a positive contribution to our climate, the environment and the communities in which we operate. To that end, both you and the IAB will play a vital role by guiding us on our sourcing choices and challenging us to be as sustainable and transparent as we can be.

I enjoyed meeting with the IAB and hearing your conclusions from the first meeting. I am also pleased to hear from my team that the longer discussions were useful and constructive. Please pass on my thanks to all the members of the IAB for their time and consideration.

In particular, I am grateful for their consideration of our new sustainable biomass sourcing policy and the insight and recommendations that were given. I am pleased to hear that you agree our policy is an accurate representation of the criteria laid down in the Forest Research report.

I agree that a key topic for us to explore is how science can be further developed with regards the use of small, early thinnings and small roundwood. I also agree that understanding the counter factuals in the usage of wood that has come to us is important. This is an area we have, and continue to, explore, and I would refer the IAB to a report we have published subsequent to the meeting, “Catchment Area Analysis of Forest Management and Market Trends (2019)”– which contains an independent analysis of the impact of our sourcing at our Amite pellet mill in Mississippi. The team look forward to discussing this with you at a future meeting and receiving your input to shape the next phases of this work.

I also agree the need to continuously improve our sustainability policy and seek to update it as new findings come to light, as well as ensure that the current policy is embedded into our operations. For that reason, our policy will be kept under regular review to accommodate changes in science and new evidence as it emerges. We have also committed to advancing scientific research in the areas applicable to our operations through partnerships with academic institutions and direct support for academic research.

With regards your suggestion of a restatement of the academic evidence on biomass sustainability, we shall give this interesting approach due consideration. I do believe that better alignment through a shared understanding of the evidence among the academic community, environmental groups, policy makers and industry would be a welcome development and would be grateful to the IAB for its further consideration of how this might be achieved.

I will also raise your considerations regarding the Sustainable Biomass Program (SPB) in my position a member of the SPB Board. You are correct that our new policy goes beyond SBP, and so an important work programme for us is how we demonstrate we are meeting the new policy.

Lastly, I welcome the addition of two interim telephone calls which will help to keep momentum between the half yearly meetings and will support us as we develop our policy, research and implementation projects further. Thank you for this commitment.

As the work of the IAB progresses, I look forward to hearing how you believe Drax can best build the evidence required to demonstrate that we are sourcing according to the best available science. As the world’s largest biomass consumer it is important that we lead by example. This means not only having a world leading biomass sustainability policy in place, but also the data and evidence available to give all our stakeholders the confidence that we are fulfilling our purpose of enabling a zero carbon, lower cost energy future.

Thank you once again for your participation and expertise.

Yours,

 

 

 

 

 

Will Gardiner

Group CEO

View/download the PDF version here

Will Gardiner’s Drax carbon negative ambition remarks at COP25

Will Gardiner at Powering Past Coal Alliance event in the UK Pavilion at COP25 in Madrid

Thank you very much Nick, it’s a pleasure to be here in Madrid. My name is Will Gardiner and I am the CEO of the Drax Group. We have been proud members of the Powering Past Coal Alliance for a year now, but our journey beyond coal began more than a decade ago, when we realised that we had a responsibility to our communities, our shareholders and our colleagues to be part of the solution to the escalating climate crisis.

And so at Drax we did something that many believed wasn’t possible and began to replace coal generation with sustainable, renewable biomass.

With the right support and commitment from successive UK ministers, and through the ingenuity of our people, within a decade we transformed into Europe’s largest decarbonisation project and its biggest source of renewable power – generating 12% of the UK’s renewable electricity last year while reducing our carbon emissions by more than 80% since 2012.

We have reduced our emissions, we believe, more than any other energy company in the world and we have enabled a just transition for thousands of UK workers who began their career in coal but will end it by producing renewable, flexible and low carbon power for 13 million British homes.

But as the climate crisis intensifies and the clock counts down, we can’t stand still. So today I am pleased to share our new ambition: to move beyond carbon neutrality, to achieve something that nobody has before, and become the world’s first carbon negative company by 2030.

By applying carbon capture and storage technology to our bioenergy generation we can become the first company in the world to remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than we produce, while continuing to produce about 5% of the UK’s overall electricity needs.

As the IPCC and UK government’s Committee on Climate Change make clear – negative emissions are vital if we are to limit the earth’s temperature rise to 1.5 degrees.

At Drax we can be the first company to produce negative emissions at scale, helping to arrest climate change and redefining what is possible in the transition beyond coal.

If we are to defeat the climate crisis we must do it in a way that unlocks jobs and economic growth, unleashes entrepreneurial spirit and leaves nobody behind. The UK is unrivalled in decarbonising in this way. We are second to none in deploying renewables like offshore wind and bioenergy, which have transformed lives and our post-industrial communities.

We need to apply a similar framework to Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage as made offshore wind so successful. Fundamentally, an effective strategic partnership of government and the private sector was critical. The government provided support and an effective carbon tax regime. With confidence in that regulatory framework, many businesses provided investment and innovation. As a result, offshore wind has grown from less than 600 megawatts (MW) of installed capacity in 2008 to more than 8,000 MW in 2018 — an increase of more than 13 times in 10 years to produce 7.5% of the UK’s electricity.

At the same time, the cost of that electricity has declined from £114/MWh in 2015 to £39/MWh in 2019, the latter being a cost that will make offshore wind viable without subsidy. With government support and an effective regulatory regime to give the private sector the confidence to invest and innovate, bioenergy with carbon capture and storage will trace that same path. At the same time, investing in this technology will both save lots of existing jobs and create many next generation green technology jobs.

That is why we have founded, along with Equinor and National Grid, Zero Carbon Humber, to work with the government to bring carbon capture and storage infrastructure to the northeast of the UK. We can save 55,000 existing heavy industry jobs, while capturing as much as 30 million tons of CO2 per year. At the same time we will create a new industry and also the infrastructure for a new hydrogen economy to take our decarbonisation further.

By creating the right conditions for bioenergy with carbon capture and storage to flourish, Britain can continue to benefit – socially, economically and environmentally from being at the vanguard of the fight against climate change.

And at the same time, it is our ambition at Drax to play a major role in that fight by becoming the first carbon negative company.

Thank you

Read the press release: Drax sets world-first ambition to become carbon negative by 2030

Photo caption: Will Gardiner at Powering Past Coal Alliance event in the UK Pavilion at COP25 in Madrid. Click to view/download.

Learn more about carbon capture, usage and storage in our series:

Laying down the pathway to carbon capture in a net zero UK

Humber bridge

The starting gun has fired and the challenge is underway. The government has officially set 2050 as the target year in which the UK will achieve carbon neutrality.

There’s no denying this economy-wide transformation will need a great deal of investment. Reaching net zero carbon emissions will require an evolutionary overhaul of not just Great Britain’s electricity system but the UK economy as a whole. And indeed, the way we live our lives and go about our business.

But that doesn’t mean it’s out of reach. Instead it will fall to technologies such as carbon capture usage and storage (CCUS), as well as bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), to make it economical and possible.

The secret to making decarbonisation affordable

The UK’s Committee on Climate Change (CCC) estimates the price of decarbonisation will cost as little as 1% of forecast GDP per annum in 2050.

However, the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Select Committee inquiry found that failure to deploy CCUS and BECCS technology could double the cost to 2%. There are a number of reasons for this, such as the cost to jobs, productivity and living standards of shutting down industrial emitters. CCUS’s ability to contribute to a hydrogen economy can help avoid this.

Moreover, the CCC claims even with industries striving to decarbonise rapidly, as much as 100 megatonnes of hard-to-abate carbon dioxide (CO2) is expected to remain in the UK economy by 2050.

This makes carbon negative techniques and technologies, such as BECCS – which uses woody biomass that has absorbed carbon in its lifetime as forests – alongside direct air capture (DAC), the boosting of ocean plant productivity, much greater tree planting and better sequestration of carbon in soil, essential if the UK is to attain true carbon neutrality.

The importance of BECCS and CCUS in the zero carbon future is clear. Now is the time for rapid development. Not in 2030, not in 2040, but today in 2019 and into the 2020s.

But doing this requires the government to move beyond its historic policies that have failed to support the technology in the past. Progress needs long-term frameworks that provide private sector investors with the certainty they need to kick-start the commercial-scale deployment of CCUS technologies.

Laying down the tracks to negative emissions  

For carbon capture to become an integrated part of the energy system it must deliver value well beyond the energy sector. Establishing markets for products developed from captured carbon will play a role here, but to set the wheels in motion, financial frameworks are needed that can allow BECCS and CCUS to thrive.

One device that can allow the market to develop CCUS is the creation of contracts for difference (CfDs) for carbon capture. These currently exist in the low-carbon generation space, between generators and the government-owned Low Carbon Contracts Company (LCCC). Through these contracts, power generators are paid the difference between their cost of generating low carbon electricity (known as a strike price) and the price of electricity in Great Britain’s wholesale power market. If the power price in the market is higher than the strike price generators pay the difference back to the LCCC, meaning consumers are protected from price spikes too.

It means that the generator is protected from market volatility or big drops in the wholesale price of power, offering the security to invest in new technology. More than this, CfDs last many years meaning they transcend political cycles and the cost per megawatt can be reduced with a longer contract. Creating a market for carbon capture or negative emissions generation could offer the same security to generators to invest in the technology.

A CfD for BECCS should not only incentivise the building of infrastructure to capture carbon, but we must also recognise the valuable role that negative emissions can play. By compensating BECCS producers for their negative emissions, it should provide a lower cost alternative to reducing all other CO2 emissions to zero, while still ensuring that the UK can get to net zero.

Beyond installing carbon capture at existing generation sites, one of the major financial barriers to the wider deployment of CCUS and BECCS is the cost and liability associated with transporting and storing captured carbon.

A Regulated Asset Base (RAB) funding model, would encourage investment by gradually recovering the costs of transport and storage via a regulated return. This approach is currently under consideration as a means of financing other major infrastructure projects.

A RAB allows businesses, including investment and pension funds, to invest in projects under the oversight of a government regulator. In exchange for their commitment, investors can collect a fee through regular consumer and non-domestic bills.

Led by industry; guided by government

Ultimately, the current carbon trading system is based around charging polluters. But as we approach a post-coal UK and in order to achieve net zero, it’s necessary for this to evolve – from economically disincentivising emissions to incentivising carbon-negative power generation.

However, with the cost of carbon capture and negative emissions differing between types of industries and technologies, there’s a requirement to consider differentiated carbon prices to guide industry through long-term strategy. But the need for carbon capture development is too pressing for us as an industry to wait.

At Drax Power Station our BECCS pilot is just the beginning of our wider ambitions to become the first negative emissions power station. Our use of biomass already makes Drax Power Station the largest generator of renewable electricity in Great Britain. The responsibly-managed working forests our suppliers source from absorbed carbon from the atmosphere as they grew so adding carbon capture at scale to this supply chain can turn our operation from low carbon, to carbon-neutral and eventually carbon negative.

And we have bigger plans still to create a net zero carbon industrial cluster in the Humber region, in partnership with Equinor and National Grid. The cluster would deliver carbon capture at the scale needed to not just decarbonise the most carbon-intensive industrial region in the UK, but to put the country at the forefront of the decarbonisation of industry and manufacturing.

Government action is needed to make CCUS and BECCS economically sustainable at scale as an integrated part of our energy system. However, the onus is on us, the energy industry to lead development and act as trusted partners that can deliver the decarbonisation needed to reach net zero carbon by 2050.

Learn more about carbon capture, usage and storage in our series: