Drax’s plans can help the next Government deliver UK energy security

The UK has decarbonised its energy system at a quicker rate than any other country, but having done ‘the easy bit’ and with demand for electricity forecast to increase by 50% by 2035, we are now at an inflection point.

Additionally, leading thinktank Public First’s research shows that in 2028 the UK is on course to hit an energy security “crunch point” – with peak demand predicted to exceed secure dispatchable and baseload capacity by 7.5GW.

This is due to delays in bringing new generation on to the system, anticipated increased demand for power, and aging assets, including coal, nuclear and gas, coming off the electricity grid.

That means to deliver energy security, meet rising demand for power and to reach binding net zero targets, including the 5th and 6th carbon budgets, the next government needs to go further and faster.

This year marks half a century that Drax has been powering the UK and contributing to security of supply. Today, the flexible, dispatchable power that our assets in North Yorkshire and Scotland produce keep the lights on when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine.

Drax Power Station, the UK’s largest single-source of renewable electricity, powers 4 million homes. In Scotland, Cruachan Power Station and our other hydro power sites provide the grid flexibility, reduce the need for curtailment payments to wind farms and help meet the demand for energy.

In total our business delivers about 4% of the UK’s electricity and 8% of its renewable power.

Subject to getting the right policy support, we stand ready to invest billions to deliver carbon removals and renewable power using bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) at Drax and more than double the pumped hydro storage capacity at Cruachan.

Completing these projects will mean we can play a vital long-term role in providing secure power to the country and supporting the next government in meeting the goal of a decarbonised grid by 2030 or 2035. Without Drax’s assets delivering these targets will be extremely challenging.

Our plans for BECCS and the expansion at Cruachan will also reduce the country’s exposure to commercially volatile and imported fossil fuels, enhance our national security and create and support thousands of jobs during construction.

But to realise this potential, the next government must prioritise and speed up implementing the support required to unlock the investment for these major infrastructure projects.

To deliver the first pumped storage hydro power stations in the UK for decades, including the Cruachan expansion, we need to see a cap and floor mechanism implemented. This would provide an investment framework to reduce risks for investors while at the same time encouraging operators of the new storage facilities to respond to system needs.

And all large-scale biomass generators planning to transition to BECCS need the certainty of a bridging mechanism to maintain their flexible, dispatchable renewable power between the end of the current renewable support and BECCS operations starting.

The carbon removals BECCS can deliver are recognised by the world’s leading climate scientists, including the UN’s IPCC and the UK’s CCC, as crucial to almost all pathways to reach net zero and fighting climate change. The carbon credits produced through BECCS can be purchased by companies with emissions that are hard or impossible to abate providing a pathway for them to permanently remove carbon from the atmosphere.

Energy security, jobs and skills and net zero should go hand in hand and we want to work with the next Government to swiftly implement these policies. Doing so will give new ministers the best chance possible to maintain progress on decarbonising the UK’s energy system while ensuring there is sufficient, secure capacity to meet the country’s energy needs without relying on foreign fossil fuels.

Learn more about how Drax supports the UK energy system here.

Track-1 expansion process update

As part of the update, DESNZ set out its draft expectation to run the Track-1 extension and Track-2 processes in parallel, subject to T&S capacity and ministerial sign off. Following the designation of the Viking CCS cluster as a Track-2 cluster in July 2023, there are now two potential routes which could support the Drax Power Station BECCS project and wider CCS in the Humber region by 2030 – the East Coast Cluster and Viking CCS cluster.

DESNZ also set out an indicative timeline that shortlisted projects would commence negotiations from Autumn 2024. DESNZ will now receive feedback on its draft proposals pending further updates and the publication of final guidance in due course.

Will Gardiner, Drax CEO, said:

“The Government’s statements are a helpful step forward not just for BECCS in the UK, but for the wider fight against climate change. We can only reach net zero by investing in critical, new green technologies such as BECCS. I welcome the Government’s draft position and urge them to progress with both Track-1 expansion and Track-2 processes in parallel this winter”.

Separately, in August 2023 the UK Government published a Biomass Strategy which set out its position on the use of biomass in the UK’s plans for delivering net zero. The Biomass Strategy outlined the potential “extraordinary” role which biomass can play across the economy in power, heating and transport, including a priority role for BECCS, which is seen as critical for meeting net zero plans due to its ability to provide large-scale carbon dioxide removals. This is in addition to formal bilateral discussions between Drax and the Government in relation to a potential bridging mechanism between the end of the current renewable schemes in 2027 and the commissioning of BECCS at Drax Power Station.


Drax Investor Relations:
Mark Strafford
+44 (0) 7730 763 949


Drax External Communications:
Aidan Kerr
+44 (0) 0784 909 0368

Website: www.Drax.com