Government outlines biomass subsidy cap, Drax to convert fourth unit

Drax power station: Creative Commons/Paul Glazzard

Government has confirmed plans to cap the level of subsidies that power stations converted to biomass and co-firing generators can receive under the Renewables Obligation.

Drax, owner of the UK’s largest thermal plant, welcomed the news and said it would now convert another of its generators to burn biomass.

The department for business, energy and industrial strategy (Beis) said it would cap the level of Renewable Obligation Certificates (Rocs) power stations can receive for biomass conversion and co-firing, but would allow generators to use different units up to the cap.

Drax has converted three of its six units to biomass and will now convert a fourth, with the government’s rules allowing it to decide which units to operate and when while earning Rocs.

The company said it would undertake the conversion in the middle of this year and return to service before the year end. It said the conversion would be less expensive than its previous units and that it would likely operate at lower availability, running at times of peak demand.

Drax plans to complete the work on this unit as part of a planned outage in the second half of 2018, before returning to service in late 2018. The firm said the capital cost will be significantly below the level of previous conversions.

Chief executive Will Gardiner said the government’s decision “will allow us to accelerate the removal of coal from the electricity system, replacing it with flexible low carbon renewable electricity.”

Drax is also looking at gas conversion for its remaining two units, and is building four smaller gas peaking plant.

See the government consultation response here.

Related stories:

New chief at Drax as Dorothy Thompson steps down

Drax rules out domestic energy retail but keen to eat b2b suppliers’ lunch

Drax to buy business energy supplier Opus for £340m

Drax halts CCS investment seeks support for fourth biomass unit

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