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Delivering a low-carbon future isn’t just good business sense: It’s vital for the future of the planet. The moves of one firm, Drax, to draw down its reliance on coal-fired power generation in the UK helped propel its CEO and chairperson, Will Gardiner, into our list of 100 People Transforming Business in Europe in 2020.
In a previous interview with Insider, Gardiner revealed that March 2021 would be the month Drax Power Station discontinued its 50-year reliance on coal. It was a significant step for a company that had made its name and its reputation on a single fuel source. It was one that Gardiner, who stepped into the CEO role in early 2018, was brought in to shepherd. And it was one that could have been a difficult decision for other businesses who worried solely about the bottom line.
Yet that didn’t happen. The no-coal landmark was achieved on time, Mike Maudsley, Drax Group’s UK portfolio generation director said, and is “a milestone in the history of our company and in our journey to becoming a carbon negative business.”
It’s the culmination of a broader shift by Drax to try and go green. “Over the last decade Drax Power Station has transformed itself to become the largest decarbonization project in Europe by converting four of its generating units to use sustainable biomass instead of coal,” Maudsley said.
In 2012, the plant was emitting 23 million tons of carbon from a 100% coal fuel stock. By 2020, they had reduced carbon emissions by 85%, to just 3.1 million tons. “Drax generates clean and reliable renewable electricity for millions of homes and businesses across the UK but we’re not stopping there,” Maudsley said.
The company now has ambitions to not just be carbon neutral, but carbon negative. By 2030, the company plans to remove more carbon than it uses, achieved by developing carbon capture and storage technology. The company has run two pilots, showing how carbon dioxide can be captured from a feedstock made up entirely of biomass. They call the technology bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, or BECCS for short.
It’s a method of extracting bioenergy from biomass, then capturing and storing the carbon, removing it from the atmosphere where it can wreak havoc. “Our aim is to deliver our first BECCS unit by 2027, taking millions of tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere and safely storing it under the seabed,” Maudsley said. “Earlier this month we kickstarted the planning process for our proposals to build our first BECCS units, putting us in a position to commence building work as soon as 2024, creating thousands of jobs and supporting a post covid economic recovery.”
It’s all part of a widespread recognition by industry leaders that the future of energy needs to be different than the past. The drive towards renewable energy around the world is being seen in a number of different industries, but many companies in the energy sector – and those who supply it upstream – are more important than ever in leading by example.
The goal of Drax is to take the lead on these principles, including shunning the fuel source that has made its name, and redrawing the energy map to ensure a more equitable, environmentally sound future for the planet. And change is coming – fast.
“The next decade is going to be one of major transformation and innovation across the energy sector,” Maudsley said. “The technologies which are good for the environment are also good for the economy, because by investing in the green technologies needed in a net zero future, we are supporting our communities, creating jobs, and boosting skills and employability, whilst enabling other sectors of the economy to decarbonize.”
The company points to initiatives like Zero Carbon Humber, which aims to reduce the carbon output of the UK’s most carbon-intensive industrial cluster by swapping out old fuel sources for clean energy alternatives like hydrogen, industrial carbon capture, and negative emissions from BECCS.
It’s all part of Drax’s contribution towards the UK’s net zero carbon targets, which the country hopes to achieve by the year 2050. Looking back 30 years ago, when Drax Power Station was solely powered by coal, the idea of a zero carbon future would likely have seemed outlandish. And yet in 30 years’ time, the company once most closely associated with coal has achieved some of the most drastic green energy benchmarks in the industry.
Originally published at https://www.businessinsider.com/ceo-of-drax-shares-how-the-company-reduced-its-carbon-emissions-by-85-percent-2021-4 on .