Sustainable Energy

The UK's largest power plant to stop using coal next year, with up to 230 jobs lost

Key Points
  • Coal-fired electricity production at the U.K.'s largest power plant is expected to end next March. 
  • The change will lead to between 200 and 230 job losses, energy firm Drax said Thursday. 
Steam billowing from Drax power station near Selby England
debstheleo | iStock | Getty Images

Coal-fired electricity production at the U.K.'s largest power plant is expected to end in March 2021, energy firm Drax said Thursday, with the move leading to between 200 and 230 job losses.

Drax Power Station — which is located near the town of Selby, North Yorkshire — has a capacity of 3,906 megawatts and generates approximately 18 terawatt-hours of power annually, according to the firm.

The facility has six units: four which have been converted to generate power using what Drax describes as "sustainable biomass," and two which use coal.

This shift, the company says, has resulted in carbon savings of over 80% compared to when the units were using coal.

"Ending the use of coal at Drax is a landmark in our continued efforts to transform the business and become a world-leading carbon negative company by 2030," Will Gardiner, the CEO of Drax, said in a statement.

"Stopping using coal is the right decision for our business, our communities and the environment, but it will have an impact on some of our employees, which will be difficult for them and their families," Gardiner went on to state.

The firm is to consult with trade unions and employee representatives "over the coming months" and offer support to those impacted by the changes.

While Drax said it did not expect the power station to use coal after March 2021, it added that the facility's two coal units would "remain available until September 2022 in line with its existing Capacity Market agreements."

Looking at the bigger picture, the U.K. government says it wants to remove coal from Britain's energy system by 2025. At the start of February, it announced it would consult on moving that deadline to October 1, 2024.

According to authorities, "Britain's reliance on coal for electricity has dropped from 70% in 1990 to less than 3% today."

Other European states are making moves to reduce their use of coal. In January, Germany's federal government and the four German states where lignite – or brown coal – is mined agreed to "a way forward" for the phase out of coal-fired power stations.

In an announcement at the time, the federal government said it would provide 40 billion euros (around $44 billion) to the federal states affected by the transition.

In addition, it said operators of power plants would be provided with 4.35 billion euros across the next 15 years to compensate for the shutting down of their facilities.