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Page last updated at 14:56 GMT, Friday, 9 July 2010 15:56 UK

Who pays the extra cost for Yorkshire's green energy?

Len Tingle
Editor, Politics Show for Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and the North Midlands

Piles of willow at Drax Power station in North Yorkshire

Yorkshire and Lincolnshire farmers are growing willow for Europe's biggest power station but can it afford to burn this greener fuel instead of cheaper coal?

The Yorkshire operator of Europe's biggest coal-fired power station says it needs government cash to be greener.

Drax, near Selby in North Yorkshire, produces around 12% electricity by burning "biomass".

Coal is half the cost of the willow, straw and other crops which are used as "biomass".

Drax plans the boost its use of the cleaner renewable fuels but says it must have a subsidy from the tax payer.

Coal giant

Built in the 1970s and extended as recently as the 1980s, Drax produces 7% of the entire electricity needs of the UK. At maximum output it burns 36,000 tons of coal a day.

That also makes it one of the biggest producers of Carbon Dioxide in Europe.

When biomass burns it creates less than half the amount of carbon dioxide as a similar amount of coal.

The plant has been burning increasing amounts of biomass for the past decade and has cut its coal use by a million tons a year.

Even greener - at a price

It is now gearing up to use far more biomass.

At the end of June 2010 it finished a new biomass handling centre which should allow it to store and process enough of the material to reduce its use of coal by more than a third.

It also has plans to build three smaller power stations which are designed to run completely on biomass.

In 2009 the company warned that it could not afford to continue burning biomass without a subsidy in place. That agreement is due to be reviewed in the autumn of 2010.

See the full report on the Politics Show for Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and the North Midlands on BBC1 at 11:00 BST, 11th July.

Support needed for 'green' energy
01 Jul 10 |  North Yorkshire
Concern over Drax bio-mass plants
19 Feb 10 |  North Yorkshire
Drax Group announces profit fall
23 Feb 10 |  North Yorkshire
In video: Paul Hudson at Drax
27 Nov 09 |  People and Places

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