Page last updated at 13:15 GMT, Thursday, 1 July 2010 14:15 UK

Drax calls for greater government support for biomass

Drax Power Station, Selby, North Yorkshire
Drax wants to fully convert from coal to biomass

Europe's biggest coal-fired power plant, Drax near Selby, has said a lack of government support is hampering its plans to cut carbon emissions.

Drax Group wants to convert one of six coal generators at the North Yorkshire plant to run on biomass fuel alone.

Biomass consists of agricultural residue and crops such as willow and elephant grass.

The company claims current renewable energy subsidies make biomass two to three times more expensive than coal.

It is currently capable of generating about 500 megawatts of electricity from biomass, co-fired with coal, and has plans to build three further 290 megawatt biomass plants.

Converting one of the conventional coal-fired burners to biomass would significantly reduce carbon emissions, according to Drax production director Peter Emery.

'Political support'

This would be a significant financial investment as would the company's long-term aim of completely converting to biomass generation.

Chief executive Dorothy Thompson said that these plans were reliant on a change in the amount of political support given to biomass.

She said: "The problem is that we are prone to policy changes every few years because in the current framework there are no long-term policy provisions like we have in the offshore wind sector, and that is a huge risk for potential investors."

Under Britain's renewable energy support scheme, the Renewables Obligation (RO), the amount of renewable energy that can come from burning biomass instead of coal is capped.

Drax has called for Britain to increase its support for biomass power generation, arguing that the source was flexible, plentiful and, with government support, could become economical.

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