Drax: 2016 renewable energy makes it UK’s greenest Christmas yet

By Katie Fletcher | January 12, 2017

Drax recently announced 2016 figures show that the U.K. had its greenest Christmas yet, with over 40 percent of the electricity generated on Christmas Day coming from renewable sources—the most ever for energy generation.

On average, 12.4 gigawatts (GW) of electricity generated came from green sources—63 percent more than in 2015 when just 25 percent of the electricity generated came from renewables. This is up 195 percent compared to five Christmases ago in 2012 when just 4.2 GW (or 12 percent of the energy generated) came from renewables.

A majority of the renewable energy produced on Christmas Day came from wind turbines (75 percent) with 9.4 GW generated on average—equivalent to 31 percent of all the electricity generated that day. According to Drax, this was close to the record for wind generation reached just a couple of days earlier on Friday, Dec. 23 when at its peak 10.8 GW of power was generated by wind.

These findings come from Electric Insights, a real-time dashboard of Great Britain’s electricity demand, supply, price and environmental impact, which was commissioned by Drax. Electric Insight’s figures show that biomass generation has also increased from just 0.5 GW on average on Dec. 25, 2012 to 2 GW for this past year’s Christmas.

“These Christmas figures show that the U.K. energy system really is changing,” said Andy Kloss, Drax Power CEO. “Renewables are increasingly vital to the U.K.’s energy mix as we decarbonize and move away from coal.”

This comes just shortly after the Dec. 19 announcement that the European Commission approved the U.K. government’s decision to award Drax Power a contract for difference (CfD) to upgrade the third of its six units at its power station in North Yorkshire to run on wood pellets, from coal.

Kloss stated that 3 million households are powered with renewable energy generated by Drax, since it’s upgraded half of the power station to run on wood pellets. “We provided 20 percent of the U.K.’s renewable power in the first half of 2016,” he said.

Drax is also developing plans to build four state-of the-art rapid response open cycle gas turbine power stations, which could, at the flick of a switch, be running at capacity within 10 minutes, according to Drax. The company’s hope is that these more flexible plants will provide system support to the grid and ‘plug the gaps’ created by intermittent renewables like solar and wind.

“Biomass allows for more continuous power generation than other intermittent renewables, which is important for security of supply,” Kloss said. “With the right conditions, we can do even more, converting further units at Drax to use sustainable biomass in place of coal and through rapid response gas projects to plug the gaps created by intermittent renewables.”

According to Drax, proposed rapid response gas projects would further assist in getting coal off the system, helping U.K. government achieve carbon saving targets.

“It’s important to have the right mix of energy generation to ensure we are decarbonizing, whilst also keeping the lights on and the costs down,” Kloss commented. “This is the next step for us in helping to change the way energy is generated, supplied and used for a better future.”