Fact checker: Will Drax's gas conversion blow the UK’s carbon budget?

The claim: Replacing Drax’s two remaining coal units with four natural gas turbines “is asking the public to face a carbon budget blowout”, according to ClientEarth

The reality: The amount of carbon actually emitted would depend on several variables, but the plan would in any case represent extra emissions

The government approved Drax’s 3.6-gigawatt gas-conversion plans, estimated to almost double the plant’s carbon emissions, against planning examiners’ advice in October.

ClientEarth criticised the decision, saying the government predicted the UK would need 6GW of new gas capacity by 2035, whereas 15GW has already been approved. It predicted the project would release far more carbon than the UK’s 2050 net zero emissions target would permit.

But estimating the plant’s actual emissions is difficult as its running time would be influenced by energy prices, weather, rollout of ever-cheaper renewables and decarbonisation policy.

Drax Group claims the plant would displace more polluting ones, while providing backup for intermittent renewable generation. A 200-megawatt bank of batteries would also make it far more responsive to demand.

Drax said the projected carbon emissions it was required to provide in the application were based on the turbines running at full load continuously. “In real life this is unlikely to happen,” it said.

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