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In this video from the University of Cambridge, experts examine how the UK can keep the lights on while cutting emissions through new technology as well as behavioural change
The City made a snap judgment that Drax boss Dorothy Thompson had been stitched up over subsidies for biomass, but it is not inevitable that the power producer will lose out
Chief executive welcomes government decision that sends her share price down 15%. Strange as it sounds, that’s an accurate report of events today at Drax, the dirty power producer that aspires to be cleaner.
Dorothy Thompson, responding to the new regime for subsidies for biomass burners, was a model of enthusiasm. She appreciated the government’s extensive work in promoting sustainably sourced fuels. She expressed confidence that Drax, currently concentrated in coal, could switch within five years to become a predominately biomass fuelled plant. And she confirmed the group intends to spend £650m-£700m pursuing the ambition.
Cue a slump in the share price as the City made a snap judgment that Thompson had been stitched up. The subsidy structure wasn’t what it had been expecting. Nothing like. The government will incentivise full conversion to biomass of individual generating units; the previous guess was that partial conversion across a whole plant would be rewarded. The market spied lower subsidies for Drax and the share price fell an astonishing 25% in early trading.
But Thompson’s relaxed stance looks justified. It is not inevitable that Drax will lose out at all. Its old plan envisaged that its huge plant in Yorkshire would fire coal and biomass in a roughly even split. The revised version sees full conversion of three of six generating units. The financial outcome should be much the same since Drax reckons it has already conquered the technological challenge of full conversion to biomass. The limiting factor is infrastructure to convert peanut husks and the like into burnable biomass pellets and bring them to Yorkshire – but that was true before today and remains so.
The only real disadvantage for Drax via the new subsidy structure is loss of optionality, as financiers put it. Once a unit is converted to biomass it won’t be converted back, so there’s no fun to be had in calculating the coal versus biomass trade-off. But that’s a minor point. The market panicked about almost nothing.
The convictions of campaigners in Drax case are now in doubt, but what was Mark Kennedy doing during the protest?
Coming under the spotlight at the moment is a second case of activists who may have been wrongly convicted.
Starmer disclosed that the convictions may be unsafe as a senior prosecutor may have withheld from the trial evidence about Mark Kennedy, the undercover policeman who infiltrated the environmental movement for seven years.
Kennedy is understood to have infiltrated the group of activists who were convicted at the Drax protest. He appears to have helped with a reconnaissance mission and later drove some campaigners to a rendezous.
Any more information which sheds light on what Kennedy did during the Drax protest would be appreciated. It would be interesting to know what discussions took place between Kennedy and his handlers about whether to disrupt the protest, as the spy apparently knew what was going to happen.
The Drax case mirrors in many ways the case of the activists who were wrongly convicted over the plot to occupy the Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station in 2009. The convictions of the Ratcliffe activists were quashed at the court of appeal as police and prosecutors had failed to disclose vital evidence gathered by Kennedy.
As the Drax trial is now coming under renewed focus, we have gathered together a series of Guardian articles on the protest and the court case.
This is one of the first articles from June 2008 on how climate change campaigners had ambushed a train carrying coal to the Drax power station, Britain’s biggest, along with an audio report and a video.
Here’s another article on how the campaigners stopped the train and shovelled its contents onto the line into the plant.
The trial started in June 2009 and here is a report on how the campaigners were accused of planning to “misuse” the court process to continue their protest on global warming.
Here and here are another two articles from the trial on how the protesters managed to argue that they were acting justifiably to prevent harmful emissions from Drax, despite repeated warnings from the judge that the jury was only concerned with whether they had stopped and boarded the train.
Here’s another article on the defence mounted by the protesters.
Here is a statement from defendant Jonathan Stevenson to sum up the protesters’ defence
Here is an article on the verdict. Commenting afterwards, Rob Turnbull, the chief crown prosecutor for North Yorkshire, said :”While the CPS [crown prosecution service] respects the rights of individuals to lawfully protest, it takes a serious view of criminal activity which targets those carrying out lawful activities.”
Here is an article on the sentences handed down by the judge.
After the conviction, commentator George Monbiot hailed the activists as “heroes” who had “given up their time and risked imprisonment to show us where responsbility for the climate crisis lies”.