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EGEB: Why is the UK building the largest gas power plant in Europe?

In today’s Electrek Green Energy Brief (EGEB):

  • The UK is hosting the COP26 in Glasgow and leading on climate change efforts. Why the big gas plant?
  • Meanwhile, the President of the European Investment Bank declares that “gas is over.’
  • UnderstandSolar is a free service that links you to top-rated solar installers in your region for personalized solar estimates. Tesla now offers price matching, so it’s important to shop for the best quotes. Click here to learn more and get your quotes. — *ad.

New UK gas plant

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson released his 10-point plan for a “green industrial revolution” in November. So why would the country plan for Europe’s largest gas power station?

The UK is developing a 3.6 GW natural gas plant in Drax in North Yorkshire. Lawyers for ClientEarth, which legally challenged the UK government’s approval of the plant on the grounds that it breaches the government’s planning and climate change recommendations, say it could account for 75% of the UK’s power sector emissions when fully operational.

Their challenge failed in the court of appeal. In 2019, the Planning Inspectorate recommended that ministers refuse permission. Andrea Leadsom, the secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy at the time of the planning application, approved the project anyway in October 2019. The high court rejected ClientEarth’s initial legal challenge in May 2020.

Representatives from the courts argued that major UK energy projects should not be rejected on climate grounds under the current planning frameworks, reports

ClientEarth said in a statement that this justification allows decision-makers to ‘hide behind planning policy to justify business-as-usual approvals of highly polluting projects.’ However, the organization will not be escalating the case to the Supreme Court.

Greenpeace UK’s director of policy Doug Parr said:

The government must U-turn and halt climate-wrecking projects, while the onus is also on Drax to do the right thing and take this project off the table.

Drax will need to secure a capacity market contract from the government before starting construction. Proceeding also depends on Drax’s investment decisions. Watch this space.

EU bank chief declares gas ‘over’

Meanwhile, there’s a very different dialogue going on on the Continent about natural gas.

The European Investment Bank (EIB) has committed to stop financing fossil fuel projects by 2021. And at a press conference on the EIB’s annual results, EIB president Dr Werner Hoyer said on Wednesday:

To put it mildly, gas is over.

This is a serious departure from the past, but without the end to the use of unabated fossil fuels, we will not be able to reach the climate targets.

The EU previously said in May 2020 that gas would be needed to help coal-reliant countries transition to clean energy, so the EIB’s commitment is going to impact that previous declaration in May.

Euractiv reports:

Under their climate bank road map published in 2020, the EIB plans to use 50% of its activity to support climate and environmental sustainability, unlocking €1 trillion for green funding by 2030. It will also ensure that all activity is aligned with the Paris Agreement.

The UK is no longer eligible for EIB funding as a result of Brexit. The UK has plans for a national investment bank for spring of 2021.

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Avatar for Michelle Lewis Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in St. Petersburg, Florida. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at Check out her personal blog.