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Drax energy firm defend Eye power plant following criticism from Suffolk councillor




Energy giant Drax has defended its soon-to-be constructed power plant in Eye, Suffolk, after a green campaigner warned of its “painful environmental and financial legacy”.

Planning permission for Progress Power – a £200 million gas-fired power plant at Eye Airfield – was extended by authorities last year, meaning that work must begin by August 13.

Mid Suffolk District Council explained planning permission had been extended due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with Drax confirming that it expects to begin providing energy by October 2024.

Mid-Suffolk Councillor Andrew Stringer is opposed to proposed power plant development at Eye Airfield. Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography.
Mid-Suffolk Councillor Andrew Stringer is opposed to proposed power plant development at Eye Airfield. Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography.

The plant will operate for 1,500 hours per year – around 17 per cent of the time – and only during hours of peak energy demand or when renewable energy sources are not producing optimal output due to a lack of wind or sun.

Despite this, Green Party member Andrew Stringer, who represents the Mendlesham ward on Mid Suffolk District Council, said that the UK’s focus should remain on looking for renewable supplementary energy sources, warning that the plant could become an environmental and financial burden.

He said: “Given that we have to move from a carbon-based energy system to a cleaner, renewable and energy storage-based solution, the overwhelming fear is that this plant could turn into a white elephant, with a painful environmental and financial legacy.

“Most of those people who follow the energy sector would agree that this is an expensive solution to a problem that is highly likely to not exist within the lifetime of this proposed plant.

A spokesman for Drax Group refuted the claims, insisting that the plant will support pre-existing green energy sources.

He said: “The UK’s electricity system has decarbonised at a faster rate than any other country.

“Progress Power will support further decarbonisation of the UK grid by operating for short periods of time to meet specific system support needs, enabling more wind and solar power to come online.

“As the UK transitions towards a net-zero economy, it will become increasingly dependent on wind generation and, as such, fast response system support technologies like Progress Power are increasingly important to the energy system as a means to enable more wind to run more often and more securely,” added the spokesman.

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