Campaigners have handed a petition signed by more than 96,000 people to energy secretary Greg Clark urging him to block plans by Drax to replace the last two coal units at its power station in Yorkshire with combined-cycle gas turbines.

The petition was accompanied by an open letter signed by 92 organisations including Biofuelwatch and multiple local branches of Frack Free and Friends of the Earth. The letter also calls for Drax to be prevented from bidding for capacity market contracts for the turbines.

“Drax is already the UK’s single largest emitter of carbon dioxide,” the letter states. “Its power station causes serious harm to the climate and the environment by burning more coal than any other UK plant and more wood than any other plant in the world…

“With the UK government demanding a coal phase-out by 2025, Drax now wants to build the UK’s largest ever gas power units and is asking for substantial new subsidies, in addition to the £2 million a day it is already receiving for burning wood.”

It continues: “The future of Drax power station may hinge on it receiving planning consent and these subsidies for new gas. Without them, the power station may no longer be profitable and have to close.

“This would reduce the UK’s carbon emissions, save biodiverse forests and protect communities from air pollution.”

The documents were submitted to coincide with the end of the Planning Inspectorate’s public examination of the project which closes today (4 March). Clark now has until 4 October to decide whether to grant a development consent order for the coal-to-gas conversion.

Duncan Law from Biofuelwatch said: “The UK does not need this gas capacity even according to government projections. Drax are very good at extracting subsidies and if they get planning permission will be burning gas until 2047.

“This will cross-subsidise the continued burning of climate damaging biomass long into the future. Drax’s vast gas plans must not go ahead.”

Commenting on the completion of the Planning Inspectorate’s examination, Drax Power chief executive Andy Koss said: “Building modern, high efficiency gas power stations will enable an ageing, less efficient plant to close, reducing emissions and supplying the reliable and flexible power needed to provide vital system support services.”

Drax is planning to install 3.6GW of gas generation and up to 200MW of battery storage at the power station.

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