The power supply implication of the EU Renewable Energy Directive mandating 15% of all energy, is that 30% of UK electricity should come from renewables by 2020.One manifestation of the focus on renewables was the conversion of one 645 MWe unit of the Drax coal-fired power plant to burn biomass, mainly imported wood pellets, for a guaranteed power price of £105/MWh.Power reactors operating in the UK Most AGR units are running at significantly less than original or design capacity In the UK reactor life extensions are decided on commercial grounds by the owners in the context of 10-year safety reviews of all reactors undertaken by the Office for Nuclear Regulation, which in any case will shut down any plant considered unsafe.EDF Energy is planning life extensions averaging eight years for the AGR units and announced a seven-year life extension for Hinkley Point and Hunterston in November 2012 and a five-year extension for Hartlepool in November 2013.Drax is seen to be the biggest single loser from the removal of the Climate Change Levy exemption for renewables in August 2015.
This left seven twin-unit AGR stations and one PWR, all owned and operated by a subsidiary of France's EDF called EDF Energy.
There are plans for a new fleet of nuclear power stations, including at Wylfa and Moorside.
It also means exploring new opportunities like small modular reactors, which hold the promise of low cost, low carbon energy." This was reinforced in July 2017 with the National Grid’s update of Future Energy Scenarios.
However, in April 2014 the second unit converted to biomass was denied similar investment contract support, leaving it to recoup costs from Renewables Obligation Certificates (at 0.9 ROC/MWh; the average ROC price in May 2014 was about £41.70) plus the wholesale power price – about £50/MWh. However, the government offered an investment contract with price guarantee for the third Drax unit (see also UK section in the Energy Subsidies information paper).
Each Drax unit burning biomass uses about 4 million tonnes of imported wood pellets per year.