Drax Group, owner of the UK’s largest power station, is providing two months of free energy to small care homes during the coronavirus outbreak.
The 170 care homes to benefit are small businesses based in Yorkshire and the Humber, East Anglia, Scotland, Wales and Northampton. They’re all supplied by Drax Group subsidiaries and B2B suppliers Opus Energy and Haven Power.
The selected care homes will receive letters informing them that two months of their gas and electricity bills have been cancelled.
Will Gardiner, CEO of the FTSE 250 company, said: “We’re working hard to offer more support to our customers and communities during this crisis. Care homes are critically important—they do incredible work looking after some of the most vulnerable people in our communities and we know this pandemic is putting them under immense pressure.
“As a gesture of appreciation for the excellent work these businesses are doing, we’re cancelling their energy bills for a couple of months.”
The care home initiative is part of £636,000 support packageDrax has pledged to assist customers and communities during the pandemic. Drax is also donating £150,000 to the Money Advice Trust’s Business Debtline, a charity giving free advice and support to small businesses and self-employed people experiencing financial difficulties.
Drax will allow other business customers adversely impacted by the coronavirus lockdown to reduce or defer their energy bills. Businesses coming to the end of their energy contract and being rolled onto monthly plans will also have their rates frozen for three months.
Drax has also invested £250,000 in 853 new laptops, loaded with three months of pre-paid internet, which it is distributing to local schools in North Yorkshire, so students can continue their education during the lockdown.
The group has estimated that the COVID-19 lockdown will cost it £60 million but it remains “in a strong position to support its employees, business customers and communities during the Covid-19 crisis while continuing to generate returns for shareholders,” Gardiner said.
Last year, Drax Group committed to becoming a carbon-negative business by 2030. To do so, it has converted four of the six generating units at its flagship Selby plant from burning coal to burning biomass. The remaining two units will stop burning coal by March 2021, three years ahead of the governments’ 2024 deadline for phasing out the fossil fuel.
However, environmental campaigners have questioned whether the use of biomass is genuinely sustainable, arguing that forests are being cut down and replaced with tree farms to sustain the supply of wood pellets required for biomass plants.
Drax is also facing a legal challenge to plans to build two new gas generation units at the Selby plant. In a case recently before the High Court, environmental charity ClientEarth challenged the government’s approval of the plans. ClientEarth has argued the consent was unlawful and failed to account for the development’s impact on the UK’s net-zero commitment. The judge's ruling is expected at a later date.
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