The coronavirus pandemic has proven to be a major ongoing challenge for both the business and health care sectors. Incomes have dropped and fixed costs continue to remain. More and more companies are providing support to NHS Trusts and employees where they can. The UK’s largest power station owner, Drax, has offered to provide two free months of business energy to small care homes during the lockdown.
Around 170 care homes based in East Anglia, Northampton, Yorkshire, Scotland, and Wales are set to benefit. These small businesses receive their supply from Drax Group subsidiaries and business-to-business suppliers Haven Power and Opus Energy. Those that have been chosen will receive notification that their gas and electric bills have been cancelled for two months.
Will Gardiner, CEO of Drax, stated: “We are 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.”
This gesture of goodwill is part of the company’s £636,000 support package. The money will support both customers and local communities affected by the global virus. Additionally, Drax has pledged to donate a further £150,000 to the Money Advice Trust’s Business Debtline. The charity provides free advice and guidance to the self-employed and small businesses who are facing financial hardship.
Furthermore, business customers of Drax that have been harshly affected by the COVID-19 lockdown will have the option to reduce and/or defer their commercial energy bills, this also includes allowing businesses that are nearing the end of their energy contract to have their rates frozen for a three month period when transferred over to a monthly plan.
Schools in North Yorkshire are also set to benefit as the company will invest £250,000 for 853 laptops, these will come with three months of pre-paid internet access to help students continue their studies outside the classroom.
The Drax Group has estimated that the virus lockdown will cost the company around £60 million, however 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.
In 2019, the company went as far as committing to becoming a carbon-negative business by 2030. This will be made possible by converting four of the six energy generating units at its main Selby plant from burning coal to burning biomass. The remaining two will no longer burn coal by March 2021.
This move hasn’t come without some level of criticism though. Environmental activists remain cautious about whether biomass usage is actually sustainable in the long term. These are valid concerns as natural forests are being cut down to then be replaced with tree farms.
The company has also recently been involved in a legal battle with environmental charity ClientEarth, after being granted permission to build two new gas generation units at its Selby plant. The charity contends that approval was unlawful and didn’t take into consideration the impact the development would have on the country’s net-zero commitment. The case is ongoing and a verdict will be given at a later date.