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In The Spotlight: Hillwalking coal chief has biomass shake-up planned for Drax Power

Dorothy Thompson

It might appear a little odd that the boss of Britain's biggest carbon emitter is an enthusiast for "green" energy, but Dorothy Thompson, the chief executive Drax, is just that.

Drax, of course, is just a giant coal-fired power plant, but Ms Thompson is busily working on plans to create three new biomass plants, and if her ideas for the company's future come to fruition, it could yet become not just Britain's biggest coal-fired electricity generator, but also its biggest renewable energy producer. Ms Thompson has even talked about the possibility of ditching coal in all of Drax's myriad of units in favour of biomass. That might be a step too far, but by June about 12 per cent of the output will be generated through biomass.

Drax might be an old traditional company in what remains quite a traditional part of the country, but Ms Thompson's approach is modern – employees use her first name, for example. When not tramping about the gargantuan site in Wellington boots (she has no fears about getting her hands dirty, and wouldn't have lasted if she had) Ms Thompson is a keen rambler and is not far off some of the best hillwalking country in England, something she has taken full advantage of.

In some quarters Ms Thompson, who is married with two children, has a reputation for being snippy. But others suggest it's more that she simply doesn't suffer fools gladly. Those who have met her say she is brisk, businesslike and personable. Yesterday, the company produced a decent enough set of results, but the share price has been heading south for some time now, and that's one trend that this graduate of the London School of Economics will be keen to see going into reverse as soon as possible.