June 14, 2013 10:31 pm

Dorothy Thompson managing shift to sustainable fuel

Dorothy Thompson, who becomes a Commander of the British empire in the Queen’s birthday honours, is one of the few women at the top of the UK energy sector.

As chief executive of Drax, she is at the cutting edge of efforts to reduce CO2 emissions from Britain’s energy system. Drax, which owns and operates a coal-fired power station in North Yorkshire, is switching its feedstock from coal to biomass, a crucial move if the UK is to hit renewable energy targets.

But the shift has put Ms Thompson in conflict with environmentalists. Drax says the wood pellets it will be burning to generate electricity are a sustainable, low-carbon resource: but green groups say the growth of the biomass industry could lead to the destruction of biodiverse forests, as land is taken up for tree plantations.

With a BSc and MSc in economics from the London School of Economics, Ms Thompson initially worked in banking. Her first experience of the power-generation industry came while she was working for CDC, the UK government’s development finance institution, which funded an independent energy project in the Philippines.

She later joined Powergen PLC as assistant group treasurer and in 1998 moved to InterGen, the power-generation subsidiary of Shell and Bechtel, where she was responsible for managing and operating four gas-fired power plants in the UK and the Netherlands. She moved to Drax in 2005.

Ms Thompson said she was “truly thrilled” to receive the CBE and said she was accepting it not only for herself but on behalf of Drax. “My achievements are a reflection of the teamwork and dedication across the company,” she said.

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