Dorothy Thompson will step down as chief executive of UK energy company Drax by the end of 2017 after 12 years in charge.

Drax owns the UK’s largest power station in Selby, North Yorkshire which generates 7 percent of the country’s electricity.

An environmentally-friendly outlook

Drax’s Selby power plant is now primarily biomass-fuelled thanks to Thompson who spearheaded the FTSE 250 company’s shift away from coal-fired electricity.

By championing renewable energy sources, Drax was able to qualify for more than £450m in green energy subsidies in 2015 alone.

The company is now planning to build a gas-fired power plant on the site in northern England as well as a giant battery storage facility.

Female power

Thompson, who also serves as a non-executive director of the Bank of England (BoE), is one of just a handful of female chief executives to run a large UK-listed company.

Her departure will be an unwelcome setback for top female talent represented at the executive level.

There are only ten female chief executives across the FTSE 250, according to 2017 data from the Professional Boards Forum’s Boardwatch, and six in the FTSE 100.

The road ahead

Philip Cox, chairman of Drax, praised 56-year-old Thompson for her strong leadership:

“She transformed the business during her tenure and leaves the group in a strong position with a clear strategy that lays the foundations for further success in a changing energy sector.”

Will Gardiner, currently Drax’s chief financial officer, will take over as the company’s chief executive from January 1.

“I am thrilled to be appointed as group chief executive at this exciting time for Drax. The changes we are seeing in the UK energy sector are unprecedented and we have an opportunity to thrive while doing the right thing for the UK energy market,” he said.

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In November 2016, the UK government announced that the last coal power station in Britain will be forced to close in 2025.

“I retire knowing the group is in excellent shape: it has the right strategy, the right team and in Will, the right leader,” said Thompson on Thursday.


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