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LowCost Electricity

  • Littlebrook Power Station Closes Down

    The end of an era for Littlebrook Power station has been announced. The station was officially closed down on March 31st after being in service for decades, the station’s owners announced recently.

    The station, which is based in Kent, was not part of the Large Combustion Plant Directive, which meant that is was scheduled for closure either in 2015, or after it had been in service for more than 10,000 hours.

    German company RWE Generation, who own the Littlebrook Power Station, said they made the decision to close it down this year because of “current market conditions”.

    The plant was the last significant non-gas fired station in the Greater London area to be closed down; it has been operating since the 1980s and construction work began on it in the 1970s.

    RWE Generation says that during the stations life span, it provided 43475.699 GWh of power to fuel both homes and businesses in the local area. The owners of the station also pride themselves on the links they forged with the local community.

    Commenting on the announcement, Roger Miesen, Chief Technical Officer (CTO), RWE Generation, said:

    “Today is a sad but not unexpected day. I’d like to pay tribute to this station and the people that have worked here helping to keep the lights on across London for so many years.”

    While Keven Nix, Head of RWE Generation UK, said:

    “I would like to thank all of our staff past and present who have contributed to the success of the station, we are also grateful to the local community for their continuous support during the life of the plant.”

    Miners’ Strike

    During its lifetime, Littlebrook Power Station set some records for producing electricity. This was during the 1980s miners’ strike, when the power station was operating as a three unit station to keep the electric flowing to local residents and businesses.

    Peak Demands

    The Littlebrook Power Station has also proved crucial when it comes to meeting the growing demands for energy, providing power during peak times in the Greater London area.

    Cleaner energy supplies

    The decision to close Littlebrook Power Station is part of a drive towards finding greener energy alternatives for power generation. RWE has stated it has invested over £6 billion in a five year period into improving the efficiency of power generation by shutting down the older fossil fuel plants.

  • 52 percent of Tory Voters in favour of Wind Farms

    A poll published in the Sunday Times shows more than half of Conservative voters think the government should do more to encourage onshore wind power.  52% of those surveyed said the building of wind farms should be encouraged, while 18% were against the building of more wind farms and thought they should be banned.

    The public in general are also in favour of the use of wind power according to the survey. 61% said that they would like to see more of the wind farms in the UK while 14% said that they would like to see a ban.

    Members of the public are also keen to see more offshore wind power, with 73% of people stating they would be in favour of more offshore wind power plants being built.

    When it came to other forms of energy production, there were mixed views on the extraction of shale gas with 43% against extracting shale and 32% in favour of it.

    Commenting in a press release, RenewableUK Chief Executive Maria McCaffery said:

    “Recent comments suggest that the Government is looking to restrict onshore wind as it’s concerned about the technology’s popularity. These poll results, and the many like them that have gone before, should provide reassurance that the majority of people, however they vote, want to see more onshore wind, and that any premature curtailment is not necessary.

    Indeed, as the Government has said it is committed to decarbonisation at the lowest cost, early curtailment would seem to directly contravene government objectives.”

    Queen’s Speech and Onshore Windfarms

    In the Queen’s Speech it was announced the new energy bill would mean decisions over smaller onshore wind farms that have a capacity of 50 MW will be decided by local authorities in England as opposed to a ministerial level.

    At the moment it is unclear whether this will also affect wind farms in Wales as a decision has not yet been made.

    Renewable energy organisations have expressed concerns that this could cause a delay in renewable energy projects and RenewableUK are calling on the government to give local authorities the additional resources local councils will need to make quick decisions.

    Maria McCaffery, Chief Executive of RenewableUK said

    “Onshore wind is committed to being a good neighbour to the local communities in which it is hosted, providing substantial economic advantages to the region including the ground-breaking community benefits it pays, so we are confident that Local Authorities should recognise the value of these projects.” 

  • Amber Rudd announces changes to UK energy policy

    Energy and climate change Secretary Amber Rudd has detailed her plans for the UK’s energy policy in the coming years. The new policy is aimed at increasing competition, reducing energy bills for the consumer and securing adequate power generation for the country.

    With the policy, the government reaffirmed its commitment to low carbon, low-cost energy sources, and it also announced plans for a consultation regarding the abolition of unabated coal-fired stations by 2025.

    Moreover, during the speech at the Institute of Civil Engineers, Amber Rudd made the case for prioritising gas-fired stations in order to reduce emissions.

    Amber Rudd stated:

    “One of the greatest and most cost-effective contributions we can make to emission reductions in electricity is by replacing coal fired power stations with gas.

    “I am pleased to announce that we will be launching a consultation in the spring on when to close all unabated coal-fired power stations.

    “Our consultation will set out proposals to close coal by 2025 - and restrict its use from 2023. If we take this step, we will be one of the first developed countries to deliver on a commitment to take coal off the system.”

    The Energy and Climate Change Secretary also detailed plans for more nuclear power stations, and she committed funding for three further auctions of offshore wind power projects, however, she made it clear that the industry would have to reduce its costs as there would be “no more blank cheques”.

    Mixed response

    The changes have received a mixed response. Environmental campaigners Friends of the Earth described the decision to phase out coal as “historic”. However, it also feels that the government should be focusing on renewable energy and energy efficiency as “Gas is too high-carbon for a long-term future.”

    In addition, the Solar Trade Association was pleased at the decision to eliminate coal, stating:

     “Phasing out coal power electricity is of course good news and was expected – this is an essential move.”

    But it added:

    “However it makes little sense to replace fossil coal only with fossil gas.”

    Paul Barwell, CEO of the Solar Trade Association, went on to urge the government to support solar power as there was little commitment to it during the speech, and other groups were disappointed that there wasn’t greater provision for improved energy efficiency.

    Moreover, many analysts argued the reduction in funding for renewable forms of energy would have a negative impact on the government’s climate change targets and could increase costs for consumers.

  • British businesses could save £860 million on energy bills

    British businesses could be saving up to £860 million on energy bills, according to new research. In the new report entitled ‘The Power of Carbon Psychology’, Npower Business Solutions and the Centre for Economics and Business Research say that by introducing behavioural changes, businesses could significantly reduce the money spent on energy bills.

    Although a number of sectors were highlighted in the survey, it was found that the manufacturing sector could be saving nearly 11%, while the retail and wholesale sector could save 19% on energy bills.

    Commenting on the report, Phil Griffiths, a Carbon Psychologist at npower Business Solutions, said:

    “There is a huge opportunity for bigger businesses here – and they don’t even need to invest to make substantial savings. The benefits of behavioural change on the bottom line are clear. Energy efficiency improvements result in a more motivated workforce, a positive impact on the UK balance of payments and significant emissions reductions.”

    Although the research was aimed at large companies, the report also established that small to medium enterprises stood to benefit from introducing simple changes. According to the report, the benefits include increased profits, improved cash flow and protection against energy price rises and volatility.

    Improving energy efficiency in the commercial sector

    The UK has made a determined effort to improve energy efficiency and while domestic energy use is reducing significantly, UK industry is lagging behind. The report found that efforts to lower industrial energy intensity in the UK were “fairly average”.

    With the increase in energy bills, it is especially important for both domestic and commercial sector to make efficiency savings and the report’s authors feel that introducing behavioural changes in businesses such as using power more effectively could provide significant savings to the industrial sector.

    The research also indicated that when businesses combined technical improvements along with behavioural changes, it was possible to achieve the greatest level of success when it came to achieving energy efficiencies.

    Reducing Carbon Emissions

    The government has stated that if the UK is to meet is going to reduce carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, then the commercial sector will have to play its part in improving energy efficiency.

    A number of initiatives, including Climate Change Agreements, the Green Deal and the Electricity Demand Reduction Project are just some of the programmes that have been introduced by government to try and encourage businesses to lower their energy use.

  • Cardiff is one of the most energy efficient cities

    Householders in Cardiff are the most energy efficient in the UK according to a new survey by British Gas. More than 50% of the people surveyed said they are taking steps to save energy around the home while  87% said that they would change their habits if it meant saving money on their bills; 37% of householders stated they wanted to make energy efficiency a priority.

    The survey also showed that many people are completely unaware of just how much their energy bills cost them every day. Many householders estimated their energy spend cost them an average of £2 a day while others assumed the daily energy spend was anything from £3-£6.

    The survey was conducted as part of the British Gas Energy Saving Challenge, which sets out to help people save money on their energy bills.

    Lydia Campbell. Regional Director for British Gas in Wales, said:

    It’s great to see that so many people from Cardiff are looking to make changes to save energy and get their bills down.

    “The 60 Second Energy Challenge will help people living in Cardiff be more aware about how they use energy, it offers simple and practical tips to reduce their energy use."

    As part of the challenge, a survey was conducted and it revealed how little some householders understand about the simple measures they can take to save on energy around the home.

    Only 3% of the people interviewed were aware that by installing insulation they could make significant savings on their bills, and despite the fact smart meters are soon to be rolled out across the country, many consumers did not know that installing a smart meter could help them save money on their bills and gain a better understanding of which appliances were using the most power.

    Smart Meter Roll out

    While 500,000 smart meters have already been installed around the country, the full roll out will not begin until later in 2015.  The government is currently working with the energy industry to ensure that the roll-out goes ahead within the scheduled time frame.

    It is the gas and energy suppliers that will be held responsible for the planning and installation of smart meters; the roll-out will end in 2020. The method of installation will vary from company to company and the Department of Energy and Climate Change will oversee the management and implementation of the programme as well as carefully monitoring the roll-out.

  • Combining resources necessary to improve offshore safety

    Offshore wind farms are becoming a greater part of the UK’s energy mix. However, the move toward renewables has also led to questions on how to improve health and safety for employees working in the industry.

    Recently, the Offshore Group of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) recently held an event to discuss how the renewables, marine and oil and gas sectors could collaborate to address the health and safety challenges associated with the offshore sectors.

    The event, which was hosted at the Stadium of Light in Sheffield, was entitled Let's Talk: exploring the synergies and differences between the offshore oil and gas and offshore renewables sector. It examined the risks faced by these industries and how they could work together effectively to address them, such as conducting joint exercises and sharing resources.

    Simon Hatson, Chair of IOSH's Offshore Group, stated:

    “As the offshore windfarms are being built further offshore and the sectors are required to work even closer to each other, it is essential that we consider the safety and health implications of this.

    "As was recognised throughout the event, within our industry it is vital that, where we can, we seek to combine our knowledge and resources to put robust safety and health management systems in place. This way we can share our knowledge, efforts and provisions to continue to protect our workers from harm.”

    Hatson added that introducing these systems would also benefit the sector by enabling it to become more productive and efficient.

    Industry Concerns

    Industry representatives used the event as an opportunity to raise their specific concerns, such as the challenges posed due to the different regulatory regimes in place for each sector. However, Chris Streatfield of RenewableUK stressed that “this does not mean the sectors cannot combine to protect employees”.

    Peter Lowson of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency highlighted the possibility of vessels colliding or helicopter accidents. However, he felt the risk of such accidents could be reduced by sharing resources.

    Offshore wind farms

    The amount of electricity produced from offshore wind increased by more than 25 per cent in the first quarter of 2016, and given the growing role it is likely to play energy security, it is vital that the health and safety concerns are addressed.

    DONG Energy are currently leading the way in the offshore wind power sector, and it recently committed to building the world’s largest wind farm, Hornsea Project One, which will have the capacity to power more than one million homes. 

  • Competition to open up in the connections market

    Ofgem has announced a new code of practice aimed at regional electricity distribution networks. The announcement was made at the end of October with the purpose of increasing competition in the UK connections market.

    Ofgem say that the new code of practice should help to lower the cost of businesses connecting to the grid and add that the new measures should help to enhance the quality of service customers can expect.

    Statistics from Ofgem show that the electricity connections market is worth more than £500 million and thousands upon thousands of connections are made on an annual basis.

    Although many independent companies were already competing against the regional electricity distribution networks remained the only providers of a number of essential services that are required to make new connections. Due to the concerns that this was limiting competition in the field, Ofgem introduced its new code of practice at the end of October

    Under the new code of practice, electricity distribution networks ­- or DNOs as they are known - will have to abide by a new set of guidelines that have been set out by Ofgem.

    If the electricity distribution networks don’t abide by the new code of practice, then they could face action from Ofgem.

    Commenting on the announcement, Maxine Frerk, senior partner, electricity distribution, Ofgem, said:

    “We want to see competition in the electricity connections market thriving. While some DNOs are helping to achieve this, many independent companies still face unnecessary delays and needless complexity.”

    Frerk added that the new code of practice would enable independent companies to compete fairly throughout the UK, and it will mean businesses and other organisations will now have a choice as to who delivers its connections.

    Ofgem decided to implement the Code of Practice after carrying out a review of the connections sector. It found that while some companies were making an effort to improve competition in the connections market, to further improve competition it was going to be necessary to introduce a formal, binding code in order to ensure fairness to independent companies.

    Home Builders Federation welcome announcement

    The decision was welcomed by Dave Mitchell of the Home Builders Federation. Mitchell explained that as home builders are increasing the number of homes built to help address U.K.’s housing crisis, it was important these new changes had been introduced to improve the speed at which new homes are connected to the grid.

  • Contracts for World’s biggest interconnector awarded

    Contracts worth €1.5 billion have been awarded to build an electricity link between England and Norway. When it is complete, the interconnector will be the longest in the world; NSN Link Limited gave the contracts to Nexans and Prysmian, who will be responsible for constructing the 740 km route.

    The England and Norway link will be the first time that two countries have shared a direct energy system; the project is a collaboration between the National Grid and Norwegian company Statnett SF.

    The cables will run from Blyth in Northumberland to Kvilldal in Norway. It will require almost 1500 km of cable to complete the project and there will also be a 10 km offshore route.

    Prysmian will be providing 950 km of the submarine and land cables; they will also be responsible for installing them. Prysmian will manufacture the cables in a factory in Naples and they will use a specially designed cable laying vessel, which is called the “Giulio Verne”.

    Nexans will be providing cabling for the Norwegian side of the connection; they will manufacture the cables in their Halden-based factory.

    Commenting on the project, Alan Foster, National Grid’s director of European Business Development, said

    “There is a huge programme of work for us to undertake over the next five years to deliver what will be the world’s longest interconnector.  Our contractors will have a big part to play in that successful delivery. But the benefits to both UK and Norway are also huge and when completed the link will deliver low carbon electricity for the UK and also add to security of supply for Norwegian consumers.”

    Håkon Borgen, Executive Vice President of Statnett, added that the project was vital for the future of the energy system in Europe.

    The licence that will allow the project to go ahead was first granted in 2013 when the Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy gave permission for the interconnector to be built. Preparation work at the site will begin in 2016 and will continue into 2017 when construction will get underway

    The link between the two countries will have numerous benefits including helping to provide a more secure power supply for both the UK and Norway, and the construction work will help to provide jobs. When the link has been finished it will have the capacity to produce 1400 MW of power.

    It is expected that the work would be completed in 2019 and the interconnector will be operational by 2020.

  • Didcot B repair work announced

    Npower has announced a programme of works to restore the Didcot B cooling tower, which was damaged as a result of a fire in October 2014.

    The energy company has been searching for contractors to undertake the project to repair the damage that was caused to module five of the Didcot B cooling tower in Oxfordshire. The search to find contractors took six months and Npower have now announced that SPX Cooling Technologies has been selected to complete the repair work.

    Cells 19 and 22 of the cooling tower were also damaged during the fire, but this was only minor. Npower states that they will be back in service in the summer of 2015 and cells 20 and 21, which received more extensive damage, should be restored and be back in use by September 2015.

    Work will also need to be completed to repair the fans of the cooling towers; it is expected that this work will be finished by December 2015.

    Due to damage that has been caused to the towers, Npower state that it will be necessary to rebuild the entirety of some units. However, components that weren’t so badly affected by the effects of the flames can be repaired.

    As well as employing outside contractors to do some of the work, the owners of Npower, RWE, will complete some of the repair work itself.

    Commenting on the repairs, the manager of the Didcot B power station said:

    ‘We are pleased to announce the project to repair the cooling tower of Module 5 has begun. The power station has been available to generate since the fire but the repairs will enable us to achieve a higher efficiency, and full station capacity as we approach the winter months.’

    ‘I would like to again thank the emergency services who worked alongside RWE teams to bring the fire under control quickly and safely.’

    The Didcot B power station fire made headline news in 2014. The BBC reported that 100 firefighters and 25 fire engines were called out to control the blaze. As a result of the fire, Npower said the station would need to be closed down for the foreseeable future while the repairs were carried out.

    The fire started in one of the Didcot B cooling station but soon spread to a number of the other towers.

    Following an investigation into the cause of the fire, Npower have since identified a fault within the fan unit, which the power company says started the blaze.

  • EDF chief executive calls for Hinkley approval

    The chief executive of EDF has urged Theresa May to give the green light to the Hinkley point C nuclear power station. In an interview with the Telegraph, Vincent de Rivaz stressed the positive aspects of the proposed project and issued assurances regarding the plant.

    It’s thought the government has concerns over potential security issues and the possibility of a cyberattack, but in the Telegraph interview, de Rivaz told the newspaper that all staff would be vetted and control rooms kept separate.

    Hinkley C received final funding approval in the summer and it was expected that the government would give the project the go-ahead. However, it was announced that there was to be a delay; the government won’t make a final decision over approval until the autumn.

    If the plant does get the final go-ahead, it’s expected to be commissioned by 2025. It will cost £18 billion to build, have the capacity to fuel more than 5 million homes, and create thousands of jobs.

    EDF states that the plant will lead to a £4 billion investment in the South West during the lifetime of Hinkley C, including more than £1 billion during the construction phase.

    Government tensions        

    The delay in the decision has led to tensions between the UK and its partners in China. Chinese investment is crucial to the completion of the project, and they have committed a third of the financing for it. The Chinese government are keen for the deal to go ahead and the delay in the decision has caused a strain on diplomatic relationships between the two countries.

    Unions file legal Challenge

    While Hinkley C has the support of several major unions in the UK, in France a legal challenge has been launched. Hinkley C has also been subject to a past legal challenge by unions in France, who attempted to block the decision.

    Low carbon future

    Supporters say Hinkley C is an essential part of the UK’s low carbon future and the UK must find ways to produce greener former of power in order to provide greater energy security. The bid to find cleaner methods of energy production has led to a greater drive towards nuclear power, which has the support of the government.

    However, environmental campaigners are calling for greater use of renewable energy, energy savings and energy storage as solutions for the UK’s future fuel needs.

  • Energy auctions drive renewable prices down

    The Department of Energy and Climate Change says its energy auctions have led to 27 renewable energy projects being offered new contracts. The Government says the energy projects will create enough power for nearly 1.5 million homes.

    As a result of the auctions, the National Grid predict £315 million a year in new contracts will now be made available to five renewable energy companies. Some of the contracts will be given to companies that specialise in renewable forms of energy such as onshore wind and solar power, which is growing in popularity. However, contracts are also to be offered to offshore technologies.

    The auctions were part of the Government’s Contracts for Difference initiative, which has been designed to help reform the energy market in the UK by encouraging investment into greener forms of power generation. Successful bidders will get contracts that will last for 15 years.

    As a result of the auctions, there could be two new offshore and 15 new on shore wind farms. It could also lead to the establishment of 5 new solar projects.

    Price Reduction

    The Government says the green energy auctions have helped to dramatically reduce prices for green energy by up to 58% in some cases; the move towards greener forms of power generation will also help to considerably reduce CO2 emissions, thus helping to create a cleaner environment.

    In a move to drive down the prices of renewable energy, as part of the auctions, contracts were only offered to the companies that gave the most competitive prices. The Government says this means consumers will get much better value for money.

    As well as a 58% reduction in the price of solar energy, offshore wind energy has been made 18% cheaper, while onshore forms of energy are 17% cheaper.

    Commenting on the auctions, Ed Davey, Energy and Climate Change Secretary, said:

    “This world leading auction has delivered contracts for renewables projects right across the UK. These projects could power 1.4 million homes, create thousands of green jobs and give a massive boost to home-grown energy while reducing our reliance on volatile foreign markets”.

    “The auction has driven down prices and secured the best possible deal for this new clean, green energy.”

    The contracts will be awarded to companies based in England, Scotland and Wales and will include both small businesses and independent generators.

  • Four companies shortlisted for windfarm contract

    Four bidders have been added to a short list to own and run a transmission link for two offshore windfarms, Ofgem has announced. The competition to win the contract has been strong and the shortlisted companies are competing to own and operate more than £400 million pounds worth of high-wattage transmission links for two windfarms, which are based in the UK.

    The shortlisted bidders will now go through to the final stages of the bidding, and then Ofgem will make its decision over which company will be awarded the contract to own and manage the transmission links.

    The bids relate to the Westermost Rough and Humber Gateway projects and the bidding is part of the offshore regulatory regime, which was first announced as a partnership by the Department of Energy and Environment and Ofgem in 2009. The regime allows tendering for licensing offshore electricity transmission and the aim is to keep the cost of transmission links as low as possible for consumers.

    Once the contract has been awarded, the new Offshore Transmission Owner will be given a 20-year license to own and operate the links, Ofgem said. The four shortlisted bidders have been named by Ofgem as the Balfour Beatty Equitix Consortium (Balfour Beatty Investments Ltd and Equitix Ltd), the Blue Transmission consortium (3i Investments Plc and Mitsubishi Corporation), Mari Energy Transmission (Macquarie Capital Group Ltd and Frontier Power) and Transmission Capital Partners (Transmission Capital Partners Ltd Partnership and International Public Partnerships Ltd).

    Westermost Rough is situated in the North Sea and it is owned by WMR limited, which is part of Dong Energy A/S. There are 35 wind turbines on the wind farm and they are capable or producing 205 megawatts of electricity.

    A transmission system is being developed by the owner of the offshore windfarm, and as part of the construction there will be an offshore substation platform, offshore and onshore AC export cables and an onshore substation.

    Humber Gateway offshore windfarm is located off the coast of North Yorkshire and it is owned by E.ON Climate & Renewables UK. Eventually, it will have 73 wind turbines, which will have the power to produce 220 megawatts of electricity.

    Ofgem says that the transmission system is being constructed by the owner of the farm; as with the other windfarm the construction will include an offshore substation platform, offshore and onshore AC export cables and an onshore substation.

    Ofgem says that is expects to name the successful bidder for the Westermost Rough and Humber Gateway projects in 2015.

  • Government announces licenses for 27 onshore blocks

    The Oil and Gas Authority has announced that 27 onshore areas of land or blocks, are to be offered to businesses as part of the 14th Onshore Oil and Gas Licensing Round. The announcement of the fresh licensing round was first made in 2014.

    Other blocks of land that were applied for are to undergo further assessments to establish the environmental impact of the applications, and when this has been completed licenses will then be offered to the companies. The announcement regarding the remaining companies that have been awarded licenses is due to be made later in 2015.

    Commenting on the new licences, Lord Bourne, the Energy Minister for the UK, stated:

    “Keeping the lights on and powering the economy is not negotiable, and these industries will play a key part in providing secure and reliable energy to UK homes and businesses for decades to come.

    “It’s important we press on and get shale moving, while maintaining strong environmental controls

    The Government said that close to one hundred companies had applied for the initial licenses for shale gas exploration, and chemical company INEOS has revealed that it is one of the successful applicants.

    With three licenses granted for shale gas exploration in the East Midlands, this opens up brand new opportunities for INEOS Shale, who pledged a £640 million investment into shale gas exploration last year.

    Gary Heywood, CEO for INEOS Shale said:

    "We are keen to move quickly to evaluate the potential of this resource, and determine if we can economically produce gas from our licenses.  This will depend on the pace of planning approval. If we can, it will provide a local source of competitive energy and raw materials to support manufacturing jobs in the UK.”

    Ministers say that the new rounds of blocks are essential to secure UK energy supplies into the future, and that they will also be a vital part of the continued UK economic recovery by creating new jobs.

    Controversy

    Shale gas has its opponents and there has been controversy caused by plans to allow shale gas exploration in the UK. However, others argue that it is important for finding fresh sources of energy and it is vital for job creation, and for ensuring energy production into the future. The Government predicts that investment in shale gas could be worth as much as £33 billion, and it could assist in the creation of more than 60,000 jobs.

  • Government urged to do more to improve manufacturing productivity

    Manufacturing has continued to perform well in the face of uncertainty following the Brexit vote, exports are on the increase and economic growth in general is picking up. However, the EEF has taken the opportunity ahead of the spring budget to urge Chancellor Philip Hammond to do more to aid productivity in the manufacturing sector.

    Ms Lee Hopley, Chief Economist for the EEF, said:

    “This Budget must drive ahead with the productivity-focused commitments that we saw in both the Autumn statement and the government’s recent industrial strategy green paper. Action that enables more innovation, more investment and supports better skills and infrastructure in the economy are not optional if the UK is to be ready to make the most of post-Brexit opportunities.

    The EEF is also calling on the government to encourage innovation by improving the current research and development tax credit scheme. Other reforms the EEF are keen to see include further investment into digital infrastructure, and improved training. Similar calls have been made from business organisations like the CBI, who feel that more should be done to improve technical training and apprenticeships in the UK.

    Government efforts to improve business productivity

    The chancellor’s autumn budget had already allocated significant funding for productivity, with the announcement of a $23 billion National Investment Productivity Fund; the fund aims to improve infrastructure, research and development and assist in the building of faster internet connections.

    The government has also announced an industrial strategy. The strategy, which was recently outlined in a green paper, has increasing economic growth and making companies more productive at its core. However, it has come under criticism from various quarters for lacking details and targets.

    Lack of productivity in manufacturing

    Throughout the past year there has been several reports regarding the fall in productivity in the manufacturing sector. Some of this has been attributed to poor internet connectivity among some manufacturers, while the EEF has highlighted how productivity in some industries has come under strain due to the reduction in crude oil prices. In addition, the financial crisis took its toll on manufacturing productivity, which had previously been gaining strength.

    There has been calls for government action to improve productivity, some of which were addressed by the announcement of the industrial strategy. However, the government is still be urged to adopt policies that will further encourage innovation and investment into new technology to boost productivity among the manufacturing sector.

  • Growth slowed in the last quarter, but businesses remain optimistic

    In recent months, the news for the economy has been largely positive, with many businesses reporting new growth and feeling optimistic about future job creation and expansions. However, the latest set of figures that have been released were not as encouraging.

    New figures recently issued by the CBI show that growth slowed in the last three months to August. More than 700 businesses from the manufacturing, retail and services industry responded to the CBI survey; figures showed that growth in the manufacturing and businesses and professional services industries slowed in the last quarter. However, there was good news for the retail industry as figures indicated that sales volumes in the retail sector have remained strong.

    However, it wasn’t all bad news for the manufacturing and services industries, as although growth had slowed, it is still remains at above average and the CBI growth indicator shows that UK businesses are positive about the next three months.

    Businesses were looking forward to the next quarter; they expect the next three months to be “robust” and to reach near record levels.

    Commenting in a press release, Rain Newton-Smith, CBI Director of Economics, said:

    "There are a few early signs that momentum in the economy may ease slightly in the second half of the year.

    "However, growth is set to remain robust, and there are positive signs that the recovery is continuing along the right track.

    "Alongside the strong showing from the retail sector, it’s encouraging that firms feel particularly upbeat about growth prospects as we head into the autumn.

    "Businesses will continue to keep a weather eye on developments overseas, as subdued prospects in the Eurozone and international political uncertainty make the global economic environment that bit more challenging."

    Future Growth

    Despite the news of stalling growth, the CBI has issued a statement outlining its forecast for the rest of 2014 and it remains positive about future growth. The CBI stated that the UK recovery is on “sold ground” and said that it expected that the on-going recovery would remain on an “even keel” throughout the coming months.

    However, the CBI warned that although business growth is performing better than expected, it has still to reach the pre-crisis levels of 2008. The CBI also urged politicians to keep their focus on building long-term economic security and not to just concentrate on “winning the political race”

  • Hinkley Point C gets final funding approval

    After months of delay, EDF has made the final funding decision over Hinkley Point C.  The decision was confirmed on July 28, following a meeting of the board of directors. The meeting approved the £18 billion of funding needed for the project, which will open up a new generation of nuclear energy for the UK.

    Following the announcement, EDF stated it would be signing contracts with its overseas partner, China General Nuclear Power Generation, which has a 33.5 per cent share in the project, and with its main suppliers.

    Speaking about the agreement between EDF and China General Nuclear Power Generation in 2015, the then Energy Secretary Amber Rudd, said:

    “The Government will support new nuclear power stations as we move to a low-carbon future. Hinkley Point C will kick start this and is expected to be followed by more nuclear power stations, including Sizewell in Suffolk and Bradwell in Essex. This will provide essential financial and energy security for generations to come.”

    Government Review

    EDF was also expecting to sign contracts with the UK government. However, the government made the surprise announcement that it will be delaying the decision on whether to give the plant the go ahead.

    The government will review the plans for Hinkley Point C and make the decision in the Autumn. Despite the delay, EDF has indicated that it’s confident the government will give the nuclear plans its approval.

    In the meanwhile, Friends of the Earth has urged ministers to use the review as “an opportunity to do the right and popular thing and end support for Hinkley”.  The environmental organisation also argues that renewables and energy storage offer a better deal.

    Concerns over Hinkley Point C

    Environmentalists have raised concerns over the amount of nuclear waste that might be generated, and there has been some discussion over the costs to the consumer. However, the plans for the plant have been welcomed by Unite and several nuclear industry experts.

    Energy security, carbon emissions and job creation

    Alternative forms of producing energy are necessary if the government is to reduce carbon emissions and secure future power supply. Once it is up and running, the Somerset-based plant will have the capacity to power 6 million homes.

    The project itself will create an estimated 25,000 jobs, as well as providing apprenticeship opportunities and boosting local business through supply contracts. When Hinkley Point C has been built, it is estimated there will be 900 ongoing jobs at the site.

    https://www.markiteconomics.com

  • Hinkley Point C Power Plant gets state aid approval

    The European Commission has approved the Hinkley Point C State Aid case, it was announced this week. The announcement will lead the way for a new nuclear power station being built in the UK – the first for a generation.

    The Government says that nuclear power stations such as the one planned at Hinkley will be essential for providing energy security to Britain as the majority of the countries existing stations are due to be decommissioned by 2023.

    Building the new power stations is also an essential part of The government plans to reduce energy bills and carbon emissions; the building of the new plant at Hinkley is part of the government’s strategy to create cleaner, greener sources of energy for the future.

    Once Hinkley is in use, it will have the power to provide electricity for six million homes, and the Government states that 25,000 construction jobs are to be created as a result.

    Energy company EDF will be responsible for the running of the new nuclear power plant, and there are plans to share the benefits with energy customers should the building of the plant come in under budget.

    The Government stated that it is continuing to work with EDF to complete the final details of the contract.

    Commenting in a press release, Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey said:

    “This is an important next step on the road to Britain’s first new nuclear power station in a generation. While there is much work still to do before a final contract can be signed, today’s announcement is a boost to our efforts to ensure Britain has secure, affordable low carbon electricity in the 2020s.

    “After a thorough, detailed and independent analysis of our proposed project with EDF, this decision shows the European Commission agrees that this is a good deal for consumers and enables us now to proceed to the next stage.”

    In the coming years, more nuclear plants are planned to replace the current ones, which cause too much pollution. The government says that the new stations will offer the United Kingdom a greater energy resilience and provide cleaner fuel.

    It is estimated that building the new stations will save the consumer £90 a year on their energy bills by 2030, and the plant operator will be responsible for all of the costs of decommissioning as well as having to cover some of the costs of waste management.

  • Killingholme Closure date confirmed

    Centrica has confirmed the closure date for the Killingholme power station. The energy company first made the announcement that the Lincolnshire based station was to close in 2015 due to the losses that Centrica’s gas fired power stations were making; in an official statement recently released, the power company stated that it will close Killingholme A on March 1, 2016.

    In a press release, Centrica’s Operations Director Mark Futyan, said:

    “I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has played their part at Killingholme over the past 21 years of operation. We will continue to support the site team, as we have since we announced the potential for closure earlier in the year.

    “For the final few months of winter, Killingholme will remain ready to step in and help at periods of high demand until the time comes to switch off for the last time.”  

    Plans to sell the gas power plant got underway in 2014, but as the bids did not reach expectations, Centrica announced proposals to close the loss-making Killingholme A power station.

    The Killingholme A power station is currently functioning under the National Grid’s Supplemental Balancing Reserve, but this will cease on February 29th, 2016, hence the official closure of the plant.

    Killingholme A, opened in 1994 and was originally owned by National Power; it was purchased by Centrica in 2004 and had a capacity to create 665 megawatts of power.

    South Humber Bank

    However, there is better news for Centrica’s South Humber Bank power station, which is now secure until 2027. It is to be returned to full power in 2017, and Centrica has announced that £63 million is to be invested in the gas turbines at the plant, which is based in North East Lincolnshire.

    Killingholme B

    In 2015, E.on announced that it would be withdrawing the Killingholme B power station and its 900 MWs of capacity from the market, and that the Transmission Entry Capacity would be released in the National Grid.

    At the time, the company also stated that the power station could face permanent closure, and E.on UK’s chief executive, Tony Cocker, spoke of the challenges for the gas-fired power stations.  In June 2015, E.on  officially announced that the Killingholme B station was to close with the loss of at least fifty jobs.

    Killingholme B is owned by E-on and was brought back into service in 2005 after two years of work and a £25 million investment.

  • Manufacturing industry needs more innovation

    There need for more innovation in the manufacturing industry has been highlighted by new research.

    Just 11 per cent of manufacturers have a system in place to enhance innovation; this could put the UK at a distinct disadvantage in the future due to the many challenges the manufacturing sector is currently facing, according to RSM, who conducted the survey.

    RSM found that more than half of the manufacturers interviewed said they do intend invest in business systems at some point. However, these efforts are mainly concentrated on technology to improve the way the business is run, boost efficiency and productivity, but many UK manufacturers are neglecting to invest in innovation.

    Discussing the research, Mike Thornton, head of manufacturing for RSM, said:

    ‘As many UK manufacturers prepare for a potential surge in competition and uncertain trading conditions, harnessing technology could be the answer to future success. Technology will play an important role to help the sector become more efficient, productive and, in turn, more competitive, but this requires significant investment into the right software, equipment and talent to drive change.’

    Lack of innovation not limited to manufacturing industry

    Experts say that innovation is crucial if the UK manufacturing industry is going to be competitive post-Brexit and if it is to keep up with cheaper manufacturing bases like China.

    However, the manufacturing sector isn’t the only industry struggling when it comes to innovation.

    A study from PWC found that relatively few of the UK-based companies interviewed (32 per cent) viewed innovation as important, with most companies preferring to prioritise technology instead.

    Government initiatives to improve innovation in manufacturing

    Although a considerable percentage of manufactures admit that investing in innovation isn’t their priority, government agency Innovate UK say UK manufactures do still rate as a ‘major driver of innovation’.

    The agency also explains how new technologies that involve digitisation, like the Internet of Things and cloud based data, have the power to transform manufacturing.

    Digitisation is where a new generation of ideas and products is most likely to come from in the future, and progress is being made in this area. Research shows that most UK companies plan to have invested in digitalisation by 2021, although they don’t plan to invest quite as much as other countries.

    And to encourage fresh innovations in the sector, government agency Innovate UK has opened the third round of funding competition, which is designed to encourage manufacturers to come forward with new ideas.

  • National Grid discuss plans for Borehamwood site

    The National Grid are consulting with residents in Borehamwood over the future of a site that used to house the local gasworks.

    Work is currently underway to clear the site, and efforts to break up the gas holders that are located at the Borehamwood site are expected to get underway shortly; it is thought that the work will be completed towards the end of 2015. With the site cleared, plans for redevelopment can go ahead and there are proposals for the site to be used for housing.

    In addition to plans to remove gas holders from the site, gas equipment that is currently being used is to be transferred to another site in the local area.

    Residents and local councillors were at the meeting to hear about plans for the redevelopment of the site. At the meeting, residents had an opportunity to ask questions about the future of the former gasworks and to find out further details of the proposed redevelopment.

    Among those attending was Councillor Clive Butchins, who acts as a representative for the Borehamwood Hillside Ward.

    Commenting on the meeting, Councillor Butchins said:

    “Although it is a shame to lose such a local landmark, I am happy to see the gasholders removed from site to prepare it for a more useful future.”

    Following the meeting, Nadia Dew, Land Regeneration Manager at National Grid said: “It is always great to meet with the site’s neighbours. We hope that people found the session and opportunity to ask questions helpful.”

    She went on to say:  “We’ll continue to keep all our neighbours updated on how our work’s progressing” and she assured residents that the local pedestrian walkway would remain open during the redevelopment phase.

    The National Grid site has a long history in the area and it had once been essential for delivering gas to locals in Borehamwood. In addition, the site had been used for storing gas, but due to modern developments, there is no need for the gasholders so the decision was made to decommission them.

    According to 4-traders.com, the National Grid first told residents about the proposals to redevelop the site back in February 2015.

    As the plans for redevelopment are underway, local residents are invited to continue to give their feedback on plans for the regeneration of the site. Residents are invited to call the community relations team should they have any questions over the plans for the restoration of the Borehamwood site.

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