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  • New figures show surge in renewable power

    New figures from the Department of Energy and Climate Change show an increase in the role that renewable energy is playing in powering homes and commercial premises in the United Kingdom.

    The latest figures from the DECC cover the April to June 2015 period and show that during this time, renewable power was used to produce 25.3% of electricity in the United Kingdom; the majority of this was produced from offshore and onshore wind power. This increase represents an 8.6% surge on the figures for the previous year.

    This means that renewable power is now more popular than coal and nuclear as a means of fuel, and the Department of Energy and Climate Change say this upsurge is down to “favourable weather conditions” such as increased wind speeds and sunshine, and a greater capacity for producing wind power.

    Commenting on the increase, Maria McCaffery, Chief Executive of Energy UK, said:

    “Renewables have now become Britain’s second largest source of electricity, generating more than a quarter of our needs. The new statistics show that Britain is relying increasingly on dependable renewable sources to keep the country powered up, with onshore and offshore wind playing the leading roles in our clean energy mix.”

    McCaffery added that “we’d welcome clearer signals from Government that it’s backing the installation of vital new projects”.

    New Campaign

    The release of the figures came shortly before a new campaign got underway in opposition to the Government’s plans to cut support for some smaller renewable energy projects such as investment in solar panels and wind turbines.

    The new campaign has been named People Power and hopes to persuade the Government to think again before reducing funding.

    Renewable energy investment cuts

    In recent years there has been a steady increase in renewable energy investment in the UK as the government looks for more sustainable ways to power the country. However, there have been some concerns about continued investment after it was announced earlier in the year that funding for renewable energy subsidies was to be cut.

    In September, the BBC reported the CBI has expressed concerns that the reduction in these energy subsidies could be off-putting to investors, and there are also worries the reduction in funding could lead to job losses in the renewable energy sector.

    Renewable Energy UK says that Government cuts to funding for smaller renewable energy projects would mean it won’t be possible for such schemes to advance.

  • New fund allows communities to create power stations

    A new £10 million fund will make it possible for local communities to come together and create their own power stations. Funding will be made available as part of the Urban Community Energy Fund and allow community groups to apply for grants of up to £20,000 or loans of up to £130,000.

    The initiative is a way of encouraging people to look towards greener formers of energy, and it is part of the government drive to move towards cleaner methods of energy generation.

    Under the scheme, communities will be able to create local “power hubs” by finding innovative new ways to generate renewable energy. Examples include the installation of solar panels on buildings, and the construction of anaerobic digestion plants, which would take local waste and burn it to create energy.

    Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey said:

    “I want to give more people the power to generate their own electricity and by supporting community energy projects we can - helping them drive down their energy bills at the same time.

    “That’s why we’ve pledged £10 million, so communities can play their part in generating renewable power at a local level. This is all about investing in renewable energy sources, creating jobs and changing the way renewable energy is developed in the UK.”

    New Initiatives

    East Sussex is being cited as one area that has come up with a unique idea that provides a greener source of energy, as well as helping to save money on energy bills. A local community energy scheme fitted solar panels into the brewery walls, and now uses the sun’s rays to help it provide green fuel. The scheme allows the brewery to reduce the cost of their energy bills, and the community also gains as it gets money back from the Feed in Tariff.

    Feed in Tariff Scheme

    Communities that wish to develop their own energy schemes have now been told that they will get additional support from the Feed in Tariff Scheme. The Feed in Tariff Scheme allows community energy project owners to earn extra money by getting paid for the energy production.

    Community Investment Projects

    According to research from Ethex, renewable energy schemes have fast become one of the most popular types of community investment projects and have already generated millions of pounds. It is hoped that with additional support from the government, many more community investment projects will be set up, allowing entire communities to benefit from the generation of green energy.

  • New solar power farm opens in Vale of Glamorgan

    A new solar far has been opened on a former brownfield site in the Vale of Glamorgan. The 20 acre solar farm was launched by the local MP Alun Cairns and it was built by British Gas for use by Associated British Ports.

    Work began on the site in March 2015; the installation of 15,000 solar panels were completed shortly afterwards.

    Commenting on the opening of the new site, MP Alun Cairns said:

    "The new solar farm on Barry Docks is a fantastic example of maximising the use of industrial space, in a very impressive scheme. The energy partnership between ABP and British Gas will allow Barry Dock to become more competitive in the industry, and the project in the Vale of Glamorgan could become an exciting model for other docks and ports around Great Britain.”

    The opening of the new farm is predicted to produce approximately 4.5 megawatts of green power annually for use by ABP’s port operations. The energy that is produced will also be used by 75 tenants of ABP, and surplus energy is to be sold back to the National Grid.

    The new solar farm is set to lead to a significant reduction in the CO2 emissions, reducing them by 2,000 tonnes annually.

    Representatives from both ABP and British Gas were at the site for the opening, and it has recently been announced that the site has already been nominated for the Wales Green Energy award.

    At the launch, Chris Morrison of British Gas reaffirmed the company’s commitment to greener energy and reducing the impact of carbon stating: stating:

    “This solar farm will generate a significant contribution towards that goal.”

    Solar power in the UK

    The drive towards green power has been welcomed by environmental campaign charities. There are now more than 400 wind farms in the UK and the growth has increased rapidly in recent years. A Press Association report featured in the Guardian shows that there are now 650,000 solar installations being used in the UK.

    However, there has been some concern over the government’s on-going commitment to green energy after it was announced by the Secretary of State for the Environment, Amber Rudd, in July that the Government was to reduce its renewable energy subsidies. The decision to cut green energy subsidies was made amid concerns that they were on course to be higher than had been previously predicted.

  • Offshore wind industry adds more than 900m to economy

    New figures recently issued by RenewableUK shows that the offshore energy wind industry added £906 million to the UK economy in 2014.

    The latest statistics were compiled as part of a report conducted by BiGGAR Economics on behalf of RenewableUK.

    Benefits to Local Regions

    Local regions are also benefiting from the drive towards renewable forms of power generation. In Yorkshire and Humberside, 379MW of onshore wind is being used to help power more than two hundred thousand homes.

    Employers, manufacturers and consultants from the region are also benefiting from the trend towards green energy supply with local firms. The South West and East of the country were also beneficiaries of the offshore wind industry.

    Commenting on the figures, RenewableUK’s Chief Executive, Maria McCaffery, said,

     “The British onshore wind energy industry is adding over £900 million a year to the national economy, so the benefits to the UK are clear to see. This report also shows that £7 of every £10 spent on onshore wind projects is invested here in the UK. Onshore wind powers local economies, bringing £199 million of investment into the local communities that host wind farms and creating jobs across the supply chain. The industry is helping to propel Britain to a brighter, cleaner and more secure future – onshore wind is already the lowest cost of all low carbon options and is set to become the least cost form of all electricity within the next five years.

    Wind Power in Wales

    The figures published by RenewablesUK shows that Wales is likely to gain £799 million of economic benefit from onshore wind power over a lifetime. 559 megawatts of wind power is already being used; Mid Wales and South Wales are the most active in this area.

    Wind Power in Scotland

    Scotland has also benefited from the move towards green energy. Figures released by RenewableUK show that Scotland will gain £7bn worth of economic benefit over a lifetime due to onshore wind power.

    Scotland has been at the forefront of wind power and it has 4,918 megawatts of onshore wind power in use. This is enough to produce enough power for more than 2.5 million homes in Scotland.

    South Lanarkshire, the Highlands and the Scottish Borders are the areas using the most wind power, and Scottish companies such as Scottish Power Renewables, Natural Power and SSE are among those helping to facilitate the supply of wind power.

  • Ofgem announce smart meter investigation

    Three energy companies are to be investigated for their performance relating to the Governments advanced meter rollout scheme. N power, E-on and British Gas have been singled out as the energy companies with the lowest amount of completion rates.

    The roll out scheme first began in 2009 and energy firms were expected to take reasonable steps to install the advanced metres into 155,000 business customers in the UK. However, according to Ofgem, only 75% of the installations were completed by the deadline of April 2014.

    The three energy companies highlighted by Ofgem have the lowest completion rates, with 40,000 installations still waiting to be carried out.  Even though the deadline has now passed, the energy companies are still obliged to install the metres, and although N Power, E-on and British Gas were the companies with the lowest amount of installations, there are still several energy firms that did not meet the stipulated deadline.

    The rollout programme began as the advance metres, or smart meters as they are often known, can help business and domestic households to save money by giving them a better idea of how energy around their homes and businesses is used. The Government estimates that these smart meters will enable companies to save £40 million every year.

    Commenting in a press release, Rachel Fletcher, senior partner for Ofgem’s markets division, said:

    “We are disappointed in the overall performance of the majority of suppliers concerning the roll-out of advanced meters to business customers. These new meters offer real benefits to customers including saving money through reduced energy consumption and ending estimated billing.”

    “Regulatory and government programmes are not optional and failure to meet these in a timely way causes consumer harm. All suppliers can and must learn the lessons from the roll-out of meters for business customers and apply them to the domestic smart meter roll-out.”

    Since the commencement of the programme, Ofgem has been responsible for monitoring the energy firms’ progress, and it has consistently told them about the importance of completing the project on time. The investigation will now seek to find out whether or not British Gas, N power and E-on took reasonable efforts to ensure that they met the deadline.

    Soon, energy firms are to roll-out a programme  to fit smart meters into domestic households throughout the UK, however, there has been a lot of criticism over these plans as the meters have been shown to not always make the householder significant savings.

  • Ofgem announces funding plans for new subsea transmission link

    Ofgem has announced a spending plan for a £1 billion pound Caithness Moray transmission subsea link. The subsea link will be built in Scotland, however, Ofgem says that the funding it has proposed is for significantly less than the amount requested by Scottish Hydro Electricity (SHE) Transmission as they want to ensure that consumers get value for money. She Transmission had anticipated costs of £1,236.2 million, however, following an assessment from Ofgem, the energy watchdog reduced the costs down to £1,062.3 million.

    The SHE Transmission project will involve the creation of a high-voltage direct current that will stretch from Caithness to Morayshire; there will also need to be work carried out onshore.

    Ofgem says that the link will help to improve the resilience of Britain’s energy infrastructure.  The new subsea link will be completed by 2018 and will provide 1.2 gigawatts of renewable energy.  

    Consultation Period

    There are some concerns over how much the project could cost in its entirety and the public are being invited to give their views on the funding plan before Ofgem can give the proposals the final approval. Ofgem gave initial approval for the project in July, but now a more extensive consultation period will be necessary before Ofgem can give the proposals final approval.

    Consumers are invited to contribute to the consultation process, the process assessment, and the efficiency savings, and they have until November 24th to do this. Once the consultation period has closed, a decision on the final amount of funding will be made.

    Ofgem are due to make a final decision on the subsea transmission by the end of 2014; the final expenditure will also be announced by the end of the year.

    Lincs Wind farm

    Ofgem has also recently announced a licence worth more than £300 million for a wind farm in Lincs. The license will allow TC Lincs OFTO Limited to own and operate a wind farm in Lincs.

    The license was granted under the offshore regulatory regime, which is a collaboration between the Department of Energy and Climate Change and Ofgem. The regime was first introduced in2009 and uses a process of competitive tendering to license offshore electricity transmission.

    The Lincs wind farm is owned by DONG Energy, Centrica and Siemens Project Ventures. The Lincs wind farm is located in Skegness and has the capability to produce enough green energy to power 200,000 homes.

  • Ofgem call for more competition in connections market

    A new report from Ofgem has called for reforms in the electricity connections market to help reduce delays for customers that find it difficult to get connected to the electricity grid.

    Ofgem has carried out a six-month review to investigate the energy connections markets to examine just how competitive it currently is, and to understand the barriers that are preventing better competition.

    In the report, Ofgem has detailed the changes that all local distribution network companies must carry out within the next six months in order to adequately improve competitiveness.

    Strong competition in connections market

    The review by Ofgem  showed that competition in the electricity connections market was growing strongly, however, there are areas of competition that have been slow to gather speed. Ofgem asserts that stronger competition would lead to lower prices, better services for customers and better innovations.

    Reforms

    As things currently stand, the network company is the only provider   for many parts of the connections process. However, under the new reforms, independent companies would be allowed to step in to help decide connection points and speed up the process. Ofgem says that these measures would “level the playing field by reducing their reliance on the local electricity network companies”.

    Commenting on the proposed changes, Maxine Frerk, Ofgem’s senior partner, distribution, said: 

    “We are requiring electricity network companies to work quickly to resolve the issues identified in the connections market, to reduce the hassle of getting connected to the grid and help lower costs for customers.

    “We are determined to ensure this part of the energy market works in customers’ interest and will use the full range of our powers to do so.” 

    Possible Breach

    During its review, Ofgem also found that one energy company could be in breach of the current competition laws. The Competition and Markets Authority have been advised of this possible breach and an investigation is to be launched as to whether the energy company acted in a way that put its competitors at a disadvantage in the energy connections market.

    Consultation Process

    Following the review, people will now be invited to take part in a consultation process so they can give their opinions regarding the proposed reforms of the energy connections market.

    The consultation will come to an end on 18, March, 2015 and the new regulations are likely to come into force at the end of September.

  • Record amounts of energy produced by renewable sources

    New figures indicate the growing popularity of wind power. The statistics, which were recently released by the National Grid, show that an increasing amount of power is being generated by greener forms of electricity generation. According to the figures, the wind energy produced in 2014 was enough to power 6.7 million U.K Homes in 2014, which is a record figure.

    The figures for 2014 show an increase of 15% from the previous year, and wind farms and smaller operations that help feed the National Grid accounted for 9.3% of the United Kingdom’s energy supply in 2014 – this is a steady increase from the 7.8% in the previous year.

    In December 2014, yet more records were broken when statistics showed that 14% of the U.K.’s total electricity was produced by using wind power; this is compared with 13% from the year before. The figures from the National Grid show quarterly records were also broken, with 12% of energy in the United Kingdom coming from wind power in the last quarter of 2014.

    Commenting in a press release, Maf Smith, Deputy Chief Executive for Renewable Energy UK, said:

     “It’s great to start 2015 with some good news about the massive quantities of clean electricity we’re now generating from wind, with new records being set month after month, quarter after quarter, and year on year, as we increase our capacity to harness one of Britain’s best natural resources.

    “We are now into a general election year so we know that the political temperature is set to carry on rising over the next few months. The cost of energy has become a political issue, so now would be a good time for voters, prospective parliamentary candidates and MPs to take account of the fact that onshore wind is the cheapest from of renewable energy we have at our fingertips. So if we are serious about cutting bills, and securing an indigenous supply of clean power, all parties need to support it in the month ahead”.

    Green energy a growing trend

    In recent years, the government has launched numerous different strategies that are aimed at getting companies to invest in greener forms of power generation, and there have been a number of different announcements regarding new schemes that have opened up to encourage firms to find innovative ways of producing cleaner energy; these figures highlight the growing trend towards renewable energy in the U.K.

  • Record levels of investment for European wind farms

    The European offshore wind industry has attracted more than €14 billion worth of investment in the past six months, with the UK being one of the biggest winners, a new report says. The record level of investment comes from 7 projects that have all reached the Final Investment Decision during the first months of 2016.

    The report from WindEurope also indicates energy companies continued commitment to renewable forms of power generation, with companies such as Dong Energy and Siemens continuing to invest.

    According to the report, there are now 82 wind farms across 11 countries with the capacity to produce 11,538 megawatts of power. 114 wind turbines have been grid connected in Europe in the first six months of the year, and work has been carried out on 13 windfarms, including four in the United Kingdom.

    Commenting on the new figures, CEO of WindEurope, Giles Dickson, said:

    “The record investment numbers show a clear industry commitment to offshore wind. We expect installations will pick up significantly in 2017 but there are a lot of challenges out there still on offshore wind. Not least the uncertainty over future volumes and regulation in many key markets for the period after 2020. We’re a long way from being able to say job done on offshore wind.”

    Ministerial Support

    The move toward wind power also has the backing of ministers. Recently, energy ministers from nine European countries met together to discuss what they could do to further enhance cooperation when it comes to offshore wind, and they also made commitments to reduce the costs involved in producing it.

    Hornsea Project One

    One of the biggest projects to receive a Final Investment Decision is the Hornsea Project One offshore wind farm, which is planned for Yorkshire. The site will have the ability to produce 1.2 gigawatts and will power more than 1 million homes, making it the world’s largest wind farm. DONG Energy also has the rights to a further two projects.

    Government Subsidies

    The record investments figures are good news for the UK, especially as the government announced in 2015 that it was to end subsidies for wind farms. This led to some fears that companies would be less willing to invest in this renewable form of energy, but the plans for many more projects show this might not be the case.

    Instead, some energy producers are looking to alternative means of funding wind farms. Earlier this year, Good Energy announced plans for a wind farm in Cornwall, which will give members of the local community the opportunity to invest.

  • Report highlights need for fresh investment in the oil and gas industry

    A new report shows how competitiveness in the oil and gas industry is improving, The Oil and Gas UK economic report also highlights how the cost of extracting oil and gas have fallen dramatically and how productivity has increased by 10%. However, it also details the importance of new investment into the sector.

    Lack of capital investment and exploration

    Another factor highlighted in the report is the declining capital investment for the industry: £9 billion was invested in 2015, compared with over £14 billion in 2014. In addition, job losses are a continuing concern for the sector, as well as declining revenues for the supply chain, which fell by 30 per cent.

    The report goes on to explain how the lack of exploration continues to be a concern. It states that there are low levels of exploration, with only ten wells subject to exploration and appraisal activity in 2015.  In addition, only one new field received approval, and brownfield investment was also on the decline with just five projects given the go ahead in 2016.

    Commenting on the report, Oil & Gas UK’s chief executive, Deidre Michie said:

    “The UKCS is in urgent need of fresh investment to boost exploration and drive activity, particularly for the supply chain.

     “Exploration has fallen to record lows and little new investment has been approved in 2016 and 2017 looks no better.  Increased asset trading is one area that could free up new investment by facilitating the trading of late-life assets.”

    Calls for government action and recognition

    As a result of the report’s findings, Michie is urging the government to “champion the UK’s oil and gas industry”. One of the measures Michie specifically called for was ‘encouragement’ for new entrants into the sector.

    Although Oil and Gas UK remain focused on increasing productivity and efficiency, while reducing costs in the sector, it’s still asking that the Oil and Gas authority, the Department of Business Energy and Industrial strategy and HM Treasury offer further support for the industry.

    One of the steps Oil and Gas UK have requested is for the government to reaffirm its commitment to the Driving Investment Strategy, which was first published in 2014. The Strategy detailed the need for reform in the industry; reforms already introduced were aimed at increasing exploration and aiding the UCKS to compete for investment, however, despite these efforts, exploration is now at an all-time low.

    Oil and Gas UK also ask industry and government bodies to “work together to create a low tax, high activity province which can continue to support the important supply chain based here and position our sector in the best place to take advantage of any potential upturn.”

  • Report proposes new Office for Energy

    An Energy and Economics consultancy called Vivid Energy has issued a report detailing the need for an Office for Energy.

    The report has the backing of Npower and it sets out how an Office for Energy would provide accurate data and analysis of Britain’s energy sector. It is suggested that the proposed office would either be established as a new organisation or have its base within an already existing organisation.

    Among its duties would be to ensure there will be detailed, impartial analysis of such issues as the low carbon energy sector and it would also examine changes to policies and regulations and how they would affect policy goals.

    However, the proposed new body would not have the power to suggest laws or regulations and its purpose would not be to replace government bodies that are already in existence. Instead, it would provide support for government and regulators and would function in the same way as the Office for Budget Responsibility.

    Commenting on the need to improve consumer confidence in the energy industry, Robin Smale, Director at Vivid Economics, said:

    “The UK energy market has been subject to criticism and controversy, due in part to a lack of analysis that is both trusted and clear. 

    “There is a case for a new role to enhance consumer and investor confidence by providing much needed trusted and clear analysis across the whole of the energy sector. Many stakeholders see value in this new role, and in identifying options for how this role could be delivered.  With the CMA about to report, now is an opportune time to consider it.”

    Other sectors such as healthcare, already have similar body in place and it is suggested that due to the success of these organisations, there would be confidence in a new institution for the energy sector.

    The report argues that while there are already several UK energy institutions, it is perceived they have not always been able to provide a “balanced and clear analysis of key issues across the whole of Britain's energy sector”.

    Paul Massara, CEO of RWE npower said said:

    “Earlier this year I asked Vivid Economics to look at whether there could be a new way to build the debate about energy on a complete foundation of fact and reliable analysis.

    “…An Office of Energy would support and empower a continuing open and transparent debate about the competing issues of the trilemma.”  

  • RWE inaugurates Germany wind farm

    As it continues with its commitment to greener forms of power generation, RWE has introduced the German-based Nordsee Os windfarm into its business. The windfarm is one of the biggest in Germany and has enough capacity to produce 295 Megawatts of energy. There are 48 wind turbines in the wind park, which bring power to 320,000 homes.

    RWE’s investment into the windfarm stands at more than €1 billion. An operation room situated in Heligoland will operate and manage the running of the windfarm and a control room has been set up to monitor the project. Moreover, an apartment block has been built for employees to stay while they work.

    It took more than 60 kilometres of undersea cable to make the installation possible and the installation vessels used in the project cover 137,000 nautical miles; each of the blades weighs more than 23 tonnes and measures over 60 m long. The turbines weigh 350 tonnes and they measure 160m in height.

    Commenting on the project, Peter Terium, CEO of RWE AG, said:

    “The expansion of renewable energy is one of our main growth areas and offshore wind energy will play a vital role. RWE will become the third largest player in the European offshore market this year. And we are growing further: In only one month’s time, we will be commissioning another wind farm, Gwynt y Môr, located off the coast of Wales.

    “We are developing and operating additional offshore projects alone and with partners in Germany, the UK and the Benelux region.”

    Hans Bünting, CEO of RWE Innogy, added:

    “At the end of this year, 40% of our power generation from renewables will already come from offshore power production. Thanks to the Nordsee Ost and Gwynt y Môr offshore wind farms our operating result will see double-digit growth."

    Further wind farms are in the development stages and when they are completed, they will be situated in the German North Sea. The wind farms will have an expanse of 150 km² and they will be able to produce 1000 MW of power.

    Gwynt y Môr windfarm

    RWE will introduce the Gwynt y Môr windfarm into its business in June 2015. The farm is located in Wales and it has the capacity to produce 576 MW of energy. The building of the windfarm has been carried out in conjunction with Siemens and other partners.

  • RWE rebuilding crucial gas turbine following fault

    Npower has announced that RWE Generation is to rebuild once of its crucial gas turbines from its Great Yarmouth power plant. The turbine measures 10 meters long, 3 meters in diameter and it has a 90 ton rotor. The turbine has been shipped to France where manufacturers GE will begin work on the rotor.

    A team transported the gas turbine to Antwerp via a 46 wheel trailer; it made the final part of the journey on a barge. A team at the Ferrybridge workshop had been working together to repair the damaged turbine after it received significant damage earlier in 2014.

    The turbine, which can power more than a third of a million homes, was damaged earlier this year after a fault occurred in March. The fault was due to one of the turbine blades failing, which in turn caused damage to the compressor blade.

    As a result of the damage to the turbine, the Great Yarmouth power plant was forced to close and it still remains shut. A team has been put in place to ensure that this type of fault doesn’t occur again and they are working on a “cost saving” plan to enable RWE Generation to get the power station working again.

    Commenting in a press release, Kevin Nix, Head of RWE Generation UK, said:

     “It has been a very difficult couple of months and I would like to thank everyone at the power station and RWE Generation Maintenance Outage Support in Ferrybridge who have worked together on finding a cost effective solution.”

    Once the rotor has been fully repaired it will be shipped back to the UK from the GE workshop in France. It is expected that it will be back at the power plant in October and a team from RWE Generation Maintenance Outage Support will work to reinstall it.

    In a press release, Distributed Assets Group Manager Kerry Nesbitt said:

     “We are working hard at a return of the plant to commercial operation on time and on budget for the autumn clock change.”

    The station in Great Yarmouth was first commissioned in 2002 and it can produce 400 megawatts of electricity. Npower says that the plant in Great Yarmouth is one of the country’s most modern power stations. According to the team at Npower, the station has the ability to respond to ever changing energy demands, as well as being energy efficient and flexible.

  • Small business owners warned of Gas safety risks

    A new survey has highlighted concerns that some small and medium sized businesses aren’t doing enough to protect their employers and premises from gas safety risks.

    A survey by British Gas shows that 17% of businesses don’t service their appliances on a regular basis, and one in five small businesses state there have been problems with gas safety issues at their premises in the past.

    Even more concerning is the fact that 40% of small businesses say they would turn off the electric supply if they thought they could smell gas at their work premises. While others said they would try and find out the source of the gas leak, and a small minority would close up the building to try and contain a suspected gas leak.

    More than 500 senior managers were interviewed as part of the survey and 20 per cent of them admitted that gas safety issues had caused varying problems including gas leaks, lost income and a reduction in trading hours.

    Commenting on the survey, Vincent Thomas, Field Service Manager at British Gas Business, said:

    “It’s crucial that businesses take gas safety seriously. I’ve seen some alarming stuff over the years in all different types of businesses – from factories to nursing homes. When something goes wrong it can stop a business in its tracks and have a serious effect on finances, staff and customers. 

    “Our engineers visit over 1,000 businesses every week, and find that many customers don’t think about the risks of carbon monoxide and gas leaks at work the same way as they might at home.  It’s absolutely essential to get any commercial gas appliance regularly serviced and maintained.”

    The survey was conducted as part of Gas Safety Week, which is held annually to help raise awareness of the potential problems that can be can be caused due to poor safety practices.

    Employer Responsibilities

    Employers also need to be aware of their legal obligations to provide a safe working environment for their employees. According to the guidelines set out by the Health and Safety Executive, work carried out in commercial premises such as factories needs to be completed by a registered engineer, and annual checks also need to be undertaken.

    As well as carrying out regularly maintenance, records should be kept, and inspections should be conducted to look for early signs of damage to both the appliances and pipe lines.

  • SMEs confirm fall in domestic and export orders

    Figures released by the CBI show a fall in output for small and medium-sized manufacturing businesses in the UK. The CBI SME trends survey also indicated a fall in export and domestic orders for the last quarter.

    More than 400 small and medium-size companies were interviewed for the survey; the results showed there was a poor performance for output growth, but it is predicted that both domestic orders and output will perform better in the next quarter, and the decline in exports is expected to slow.

    The latest figures also demonstrated that less people were employed in the last three months, and this trend is expected to continue into the new year.

    According to the survey, businesses felt less optimistic about the future and they were less positive over the future for exports in the coming year. In addition, companies will be spending less on both product and process innovation in 2016.

    The figures from the CBI revealed that 26% of SMEs manufacturers had a rise in orders, but 48% reported a fall; these figures are expected to improve slightly in next three months.

    In addition, 25% of companies reported an increase in domestic orders while 36% reported a fall. And the 10% of companies said they had experienced an increase in export orders in the last quarter, while 46% stated export orders had fallen. This is the poorest performance since 2009.

    Other key figures from the survey show 23% of manufacturers say output has increased, while 31% reported a fall, and 22% of companies remain optimistic about their business prospects in the future; 29% say they are less positive

    Moreover, 23% of companies had increased their amount of employees, while 15% of SEMs had employed fewer people in the last quarter.

    Commenting on the new figures Rain Newton-Smith, CBI Director of Economics, said:

    “As demand has fallen, especially in the face of a strengthening Pound, our smaller manufacturers have had a tough quarter, with orders and output volumes dropping.

    “Manufacturers expect conditions to stabilise somewhat over the quarter ahead, but remain concerned about the outlook for demand.

    Newton-Smith went on to urge the government to include measures in its Comprehensive Spending Review to help improve skills and innovation in order to improve productivity in the coming year.

    Overall growth

    While the news for SMEs wasn’t overly positive, there was better news for growth overall as newly released figures from the CBI showed growth has increased by 4%, and GDP grew by 0.5% in the last quarter.

  • Tata Steel could make government agreement

    Tata Steel could be on the brink of making an agreement with the government to save the plant in Port Talbot, according to media reports. If successful, the deal will save approximately 11,000 jobs and the company will receive a £1 billion loan. The British Steel Pension Scheme would also be restructured if the agreement goes ahead.

    Government intervention has become necessary as a suitable buyer doesn’t appear to have been found. The Business Secretary Sajid Javid had previously stated that the government would be willing to provide a 25% equity stake in the business and it would also offer further financial support.

    Tata Steel have made no comment on it’s website about the potential deal, but it has welcomed the changes to the British Steel Pension Scheme, which were announced after talks between the company, government, regulators, and pension scheme trustees.

    In a statement, Human Resources Director for Tata Steel’s European operations, Tor Farquhar, said:

    “This is an important step forward which would enable a better outcome for the vast majority of members of the British Steel Pension Scheme than the benefits provided by the Pension Protection Fund. The consultation is also an important step that supports the prospect of securing a sustainable future for Tata Steel UK’s 11,000 employees.

    Commons Statement

    In a recent statement to the House of Commons, Javid said that Tata was in the process of considering proposals. At a meeting in Mumbai, the Business Secretary yet again reiterated the government support that would be offered to bidders for the plant. In the Commons in May, Javid stated there were seven bidders for Tata’s Port Talbot plant, and they were working to “narrow the field” to concentrate on the most credible ones.

    Manufacturing News

    In further positive news for the manufacturing sector, manufacturing activity increased in May, according to the Purchasing Managers Index; the UK Manufacturing PMI moved passed its recent stagnation 50.1. However, the sector’s performance is still sluggish and analysts are concerned that it will continue to hold back the rest of the economy.

    Major concerns for the manufacturing industry include the poor performance of exports and the impending Brexit vote. Many businesses surveyed by Markit say they feel that the forthcoming European Union vote was having a negative impact on their businesses due to the on-going uncertainty. A recent report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research indicated that a ‘yes’ vote could result in a loss of 950,000 manufacturing jobs.

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  • UK companies express concerns over government energy policy

    A new survey carried out by Npower shows that British businesses lack confidence in the government’s energy policies. Nearly 60% of businesses surveyed felt that the energy policies unveiled by the Government did not reflect industries actual needs.

    A further 62% also expressed doubt over the future energy policies that are planned by the current government. This includes the Governments Electricity Market Reform, which aims to move the United Kingdom towards a lower carbon future.

    According to the survey’s findings, UK companies are not happy for their existing energy bills to increase so that low carbon energy solutions can be funded; more than 80% of those interviewed stated that the cost of energy is the most important issue for their business, while only 41% said that a low carbon future was their priority.

    More than 25% said that they would not welcome their energy bills increasing to help fund lower carbon initiatives, while another 30% stated that it was unlikely that their businesses would be prepared to pay extra for the cost of low carbon solutions.

    Wayne Mitchell, head of industrial and commercial at npower, commented:

    “This survey has revealed just how sceptical businesses are by the effectiveness and impact of energy policies – the very policies that are going to have far-reaching and long-term impacts on their businesses. As political parties consider their energy manifestos, there is a clear case here for Government and the wider energy industry to work together to better educate businesses about the importance of these policy initiatives in securing the UK’s energy future and the competitiveness of UK plc.

    “The cost of energy bills remains the key issue for business leaders. That’s why we are committed to working with businesses across a wide range of sectors to help make their energy budgets as affordable as possible. What we focus on is the long term; we work with our customers to drive down consumption by increasing knowledge of the changing policy landscape and implementing energy solutions.”

    Businesses also raised concerns over the Government’s Contracts for differences Initiative. The initiative pays companies a set amount for implementing the use of low carbon technology, however, the majority of businesses expressed concerns over this when it was revealed that the plan would cost UK companies more in energy bills.

    The survey was conducted at the same time that Npower launched the 20% Imperative that offers advice to businesses on how they can save money on energy bills.

  • UK manufacturing sector bounces back

    The UK manufacturing sector made a strong comeback in August, according to PMI figures released by Markit. The figures, which took a distinct downturn after the Brexit result, are now showing their strongest performance for almost a year.

    August manufacturing figures are positive news for the UK after July’s poor results. PMI figures for July experienced their worst performance for three years and they led to concerns over a recession.

    The announcement was also good news for the pound, which increased by 1% following the news. While this was viewed as a positive result by many, a stronger pound will result in an increased priced for imported goods.

    Chemical and Pharmaceutical Sectors remain positive

    Despite concerns over Brexit and the implications for the chemical and pharmaceutical industries, new figures from the Chemical Industries Association showed that the vast majority of companies are positive about the future.

    According to a recent survey, 89% companies stated that research and development investment would continue as usual and 87% feel that exports will continue to perform at their current levels or increase.

    Companies also expect that Brexit will make an impact on investment due to the continued uncertainty, however, the majority of companies don’t plan to make changes to their current capital investment expenditure, and 71% stated that employment levels will either stay as they are or experience an upsurge.

    The research also highlighted concerns over fixed exchange rates but many companies are positive that the current low sterling rates would boost exports in the sector.

    Commenting on the research, chief executive of the Chemical Industries Association, Steve Elliot said:

    “It is right we acknowledge that we are in uncertain times while the country exits the European Union, but our survey shows that there is still confidence that the UK can be a good place to do business. The products and technologies of our companies are vital enablers to the rest of manufacturing.”

    Elliot also urged the government to do all it could to “make it even better for companies to invest” in the UK.

    Major companies commit to the UK

    Despite concerns over businesses holding off investment decisions post Brexit, major companies in the pharmaceutical sector such as GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca have showed their commitment to the UK

    GlaxoSmithKline recently announced a £275 million investment into three manufacturing plants in the UK while AstraZeneca committed to spend £330 million into research and development in the UK.

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