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  • 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.

  • Fortunes improve for small and medium-sized businesses

    Small and medium-sized manufacturing businesses in the UK are continuing to see their fortunes improve, according to the latest survey from the CBI. The survey, which reflects the last three months of trade, shows that the output in growth and the increase in orders have continued.

    For the fourth consecutive quarter, domestic orders and output both showed vigorous growth and it is expected that the upward trend will continue throughout the next quarter.

    Job Creation

    There was also good news on the job creation front. In the last quarter small and medium- sized manufacturing companies have seen a dramatic increase in the number of people employed in this sector; last quarter’s figures for employment showed the strongest growth since records began in 1988. However, while firm's optimism was up in the latest survey, it wasn’t as high when compared with the last quarter.

    Investment

    Smaller manufacturers also stated that they plan to invest in machinery in the next twelve months; however, many of the manufacturers don’t intend to invest in new buildings in the near future.

    Export Orders

    The one weak point for small and medium-sized manufactures continues to be exports. Exports remained flat in the last quarter. However, many were optimistic that export orders would begin to improve again in the next few months,

    Commenting in a press release, Katja Hall, CBI Deputy Director-General, said:

    "Smaller manufacturers are settling into a regular growth pattern, with their order books and output growing for the fourth consecutive quarter.

    "Firms remain upbeat about their business situation and they are hiring at their fastest rate since 1988.

    "But export orders have underperformed this quarter, which may in part be because of the strength of Sterling.

    "We need the Government to get behind our small and medium-sized manufacturers to help them to sell their products and services to new markets around the world, giving a sustainable boost to long-term growth."

    Key Findings

    Key Findings from the latest CBI survey showed that 36% of small and medium-sized businesses experienced a growth in orders in the last quarter.

    31% of companies said that their order output was on the increase and 16% experienced a decrease.

    36% of firms had an increase in domestic orders, but 19% of companies said that their orders fell.

    And 34% of companies announced an increase in employment, but 9% said that there had been a fall.

  • 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.

  • 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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