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  • Majority of businesses unconcerned about power cuts

    A new study shows that most small and medium sized enterprises in the UK aren’t worried about winter power cuts. The research by British Gas Business indicated that 83 per cent of SMEs don’t view power loss as a threat to their business, and just 17 per cent of the 500 UK-based SMEs said power cuts were a concern.

    Senior managers working in small businesses said they had lost an average of two working days in the last five years due to power cuts, while larger businesses with turnovers of £50 million or more had lost six days due to black outs. 

    However, small and medium sized enterprises are being warned against complacency, and they are being urged to put an action plan in place now rather than risk losing access to heating or hot water in the winter.

    Testing procedures and maintenance

    The survey also indicated that only a limited amount of companies carry out testing procedures, and 72 per cent of businesses don’t have a maintenance plan in place. Moreover, 41 per cent of senior managers revealed they hadn’t organised annual services for boilers and other appliances; this figure was higher in smaller companies.

    James Bennett, Managing Director of Business Services at British Gas, said:

    “With winter fast approaching, now is the time for small businesses to make sure they have well maintained heating and hot water systems. Companies with annual servicing or maintenance plans in place are better positioned to focus their time on creating revenues and growth.” 

    Employers are also reminded of their legal requirements to keep gas appliances, flues etc., well maintained.

    Reduced risk of winter black out threat

    However, there is less chance of black outs this winter, according the National Grid’s latest outlook report. The National Grid has taken steps to increase power capacity after warnings in the summer about the record low levels of spare capacity.  

    The Telegraph reports the National Grid invested £123 million into ten power stations so they would stay open as part of an emergency scheme. Extra payments would be made to the power companies if the back-up support is needed.

    Eggborough reprieve

    The news that the Eggborough power plant in Yorkshire is to stay open has also resulted in extra capacity for the months ahead. The plant had originally been scheduled to close in March 2016, but the agreement with the National Grid means it has got a reprieve, and the plant will supply power under the Supplemental Balance Reserve scheme should capacity fall this winter.

  • Manufacturing close to stagnation rates

    Manufacturing has hit a 34-month low, according to figures from the Purchasing Managers Index (PMI), which takes its data from more than 600 manufacturing companies.

    The UK manufacturing PMI now stands at 50.8, which is only just above the stagnation mark and output has experienced a sharp decrease. The fall comes just a month after an increase of the January manufacturing PMI to 52.9, which was due to a surge in domestic orders.

    The slump is attributed to a slowdown in the consumer and investment goods market, and capital and consumer goods are also in decline.

    Commenting on the new figures, Rob Dobson, a Senior Economist at Markit, said:

    “The near-stagnation of manufacturing highlights the ongoing fragility of the economic recovery at the start of the year and provides further cover for the Bank of England's increasingly dovish stance.

    "The breadth of the slowdown is especially worrisome. The domestic market is showing signs of weakening while export business continued to fall."

    “Price pressures also remained firmly on the downside, with the survey signalling input costs falling at a double-digit annual pace and average factory gate selling prices showing a further decline. A lot of this is driven by the ongoing weakness of global commodity prices. However, there are also signs that weaker growth is driving up competition between manufacturers to secure new business and among their suppliers too.”

    Nevertheless, despite the decline in February’s results, the PMI still remains in positive figures and previous industry surveys show that manufacturers are positive about the future prospects.

    Employment slump and Exports

    Employment in the manufacturing sector also fell, with the figures for February showing a reduction for the second successive month, however, the fall was not significant

    Exports were on the decline with manufacturers stating there is a slowdown in orders from key locations such as Russia, Brazil and mainland Europe, and there was low demand from the domestic market also.

    Exchange rates, Brexit and the manufacturing sector

    Many manufacturing firms have expressed concerns over the volatility of exchange rates and the impact these will continue to have on the sector. Moreover, with an EU referendum set for June, this will lead to more uncertainty over the future of exports.

    The future of the UK export market will remain unclear while the outcome of the Brexit vote is unknown. In the meanwhile, analysts state that if the UK public does vote to exit the EU, this will have a significant impact on many UK manufacturing sectors, including the chemical, food and beverages industry.

  • Manufacturing orders on Increase, but food prices expected to rise

    The latest Industrial Trends Survey, which interviewed 450 UK businesses, shows manufacturing orders are on the increase, but there was less demand for export orders, although they do remain above average.

    Manufacturers were also positive about the prospects for output, with 38 per cent expecting it to grow over the course of the next quarter, however, average selling prices are in for a sharp increase during the next quarter to +19, according to the CBI.

    Order book balance and output volumes

    The order book balance is now at minus 3, which is a notable improvement on October’s figures of minus 17. However, output volumes also slowed in the last quarter.

    Rain Newton Smith, chief economist for the CBI, said:

    “It’s good to see manufacturers’ overall order books at healthy levels, and the outlook for output growth remaining robust as we head into Christmas.

    “But the weak pound is beginning to make its mark, and prices are expected to rise, especially in the food and drink sector. On the flip side though, export orders remain above average.

    Autumn Statement

    The announcement of the new Productivity Fund was welcomed by the CBI, the EEF and the Food and Drink Federation; it is hoped some of the measures outlined in the Autumn Statement will give businesses the confidence to invest.

    The £23 billion Productivity Fund will mean additional support for innovation and science, which the EEF say is “vital if we are to be at the forefront of the fourth industrial revolution”. The increased support for exports also received approval.

    Rising food prices

    The weak pound and the rising cost of ingredients has caused problems in the food and drink sector. It is predicted that prices of well-known food brands will rise in the coming months, however, some manufacturers  say they will cover these additional costs where they can.

    After Philip Hammond’s statement Autumn Statement, the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) issued a statement detailing just how important food and drink manufacturing is to the economy in the UK, with a worth of more than £21 billion.

    Strong export growth for food and drink sector

    The food and drink sector also showed strong export growth in recent months. The FDF say exports increased by 13.7 per cent, and crucially, non-EU exports grew at twice their usual rate in the last quarter.

    The FDF also said branded food and drink exports are at record levels.

  • Millions of businesses unclear on duties over safe gas appliances

    More than 1.5 million small and medium enterprises say that they are not aware of their legal duties when it comes to maintaining safe gas appliances.  This could mean that many companies around the UK are inadvertently putting their businesses at risk because they don’t understand, or are unware of the current regulations.

    Under the Gas Safety (Installation & Use) Regulations 1998 all employers are legally obliged to  make sure that gas appliances, gas pipe works and flues remaining in good working order, however, more than 50% of senior managers stated that they did not know that they had to carry out regular safety checks.

    27% of those surveyed said that taking advantage of the recovering economy was most important to them, and 45% of respondents felt that increasing the amount customers spend was the most essential challenge faced by their business, however, 38% said that they were “overwhelmed” by the sheer amount of compliance and safety requirements, while 39% said that they didn’t have adequate time to ensure that they stayed up to date with all of the relevant safety requirements.

    Just under half of the small and medium sized businesses interviewed said that that they had not carried out safety checks within the last 12 months, which could mean that their Business Liability Insurance would no longer be validate should an accident happen or a claim be made against their company.

    Businesses that don’t carry out regular energy safety checks are putting their company at risk of prosecution should a problem occur and they are also endangering the health and safety of the people that work for them.

    Commenting on the survey, Stephen Beynon, Managing Director at British Gas Business, said:

    “Gas safety should be an absolute priority for all businesses. Our customers tell us that it can be a struggle to find the time to wade through compliance requirements, but the consequences of using unsafe gas appliances can be severe. With winter not far away it makes sense to put plans in place which protect businesses and allow them to focus on what matters - growing their revenues to help Britain’s economic recovery.”

    In further findings, 60% of those interviewed stated that they had experienced a  breakdown within the last five years, but  just over a quarter said that they had no backup plan in place should there be a breakdown.

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  • Mixed news for manufacturing

    New figures from the CBI and Markit, show mixed news for the manufacturing sector. According to figures released from the CBI, manufacturing output and exports have shown a steady growth in recent months, however, manufacturers are less optimistic about the near future.

    While output, employment and domestic orders were showing signs of improvement in the last quarter, post-Brexit, manufacturers are less optimistic moving forward.

    CBI Chief Economist, Rain Newton Smith, said:

    “Manufacturers picked up the pace over the second quarter, with output growing solidly. We’re also seeing encouraging signs of a boost to export competitiveness from a weaker sterling.

    “But it’s clear that a cloud of uncertainty is hovering over industry, post-Brexit. We see this in weak expectations for new orders, a sharp fall in optimism and a scaling back of investment plans.”

    UK Manufacturing PMI

    The UK Purchasing Manufacturing PMI was also down to 48.2 for July, with production and consumer orders only experiencing a modest rise, which is thought to be largely due to the uncertainties surrounding the aftermath of the Brexit vote. The figures are the poorest for three years, but export orders received a boost.

    Senior Economist, Rob Dobson from Markit, said:

    “The final PMI came in at 48.2, down from the earlier flash print of 49.1. The pace of contraction was the fastest since early-2013 amid increasingly widespread reports that business activity has been adversely affected by the EU referendum. The drops in output, new orders and employment were all steeper than flash estimates.”

    The demand for manufactured goods in the UK also appear to have been affected both prior to the vote and afterwards, and the PMI figures were also bad news the value of the pound, which fell sharply following the announcement.

    Production and employment

    The figures highlight concerns over employment figures in the manufacturing sector. Further job losses were recorded in July, and there are worries that the trend is set to continue. Production experienced the worst decline since 2012 and contractions were noted across the consumer, investment and intermediate goods sectors.

    Recession fears

    The poor performance of manufacturing had been expected following the Brexit vote and the uncertainty surrounding it. However, the PMI results were lower than predicted, and this has led to fresh concerns over a recession.

    David Noble, Group Chief Executive Officer from the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply stated that without new orders coming through, the downward trajectory in the manufacturing sector is likely to get worse in the short term.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Oil and Gas survey shows mixed fortunes for industry

    The latest activity survey from Oil and Gas UK has shown mixed fortunes for the sector in the UK.  The statistics show a campaign to improve efficiency and production, and to reduce industry operating costs has been successful.

    According to the report, operating costs in the sector have been lowered by a third, costs of exploration are predicted to reduce further and the sector has been boosted by a 10% increase in oil and gas production, but the survey revealed some negative aspects for the industry as well.

    North Sea Exploration at record lows

    While costs for exploring the North Sea have been reduced by 40%, the survey also demonstrates how exploration is now at record lows.

    The lack of surveying in the oil and gas sectors in the UK has caused concern in the past, and a number of initiatives have been announced to encourage more exploration but they do not appear to be reversing the trend.

    Lack of Investment

    The report also noticed a lack of financing for the creation of new projects, and Oil and Gas UK are now urging the government to take measures to improvement investment levels.

    Chief Executive for Gas and Oil UK, Deirdre Michie, has called for action to be taken to encourage government, the gas and oil industries and regulators to work together in order to make the industry more competitive and attractive to investors.

    Michie also urged the government to reduce the headline rate of the special taxes paid by the industry and for steps to be made to improve the way the Investment Allowance is used in order to help pave the way for securing energy supply in to the future.

    Price Fall

    Prices for gas and oil also continue to be on the wane and total revenues have decreased by 30%.

    Based on current prices, the activity report highlighted concerns that around half of UKCS oil fields could be operating at a loss, which will further prevent fresh investment into exploration.

    Commenting on the falling prices, Deirdre Michie said

    “The UKCS is entering a phase of ‘super maturity’.  While the industry’s decades of experience provide great depths of knowledge and expertise which can be applied to recover the still significant remaining resource, the report highlights the challenges that the falling oil price poses in our capability to maximise economic recovery of the UK’s offshore oil and gas.”

    The report also details the rapid increase in the decommissioning of fields and the fall in sanctioned capital investment

  • Orders stabilise for SMEs

    The latest figures from the CBI shows that orders for small and medium manufacturers stabilised over the last quarter, and SMEs say they have a greater optimism regarding export orders as the year develops.

    However, the survey of 426 companies showed that orders were flat during the last quarter; there was also a fall in export orders, and a significant reduction in export prices, but it is predicted that domestic orders and exports will grow in the near future.

    Despite this, the companies surveyed expect to spend more on training and investment throughout the next 12 months, and employment growth is steady.  The CBI SME Trends Survey also indicates that manufacturers intend to invest more in product innovation and training.

    Commenting on the survey, CBI Director Rain Newton-Smith said:

    “It’s encouraging to see smaller manufacturers’ optimism and orders stabilising, although the picture remains fairly flat across the board with many firms treading water.

    “But there are expectations that domestic orders and exports growth will pick up in the next quarter and many smaller manufacturing firms also plan to invest more in their staff training.”

    Key Statistics

    The key statistics show that 24% of SMEs report a greater optimism, while 25% were less so; 30% of firms reported an improved output, while 23 % noted a fall. In addition, 21% of SMEs reported an increase in export orders, while 25% stated there was a decrease.

    UK Economic Growth

    Looking at the wider picture, there was a weakening of economic growth in the last quarter according to the 759 manufacturing, retail and services companies surveyed as part of the CBI Growth Indicator.

    Rain Newton-Smith stated:

    “Manufacturing and business and professional services have struggled to make a mark, but a healthier picture can be seen in the household-focused consumer services and retail sectors.”

    Government initiatives and the future of manufacturing

    While manufacturing struggles to gain momentum, there have been a number of government innovations to help improve the fortunes of the sector, including research and development tax credits.

    However, a recent survey from the EEF showed that 60% manufacturers felt the government could do more to improve business access to scientific research, and while the introduction of Catapult centres, which aim to enhance access to research and development facilities for the sector have proven popular, the majority of manufacturers (69%) feel the government could do more when it comes to commercialising technology.

  • Questions being asked over Hinkley C

    The proposed Hinkley C power plant has always been the subject of controversy, but further questions are now being raised over its costs and who will foot the bill for the radioactive waste that will be produced.

    As detailed in the Guardian, the Department of Energy and Climate Change has declined a Freedom of Information request, which would have disclosed its state aid arrangements with the French energy firm EDF.

    The government has previously stated that when a company builds a nuclear plant in the United Kingdom, it would be responsible for the management and cost of the waste disposal, but there are worries that these expenses could be passed on to the bill payer. In addition, environmental group Greenpeace has expressed concerns over the possible bad value that the proposed plant might offer to thetax payer.

    David Lowry, who filed the Freedom of Information request, is to appeal the decision and he argues that British citizens are entitled to make up their own minds on whether the government has made the right decision over the plant.

    Hinkley C - the costs

    In an article on its website, Greenpeace has raised concerns over the potential costs of Hinkley C. A recent spreadsheet issued by the Treasury seemed to suggest that the new power plant could end up costing £26 billion, but the government has since issued a statement saying this was a mistake and the final cost will be £16 billion.

    However, Greenpeace says this isn’t consistent with the costs announced by EDF, who say that the development will cost £18 billion, however, this price could still rise should be development be subject to delays.

    A new nuclear generation

    A move toward nuclear energy is considered necessary due to the closure of the majority of the United Kingdom’s older generation power stations and the need for cleaner fuels.

    The Hinkley Point C power plant is being hailed as the first step towards a new revolution for the nuclear power industry, and it will be the first nuclear plant in the UK for a quarter of a century.

    Licensing for the station was confirmed in 2012, and Hinkley C will be the first nuclear power plant to be backed by a Funding Decommissioning Programme. Under this arrangement, the company responsible for building the plant must cover all of the costs of decommissioning, and their share of the total cost for waste disposal.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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