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December 2013: A record-breaking month for Wind Energy

With concerns that energy supplies are running low in the UK, and with several reports warning of “black out Britain” ministers are urging power companies to look at more sustainable ways of keeping the country in energy.

There were several warnings that Britain could experience blackout during the winter season due to the high demands on energy, but thus far this has not been the case and it seems many of us are heeding the calls to find sustainable means of power generation.

December 2013 is being hailed as a record breaking month for wind energy. For years the government has warned of the need to find more sustainable means of power generation and the statistics show that wind power is leading the way when it comes to green energy.

In December, 2,841,080 megawatt hours of electricity were generated through the National Grid by wind power. This generated enough electricity to provide enough power for nearly 6 million UK homes; wind power supplied 10% of electricity for homes, businesses and factories in the UK.

Statistics also show that there were more record-breaking figures for wind energy last month. In the week starting 16th December, wind power was used to generate 783,886 MWh hours of electricity, accounting for 13% of the Britain’s power supply over the course of the week.

The boom in power generated by wind energy also reached record levels in the run up to Christmas. On the 21st December, which is traditionally one of the busiest shopping days of the year, 132,812 MWh was generated through wind power alone. This is a record figure and supplied 17% of the countries demand for electricity.

Commenting in a press release, Maf Smith, Deputy Chief Executive of RenewableUK, said:

"This is a towering achievement for the British wind energy industry. It provides cast-iron proof that the direction of travel away from dirty fossil fuels to clean renewable sources is unstoppable.

"In December, we generated more electricity from wind for British homes and businesses than during any other month on record - and we also hit weekly and daily highs.

"This gives us a great sense of confidence for the year ahead, when we will continue to increase the amount of clean power we generate from wind, onshore and offshore.

Another area of power generation the government is keen to explore is nuclear energy, however, green groups such as Friends of the Earth have argued that the country already has enough nuclear reactors and has warned of the hidden costs of using nuclear energy for power generation.

There are also many against the idea of the use of wind energy as a form of power generation. One such group, Together Against Wind, say that wind power is too expensive and the group has vowed to campaign for cuts to the amount of subsidies the wind energy sector is given.

However, despite the objections to this form of power, in the run up to the festive period it seems that green energy led the way in December.

2014: A good year for UK Businesses and Manufacturing

After years of recession and a stagnating economy, the year ahead looks promising for UK businesses and the manufacturing industry. The economy continued to improve – albeit slightly – throughout the last quarter and there is plenty of reasons to be hopeful for 2014.

The recovery has taken its time, but it is slowly gaining pace. A recent survey shows that British businesses are optimistic for the next 12 months, and news reports suggest that they have a right to be.

According to a recent press release issued by the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply, the manufacturing industry in the UK is fast gaining momentum. It has experienced its strongest growth for three years and production and new orders have reached a nineteen year high.

Commenting in a press release, David Noble, Chief Executive Officer at the Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply, said

“The industry’s ongoing recovery has given rise to a substantial expansion in purchasing activity but similar to previous months, the sector is still experiencing some shortages, particularly in raw materials, implying that supply chains still have some catching up to do with the market. With good signs that growth will be maintained, suppliers go into the New Year with more opportunities than the challenges of previous years.”

Recently it was also announced that half of the UK’s firms plan to recruit new staff in 2014, and 73% of businesses in the London expect to grow their businesses over the course of the next twelve months.

Job prospects for young people improve

There was good news for young people, too. Job prospects have looked poor in recent years and there are currently more people under the age of 25 out of work than there has ever been. In total, there are said to be one million under-25s out of work.

However, according to a new survey recently published by the CBI, many companies state that they are planning to recruit younger employees through apprenticeship and graduate schemes, offering young people the prospect of gaining meaningful skills and employment.

Are manufacturing jobs set to return to the UK?

After years of jobs from the manufacturing sector being moved overseas to take advantage of cheaper labour, news reports suggest that in the next decade the trend will be for manufacturers to return to the UK, creating more jobs throughout the manufacturing sector.

GDP Growth

And in yet more good news, GDP growth figures for the last quarter showed signs of “robust” growth, confirming that the UK economy is at last back on track and the future is looking much brighter than it did at the start of the year.

There are still tough economic times ahead for many, but there is also hope of a better future on the horizon as 2014 draws near. The UK has gone through the worst of the recession and 2013 has indeed ended on a positive note for many businesses.

Is the European Petrochemical Industry Really at Threat from Cheap Shale Imports?

In recent weeks the media has been full of stories of how the petrochemical industry in Europe is going to come under increased pressure due to competition from cheap imports of shale gas supplied by the United States.

In the meanwhile, the US petro/chemical industry looks set to experience a boom due to an increase in shale gas exports. Some analysts are predicting that the European petrochemical industry could face a decline because of the competition, while the United States looks set to thrive.

However, it could also be argued that there isn’t too much to be concerned about as the lower cost imports could in fact be an advantage to European- based companies.

As The Telegraph recently reported, cheap shale gas imports look to be the saviour of the Ineos owned Grangemouth plant in Scotland. Just weeks ago it looked as though the plant was about to close and thousands of jobs were to be lost. Nevertheless, with some rethinking of the current business model, bosses at Grangemouth say they have found a way to make the plant profitable.

Bosses at beleaguered plant are to make take advantage of the low prices of shale gas from the States. The article recently published in The Telegraph explains how using shale gas imported from the US has helped cut costs at the Scotland-based Grangemouth plant and will help it to become profitable again.

As Calum MacLean, Grangemouth chairman, explained to The Telegraph, the low cost of shale prices from the United States has allowed them to become more cost effective and means that the plant can produce ethylene competitively.

Grangemouth also intends to import ethane from the United States; this is something that will begin in 2016. The Telegraph reports that this will be the first time that shale has been “landed into Britain”. Even with the cost of importing, bosses say that the ethane will still be 50 per cent cheaper, allowing them to compete in the market where they struggled before.

Far from some assertions in the media that Europe could be a victim of low shale gas prices, it seems European businesses have found a way to make the reduced shale costs work for them. For instance, the BBC reports that the Rathnes plant in Norway – which is also owned by Ineos is using the same model as Grangemouth, and will buy gas at better prices in order to make its Norwegian plant profitable once more.

Some European companies may be wary of the challenges they could face from cheap shale imports, however, the examples from Grangemouth and Rathnes show how the cheap imports can be used to the best advantage

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