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Use of renewable energy reaches record levels

Renewable energy is playing a key part when it comes to fuelling homes and commercial premises, according to the latest set of statistics released from the Department of Energy and Climate change.

The figures indicate that nearly a quarter of the U.K.’s energy in 2015 was produced by renewable energy sources. Solar output is on the increase, as is bioenergy, and a small rise in hydro generation of 2.6% was recorded too.

One of the most significant changes was in the increasing use of wind power. According to the figures, 26% of electricity in the UK is now produced by wind power, which is the equivalent of 9.8 million homes. The figures also demonstrate a surge in the use of offshore wind power generation; the escalation in wind power generation is due to the enhanced onshore and offshore capacity following the opening of several new wind farms, including Westermost Rough.

Positive effect on Fuel Bills

The rise in the use of renewable energy is also having a positive effect on the cost of fuel bills, with the data showing household electricity bills have fallen by an average of 8% because of the reduction in cost for energy and a reduced demand.

Increase in energy production

In total, energy production was more than 14% higher for 2014; this was due to the increased production in gas, oil, primary electricity and bioenergy. Moreover, the energy trends report showed that the production of natural gas was 8% higher

The increase in primary electricity is due to a larger nuclear output and more fields being opened, while a reduced need for maintenance led to the higher production of gas and oil.

Fall in fossil fuels

With the drive to reduce dependence on less environmentally friendly forms of power generation and towards renewable energy, the latest Energy Trends data report showed a fall of 3.8% since late 2014 in the use of fossil fuels.

Commenting on the figures, Maf Smith, Deputy Chief Executive for Energy UK, said:

“These excellent figures show that renewable energy is delivering huge amounts of clean electricity right now, and that overall energy costs are coming down – including wind energy

“Putting the consumer first means putting renewables first. As old coal turns off, renewables are quietly taking its place, delivering energy security and value for money. It makes more sense than ever to fully support and take advantage of our natural resources”.

UK businesses Support changes to Renewables obligations

Research conducted by Npower business solutions shows that UK-based businesses are largely in favour of the proposed new energy legislation regarding renewables obligations (RO) and feed in tariffs (FiT,) and they feel that it is likely the changes will have a positive effect on their business when they go ahead.

The changes in legislation was announced in late 2015 as part of the government’s spending review. In the review, the government announced its intention to scrap the compensation scheme for RO/FiT and to introduce an exemption programme in its place. 51% of those surveyed stated that they were in favour of the exemption scheme and plans to backdate compensation as they felt it would enable their businesses to remain competitive.

However, more than half of the manufacturers interviewed said that they were not aware of the government’s plans regarding Renewables Obligations and Feed in Tariffs, and the majority of retailers had not heard of the government’s proposals either.

Review and Consultation

A review into the proposals is scheduled to get under way later this year, and according to the research more than half of those surveyed said they would be interested in taking part during the consultation phase because of the impact the proposals could have on their business.

Commenting on the plans, head of Npower Business Solutions, David Reed said:

 “The proposed exemption would represent good news for the businesses and sectors which are eligible. Making regulatory processes more transparent and more straightforward would reduce the burden on businesses and would provide them with greater clarity about their finances.

“A majority of retailers and manufacturers we spoke to were not aware of the upcoming consultation. That’s why we’re working with the Government to host a round table event, to explain these upcoming changes to businesses and discuss the proposed benefits.”

Renewables obligation and feed in tariffs explained

The Renewables Obligation scheme is a measure that was introduced to ensure that electricity suppliers buy a percentage of their power from renewable energy suppliers, however, these charges have been steadily increasing due to a number of factors, including the surge in the number of renewable energy companies.

The Feed in Tariff was an attempt to get UK-based businesses and homes to generate greener forms of energy themselves such as wind and hydro power; the suppliers get compensated for each kWh of energy that is generated. However, as with the Renewables Obligation scheme, the cost of the tariffs are continuing to increase because of the growing number of low carbon energy firms and a greater amount of green energy being generated.

Doubt surrounds UK Steel manufacturing industry

Uncertainty continues to surround the UK steel manufacturing industry following a review by Tata of its European Portfolio. In late March it was announced that due to the demand for steel being on the decline across the globe, the current excess of steel supplies and excessive manufacturing costs, the future of Tata steel plant in Port Talbot is now in doubt.

A plan for Strip Products UK, which aimed to transform and restructure the business, was also deemed as unviable during the review, and it was decided that the Tata steel board would not be able to fund the plan.

Heavy Losses and Proposed Sale

It has been reported that the Port Talbot plant is losing £1 million and a day, however, these figures have not been confirmed and there is a question mark over the precise amount of the losses.

There have been calls for the government to take ownership of the plant, but this is a plan that has been rejected by the Prime Minister and the only hope to save thousands of jobs is to sell the Tata steel plant.

Sajid Javid Criticism

Business Secretary Sajid Javid faced criticism for being on holiday at the time the news was announced, however, Mr David has said in a statement on his website that it was his efforts that convinced Tata to put the plant up for sale rather than close it down. The Business Secretary also defended his party’s efforts to support the manufacturing industry in the UK, specifically the steel industry.

However, Stephen Kinnock, the Labour MP for Aberavon has described the Tory party’s response to the steel industry’s predicament as “a mixture of incompetence and indifference” and he has started the #saveoursteel campaign.

CBI statement

The CBI has issued a statement regarding the current steel manufacturing crisis. The CBI Deputy Director-General for policy and campaigns, Josh Hardie, said:

“It’s clear that firms in our steel industry face major global challenges to stay competitive.

“Our industrial base can best be supported by developing a long-term industrial strategy, protecting research and development investment to help raise productivity and ensuring energy costs remain competitive.

“The Welsh and UK governments must work together, alongside businesses, to maintain and increase investment in Wales.”

Liberty House and steel group with offices around the globe are reported to be interested in purchasing the plant, however, there are some concerns that government funding would need to be made available if the sale is to go ahead.

It came shortly after the company has announced a deal to sell its plants in Scotland. The Clydebridge and Dalzell steel plants are to be sold to the Scottish government and they would then be sold on to liberty House.

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