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Economy

Does UK Industry Need A Helping Hand?

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Steel may be buckling from outside pressures, but UK manufacturing isn’t helpless.

States intervene to help industry

Governments around the world give their industries a helping hand with all kinds of energy incentives from lower taxes to renewable energy levies and import tariffs.


But, as the crisis in the loss-making UK steel industry has illustrated so well, some nations are more generous with their hand-outs than others.

On 3 April, Kiran Stacey, energy correspondent at the Financial Times, reported that: “Germany has handed over 40 times more in energy subsidies to heavy industry since 2013 than the UK.”

Hand-outs aren’t always positive

Whether you think the UK should intervene to save steel making in Port Talbot or not, many feel it’s wise to treat any government intervention with caution.


In the past, subsidies and tariffs have been blamed for distorting the market and creating trade tension, even trade wars. However, national views vary depending on which side you’re trading from ­– one country’s helping hand is another’s unfair protectionism.

Besides, it’s not just subsidies that are being blamed for making the playing field uneven for the UK’s steel industry. As well as cheap Chinese imports and overproduction, some have also cited the price disparity between low energy bills paid by other EU countries and high bills in the UK.

Coping with energy price disparity

Looking closely at the UK energy market, however, it is not as clear cut as all that. According to UK Power, we may have the second most expensive electricity in Europe after Italy but our gas is one of the cheapest – beaten only by Belgium.

Undoubtedly, subsidies, energy prices and a glut of steel have all had their part to play in the uncertainty surrounding steel at Port Talbot. But there’s one thing we can be sure of – energy prices will always fluctuate and energy affordability remains a great concern for all manufacturers.

Coping with energy price fluctuations should be part of a company’s flexible energy procurement strategy as part of a joined-up energy management plan. To start with, choosing the right contract for your company is vital. A fixed-price energy contract, for example, can provide budget certainty when energy markets are volatile but it can also mean you miss out on low prices when they drop.

Energy management helps business cut costs

The steel crisis illustrates the strength of outside forces, some of which can only be faced down with government intervention, but manufacturers can also take steps to improve their competitiveness by controlling one of their biggest spends: energy and water.

“By taking a positive and proactive approach to energy efficiency, manufacturing companies can control and reduce their energy spend,” says the Carbon Trust in its Sector overview: Manufacturing, introducing energy saving opportunities for business. “All manufacturers are under pressure to cut costs and increase profits, and saving energy is one good way to meet this goal.”

A strategic energy management plan will help companies consume less energy and pay for less, as well as meeting your obligations to reduce carbon emissions targets.

Take control of utilities

Many energy and water savings are easy wins that firms can do themselves, from installing LEDs to engaging employees in turn off or turn down policies.

Other measures such as smarter procurement or constant monitoring and control, may require sophisticated strategies and dedicated energy experts to understand all the ins and outs.

While it’s true that managing energy and lower bills may have a limited part to play in saving British steelmaking for the future, it doesn’t mean manufacturers can’t improve their own position by being more efficient with energy use and reducing wastage. Taking tighter control of utilities is an obvious area where savings can be made.

 

 

 

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Economy

A Good Look At How Homes Will Become More Energy Efficient Soon

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energy efficient homes

Everyone always talks about ways they can save energy at home, but the tactics are old school. They’re only tweaking the way they do things at the moment. Sealing holes in your home isn’t exactly the next scientific breakthrough we’ve been waiting for.

There is some good news because technology is progressing quickly. Some tactics might not be brand new, but they’re becoming more popular. Here are a few things you should expect to see in homes all around the country within a few years.


1. The Rise Of Smart Windows

When you look at a window right now it’s just a pane of glass. In the future they’ll be controlled by microprocessors and sensors. They’ll change depending on the specific weather conditions directly outside.

If the sun disappears the shade will automatically adjust to let in more light. The exact opposite will happen when it’s sunny. These energy efficient windows will save everyone a huge amount of money.

2. A Better Way To Cool Roofs

If you wanted to cool a roof down today you would coat it with a material full of specialized pigments. This would allow roofs to deflect the sun and they’d absorb less heat in the process too.

Soon we’ll see the same thing being done, but it will be four times more effective. Roofs will never get too hot again. Anyone with a large roof is going to see a sharp decrease in their energy bills.


3. Low-E Windows Taking Over

It’s a mystery why these aren’t already extremely popular, but things are starting to change. Read low-E window replacement reviews and you’ll see everyone loves them because they’re extremely effective.

They’ll keep heat outside in summer or inside in winter. People don’t even have to buy new windows to enjoy the technology. All they’ll need is a low-E film to place over their current ones.

4. Magnets Will Cool Fridges

Refrigerators haven’t changed much in a very long time. They’re still using a vapor compression process that wastes energy while harming the environment. It won’t be long until they’ll be cooled using magnets instead.

The magnetocaloric effect is going to revolutionize cold food storage. The fluid these fridges are going to use will be water-based, which means the environment can rest easy and energy bills will drop.

5. Improving Our Current LEDs

Everyone who spent a lot of money on energy must have been very happy when LEDs became mainstream. Incandescent light bulbs belong in museums today because the new tech cut costs by up to 85 percent.

That doesn’t mean someone isn’t always trying to improve on an already great invention. The amount of lumens LEDs produce per watt isn’t great, but we’ve already found a way to increase it by 25 percent.

Maybe Homes Will Look Different Too

Do you think we’ll come up with new styles of homes that will take off? Surely it’s not out of the question. Everything inside homes seems to be changing for the better with each passing year. It’s going to continue doing so thanks to amazing inventors.

ShutterStock – Stock photo ID: 613912244

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Economy

IEMA Urge Government’s Industrial Strategy Skills Overhaul To Adopt A “Long View Approach”

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IEMA, in response to the launch of the Government’s Industrial Strategy Green Paper, have welcomed the focus on technical skills and education to boost “competence and capability” of tomorrow’s workforce.

Policy experts at the world’s leading professional association of Environment and Sustainability professionals has today welcomed Prime Minister Teresa May’s confirmation that an overhaul of technical education and skills will form a central part of the Plan for Britain – but warns the strategy must be one for the long term.

Martin Baxter, Chief Policy Advisor at IEMA said this morning that the approach and predicted investment in building a stronger technical skills portfolio to boost the UK’s productivity and economic resilience is positive, and presents an opportunity to drive the UK’s skills profile and commitment to sustainability outside of the EU.


Commenting on the launch of the Government’s Industrial Strategy Green Paper, Baxter said today:

“Government must use the Industrial Strategy as an opportunity to accelerate the UK’s transition to a low-carbon, resource efficient economy – one that is flexible and agile and which gives a progressive outlook for the UK’s future outside the EU.

We welcome the focus on skills and education, as it is vital that tomorrow’s workforce has the competence and capability to innovate and compete globally in high-value manufacturing and leading technology.

There is a real opportunity with the Industrial Strategy, and forthcoming 25 year Environment Plan and Carbon Emissions Reduction Plan, to set long-term economic and environmental outcomes which set the conditions to unlock investment, enhance natural capital and provide employment and export opportunities for UK business.


We will ensure that the Environment and Sustainability profession makes a positive contribution in responding to the Green Paper.”

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