NEVER-ENDING changes to national energy policy are making it difficult for companies to plan effectively for rising energy costs, a Yorkshire conference was told this week.
Speaking at the Manufacturing Sustainability event in Sheffield, Martyn Clark of energy consultancy Blue Castle called for an end to constant policy reviews and ministerial reshuffles to help provide certainty to businesses.
“When you are trying to advise your client on the best way forward another White Paper comes out and then you get a new energy minister who does not like wind turbines,” said Mr Clark, who is technical director.
“We need to be getting policy guaranteed for at least five years to get confidence back.”
Newark-based Blue Castle advises more than 1,000 companies on how to deal with rising utility costs in the face of reduced operating budgets and increasing environmental legislation, maintenance costs and accountability.
Mr Clark claimed that most investment measures will pay for themselves and reduce costs.
Voltage optimisation specialist EMS hosted the conference at Magna Science Adventure Centre for more than 100 companies including some of the best-known names in manufacturing and retail.
Alex Mardapittas, founder and managing director of EMS, told delegates how “the problems we are facing over here in energy consumption are all over the world”. He added: “Our product can be applied all over the world.”
Charles Turner, chairman of the Made in Sheffield mark initiative and a prominent South Yorkshire industrialist, raised concerns that larger UK manufacturers are not operating on “a level playing field” against international rivals.
He told the Yorkshire Post that power costs are going to rise further.
“We can see that. Companies have a responsibility to ensure their sustainability, whether it is voltage optimisation or better housekeeping.
“The Government also has a responsibility to support higher energy users that are vital to manufacturing in the region.”
He said UK manufacturers are paying twice as much for electricity than their European counterparts and despite being competitive in every other area warned that incoming carbon taxes would lead to job losses in Britain.
“We need to stay competitive,” said Mr Turner, who is managing director of blade maker Durham Duplex. Dr Mardapittas, a Greek Cypriot entrepreneur who has made Sheffield his home, organised the conference to share good ideas and promote sustainability in UK manufacturing.
He said: “The global business economy is confronting a period of insecurity and instability and as a company we are firmly behind the notion that manufacturing represents a key opportunity to kick-start the UK economy.” EMS designs and manufactures power-saving devices in Yorkshire and exports to 15 countries.
Dr Mardapittas added: “We are very proud to manufacture in South Yorkshire and proud to have the Made in Sheffield mark.
“Where we are there is no shortage of manufacturing excellence. This is one of the reasons why we as a company have been able to increase our market and enable us to have our innovations.”
His customers include Asda, Whitbread, the London School of Economics and the Cabinet Office.
He said EMS products can reduce energy costs by an average of 12-15 per cent.
Next spring Dr Mardapittas is travelling to China to present to manufacturers. He said: “The potential for exporting our Sheffield-made products is extremely high.”
Other speakers included Brian Young, director general of the British Frozen Food Industry, and David Montero, business assurance manager at AESSEAL, who spoke about sustainability initiatives at the Rotherham-based seals maker.
Mr Young, a former MD at Aunt Bessies, told delegates there are huge opportunities to save energy in the frozen food sector, which is worth £8bn a year to the UK economy.
He said: “What’s best for the environment is to produce very efficiently, freeze it and then consume everything you eat.”