date: 24 July 2012
embargo: 00.01hrs Wednesday 25 July 2012
High energy costs and the UK's emissions targets are making life hard for the UK's steel, cement, ceramics and other core industries who are warning today (Wednesday) that thousands of jobs could be at risk without more government support for companies in the energy intensive sector.
A report produced by the TUC and the Energy Intensive Users Group (EIUG) says that there are currently 800,000 people working in the UK's energy intensive industries (EIIs). It says this sector contributes £95bn a year to the economy - a fifth of the UK's manufacturing total - but warns that heavy energy users are operating under difficult conditions and, without ministerial action, jobs and investment could be lost to overseas competitors.
The report - Building Our Low-Carbon Industries - says that in recent years UK EIIs have significantly improved their energy efficiency and are much greener than many of their global competitors. But the high cost of energy and the technology needed for them to move across to a low carbon economy means that further green progress is at risk without a proper government industrial strategy.
Last week a report from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) warned that the UK's heavy energy users were paying at least double the amount in renewable energy subsidies and greenhouse gas emission standards that their competitors in Europe are paying. This combined with the soaring cost of energy and the impact of the recession, means glass, refined petroleum and other chemical producers are particularly hit hard, says the TUC/EIUG report.
Building Our Low-Carbon Industries says that firms manufacturing steel, cement, chemicals, paper and other energy intensive products currently directly employ 160,000 people, with an estimated four times that working in the various UK supply chains.
EIIs have a combined spending power of £68.6bn, and with an average additional contribution to the economy of £38,000 per employee - it's not hard to see the significant contribution the energy intensive sector makes to the UK economy, says the report.
Pointing to the recent closure of the Rio Tinto Alcan aluminum smelter in the North East and the Thamesteel plant in Kent, the report warns that if more EIIs like these disappear, not only will there be a loss of jobs, output and tax revenues, global carbon emissions will also soar as the UK has to import materials from less energy efficient producers.
TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: 'The UK's energy intensive industries could become world leaders but they are currently struggling. Criticised as high polluters in the past, heavy energy using factories and power plants have slashed their CO2 emissions but still need significant amounts of energy, and this is costing them dear.
'An unforgiving tax environment combined with the failure of the banks to lend means not much money is available to invest in the new industrial processes and technologies like carbon capture and storage - essential developments if an industry which is so key for jobs and for our economy is to survive.
'Unfortunately ministers seem happy with their hands-off approach. But our energy intensive industries are too important to be allowed to fail. Ministers could learn much from Germany - there the government has created the right economic and political conditions so its high energy users can remain competitive. We urgently need the same approach here.'
EIUG Chairman Steve Elliott said: 'We have to face facts - Britain's energy policy isn't working. We all want to see a greener society, with British industry manufacturing the very products and technologies needed to deliver those improvements. But we can't do this with one hand tied behind our backs.
'We want the UK government to look at this report, appreciate the role of unions and employers in working together, and allow our industries to help Britain's green growth.'
Building Our Low-Carbon Industries makes a number of recommendations including:
NOTES TO EDITORS:
- Building Our Carbon Industries is available at www.tuc.org.uk/tucfiles/352/Buildingourlowcarboninds.pdf
- The Energy Intensive Users Group represents British manufacturing industries like steel, chemicals, glass, paper, ceramics and industrial gases that operate in global markets and depend on secure, competitive energy supplies to stay in business www.eiug.org.uk
- The BIS report on energy costs is available at www.bis.gov.uk/assets/biscore/business-sectors/docs/i/12-527-international-policies-impacting-energy-intensive-industries.pdf
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Press release (1,000 words) issued 25 Jul 2012
This page http://www.tuc.org.uk/industrial/tuc-21270-f0.cfm
printed 25 May 2013 at 22:04 hrs by 220.127.116.11