North East Businesses call for Energy Reform
North East business leaders and politicians have attended a Business Energy Policy meeting hosted by leading law firm Muckle LLP to discuss how energy policy can help industry in the North East and beyond be more competitive.
Led by Iain Wright Chair of the Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy Select Committee and MP for Hartlepool, the group looked at how businesses and, in particular, the manufacturing sector can be supported via the Government’s emerging Industrial Strategy. Speaking on the importance of working with businesses to understand how policy can best assist local economies Iain Wright MP said;
“With the UK currently in the process of leaving the European Union we are seeing a great deal of political and economic uncertainty. It is now more important than ever to have a strong voice for local businesses and means by which they can connect with policy makers.”
The event organised by Invicta Public Affairs included businesses from around the North East including representatives from Emergya Wind Technology, the North East Automotive Alliance, Komatsu UK, Banks Group and Nifco. The businesses were able to provide insights on how energy policy can best support manufacturing in the region while also balancing the need to protect supply and meet national carbon reduction targets agreed by Government.
Planning policy was cited as a key existing area of concern. The Chair was told that current planning guidance puts U.K. manufacturers, including the North East’s large automotive sector, at an unnecessary competitive disadvantage. At present the Government does not discern between large rural wind farms and the use of small single turbines at industrial sites, which would reduce energy costs and carbon emissions for businesses. Mark Peebles, of Emergya Wind Technology said;
“To encourage business growth Government policy must better reflect the needs of manufacturers in the UK. At present, ministerial guidance governing planning policy is preventing energy intensive business in this country from reducing their costs and becoming more competitive. A small policy clarification from Government would help business and industry to invest in technology that would underpin wealth and job creation for many years to come.”
The North East is a leading example of the much emphasised ‘place based economy’ with a wealth of existing assets in the shape of a broad manufacturing base. The panel argued just minor changes to existing Government policy would help unlock this potential and spur the North East on to becoming a manufacturing-led economic powerhouse.
This point was reiterated by Chi Onwurah, Newcastle Central MP and Shadow Minister for Industrial Strategy who advised;
“The UK’s Industrial Strategy should include a vision for the kind of economy we want – and that must include successful manufacturing industries with sustainable competitive energy supply. The roundtable was extremely useful in developing the policy approaches which can enable that.”
Andrew Davidson, Partner at Muckle LLP and Head of their Energy team said of the event;
“We were delighted to host the meeting. We are working with a number of businesses regarding energy generation and efficiency . It is important that we work with opinion-formers and business leaders in the region to help get the changes we need in policy. A focus on the availability of energy at a competitive cost will help to shape the wider industrial strategy and its successful delivery.”
The discussion will feed into the Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy Committee’s wider examination of the Government’s Industrial Strategy.