The ceramics industry has welcomed the Government’s modified support for business energy bills – but with reservations.
The newly-announced Energy Bills Discount Scheme, which will run for 12 months from March, provides extra help for energy-intensive industries such as ceramics.
The revised arrangement, replacing the more substantial Energy Bills Support Scheme, gives firms a discount on wholesale prices rather than costs being capped.
Rob Flello, above, Chief Executive of the British Ceramic Confederation, pointed out that the new scheme provides a cushion for energy costs – but only if the wholesale costs are relatively benign.
He said: “We welcome the Government’s decision to extend energy support to UK businesses and manufacturing through the Energy Bills Discount Scheme for another year.
“Government appears to have listened to our concerns and taken them on board in providing extra support for energy intensive industries and in recognising that UK ceramics is a critical sector in the United Kingdom.
“As a gas-intensive Foundation Industry, exorbitant energy prices have put the UK ceramics sector under intense pressure. Internationally competitive energy and carbon costs are essential if we are to compete on a global stage.
“However, UK ceramic manufacturers are still competing against unrestricted imports from countries that provide a far higher level of support to their own manufacturers.
“The negative language the Government used in citing that the taxpayer could not continue to prop up failing and unproductive firms was disappointing and disheartening.
“The UK ceramics industry alone, without Government support, has invested more than £600 million in energy efficiency over the last 10 years.”
The new £5.5 billion subsidy package is considerably scaled down from the current scheme, which, according to analysts, is set to cost nearly £18.5 billion in just over six months.
The discount designated for high energy-using manufacturers such as ceramic producers and steelmakers equates to £7,000 of support over a year.