Coalition government chiefs are being urged to boost manufacturing by launching an energy strategy based around nuclear power.
The call comes from leading local businessman and Cutlers’ Company Senior Warden, Neil MacDonald, who wants to see an end to uncertainty over the security and future cost of vital electricity supplies.
Speaking at the annual Cutlers’ Feast in Sheffield, Mr MacDonald told guests, including former Conservative Cabinet member Lord Heseltine and Energy UK’s new chief executive Angela Knight: “Energy security has been jeopardised by government inaction for years.
“We remain vulnerable to the instability of the Middle East in respect of oil and gas. Meanwhile our US competitors are enjoying reduced energy costs from the opening up of shale gas reserves.
“Our nuclear future needs clarity and we need to be mindful that we could end up being reliant on the French or the Russians or the Chinese.
“There is a lot of discussion, currently, about renewables, but we can’t build a national energy policy solely around wind and solar power.
“Manufacturing needs energy to thrive. It is vital that we have an integrated, sensible, user friendly energy strategy - and we need it now.”
Mr MacDonald, who is finance director of Rotherham’s most profitable company, AES Engineering, echoed complaints about energy pricing, made in Sheffield by TATA Steel’s European chief, Karl-Ulrich Köhler.
Speaking in the same hall, during the Global Manufacturing Festival, earlier this year, Dr Köhler said UK manufacturers such as Tata Steel were paying as much as 50 per cent more for their electricity than competitors in France and Germany.
That meant energy was costing Tata’s speciality steels business in Stocksbridge and Rotherham £20 million a year more than its European competitors.
“That differential is caused by government regulations,” said Mr MacDonald, adding: “Whitehall should be listening and taking action.”
Mr MacDonald also called on the government to ensure the future HS2 high speed rail development comes to Sheffield.
“If HS2 happens and a branch does not come to Sheffield it will be a disaster,” he warned.
n See Star Business on Wednesday for details of Lord Heseltine’s speech.