Major high energy users are regularly required to switch off the power entirely at 20 minutes’ notice, the 378th Cutlers’ Feast was told.
And this was not happening in Sudan but in Sheffield – because power stations regularly run at 98 per cent capacity.
The nightmare scenario being endured by local companies – deemed vital to the economic recovery – was outlined in a speech by Senior Warden David Grey MBE.
The Feast, held at the Cutlers’ Hall in Sheffield city centre, is the annual dinner for members of the Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire. It is billed as the most important business dinner outside the capital and was attended by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and representatives from industry, the civil service, the armed forces, livery companies from the City of London and beyond, as well as Freemen and Friends of the Company.
David Grey said: “The immediate question for government is ‘how do you double manufacturing output when we do not have sufficient energy capacity for what we currently produce?’.”
Energy – cost, supply and security – has been the theme of Master Cutler Tony Pedder’s year in office. And Senior Warden David Grey – the Master Cutler elect – made a series of impassioned points on the subject to Nick Clegg.
“We have too little capacity and our energy costs are too high. Major high energy users have to accept an interruptible tariff to get energy at something like a viable price.
“This means they are regularly required, at 20 minutes’ notice, to switch off the power entirely. Now this is happening, not in the Sudan but in Sheffield because the country regularly runs at 98 per cent of available capacity
“On price, one of our major manufacturers in this area could reduce its energy bill by £25 million by moving its operation to Germany. If I was on that company’s international board, I’m afraid that would influence my decision for future investment.
“One thing you need as a manufacturer is energy – no matter how efficient you are.
“Of course, there many parts of the world that have lower-cost economies, Vietnam, China, Indonesia – but we should at least have the same cost platform as Germany, France and the USA.
“Finally on energy, I became convinced that the market is not working properly when prices fall – not because of market pressures – but because the House of Commons debates the issues.
“This market does not need price control but it desperately needs more capacity and more competition injected into it – and quickly.”
* See more in Wednesday’s Business Weekly in The Star.