Commenting on the government’s new Energy Bill Discount Scheme, announced yesterday, Cumbria Chamber Managing Director Suzanne Caldwell said:
“The new Energy Bill Discount Scheme, which kicks in from April, equates to a significant decrease in the support available to businesses to deal with continuing high energy costs, reducing the financial support envelope by 85%. This will put many businesses under additional strain in these widely challenging times, and we do risk losing businesses.
“Many businesses have been fighting for their survival for months, and rising energy costs have fast become the tipping point. While we welcome the 12-month duration of this package, its value is nowhere near far enough and means that for some firms, energy will now be a cost too far.
“Sectors classified a high energy-using, like glass, ceramics and steelmakers, will get a larger discount than others, but we have concerns about the list published which appears to exclude some sectors we believe need to be included. We’re following up on this through British Chambers of Commerce and will be engaging with any affected members and their MPs.
“More widely we’re encouraging our business members to come forward with their specific examples and challenges to support lobbying activity nationally.
“This isn’t about giving handouts to and propping up failing businesses. It’s about investing in British businesses that are underlying this successful, many of which are confident about the strength of their order books and their opportunities, despite being hammered by eye watering energy costs.
“Our economy will not be able to grow if our businesses are in decline.
“Alongside an improved energy support package, we need an energy support strategy that helps businesses get on the right to track to longer term efficiency and the right energy arrangements for them.
“There are several options and Chambers are urging the Government to prioritise the following three:
Increase OFGEM’s powers: Ensure effective competition in the business energy market for non-domestic customers by extending OFGEM’s regulatory powers to guarantee businesses access to competitive fixed rate contracts and make sure energy providers move swiftly to pass on wholesale reductions.
Energy production: Government to bring forward ambitious plans to enable more renewable and sustainable energy production across the UK.
National energy saving campaign: Government should launch a national campaign with support initiatives for businesses to drive down current consumption through energy efficiency measures, such as green grants and tax incentives.
“This is a critical year for the UK economy, and it’s fundamental that the right, focussed support is made available to enable businesses to help turn the economy around and get the UK back to growth and prosperity.”