19 June 2012
Flawed carbon pricing
WM editor Max Gosney says carbon floor pricing could be a spectacular own goal for the government and for British manufacturers
They'll be snapping their castanets and cracking open the sangria. Nissan Sunderland, a showpiece UK factory, is turning to Spain for engineers to beat an abyss in home-grown talent (see p9).
And if an employer graced by visits from Princess Diana and David Cameron is having problems attracting candidates, then it doesn't bear thinking about how difficult it is for the rest of you.
So, with native maintenance and facilities engineers becoming rarer than red squirrels, you might expect environmental excellence to suffer. But UK manufacturers, as this special Green issue demonstrates, are defying the odds to champion greener production.
Nissan Sunderland, once again, provides a case in point. The plant has thrown its lot behind sustainability. Energy saving is now part of the factory ethos, with recycling habits enshrined in 5S and enforced by dedicated energy teams. The squads draw on employees from across a multitude of departments to deliver a raft of ideas.
It's a strength-in-depth approach reflected in the projects themselves, which range from installing simple energy-efficient lighting to sophisticated, high-tech wind turbines.
Not every factory is a Nissan, though. The business case for backing a turbine or solar panels is far riskier than a clampdown on compressor efficiency. Unlocking those high-end green projects is going to take a commitment from government to support and incentivise businesses that invest. No wonder confidence is shaky when we've had CRC and feed-in tariffs subject to more revision than a final year law student.
Don't expect a helping hand any time soon, either. On current form, the government's route to low carbon can be found on the end of a very long stick. Businesses are set for a £16 surcharge per tonne of CO2 emitted under carbon floor pricing as ministers merrily chase carbon reduction targets.
The scheme is a spectacular own goal in the making that could put British manufacturers at a huge disadvantage to their EU rivals. With just nine months to go, the fight back against carbon floor pricing must start here.
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