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UK industry could face shutdowns as wholesale gas price hits record high

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UK industry could face shutdowns as wholesale gas price hits record high

Wholesale gas prices hit new all-time highs on Wednesday, prompting warnings that factories could be forced to shut down over winter or switch to more polluting fuels just as the UK hosts the Cop26 climate conference next month.

The crisis has already forced a wave of collapses among energy suppliers that has led to warnings of “desperate choices” for households likely to face higher bills as a result.

As power-hungry sectors such as steel, glass and chemicals fight their own battle with soaring gas and electricity costs, they warned of further shocks to both industry and consumers, including higher prices of goods and factories being forced to temporarily close.

Growing concern about the domino effect of high energy prices came as the cost of gas for delivery the next day reached 350p per therm on Wednesday, while gas for delivery in November reached 407p, both new records. Prices fell back later, after Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, indicated that the country, the largest supplier of gas into Europe, was prepared to help ease the crisis.

But leading figures from energy-intensive industries said serious ramifications were already on the cards unless the government heeded their call for measures to reduce energy costs.

Trade body UK Steel said it was now “uneconomic” to make steel at certain times in the UK, with British firms facing double the electricity prices paid by rivals in Germany, France and the Netherlands. British Steel, based in Scunthorpe, has begun adding surcharges of up to £30 a tonne to its products to recoup higher energy costs, increasing costs for customers in the construction and automotive sectors.

David Bailey, a professor of business economics at Birmingham Business School, said consumers could end up feeling the pinch if steel remained expensive. “They’ll pass it on to consumers ultimately, so it could increase the price of cars,” he said.

Network Rail, which owns Britain’s 20,000 miles of railway and buys about 97% of its track from British Steel, said it had yet to see an increase in prices.

With just weeks to go until the UK hosts the Cop26 global climate conference, leaders in the glass and minerals industries said high gas prices could ultimately lead to increased pollution.

Richard Stansfield, the chief executive of the lime manufacturer Singleton Birch, said the increased cost of production was being passed on to consumers, including water companies and firms that use the mineral to turn waste into energy.

“We could get into a ridiculous situation where it’s cheaper to put waste into landfill than to put it into waste-to-energy plants,” he said. “There are all sorts of knock-on effects.”

Paul Pearcy, the federation coordinator at the trade body British Glass, said companies that make windows could be forced to revert to powering their furnaces with polluting fuels that had been abandoned.

“Some of our members still have heavy fuel oil on site, having moved over to gas,” he said. “Some of them are seriously considering moving back to that because of the price of gas.

“As prices go the way they are, it becomes more and more financially attractive but with Cop26 around the corner, it’s not a great advert.”

Glass companies and steelmakers run their furnaces continuously, making it extremely difficult, time-consuming and costly to shut down.

Jon Flitney, of the British Ceramic Confederation, said the same was true of its members’ kilns, meaning any decision to scale back operation would “not be taken lightly”.

However, he said that if prices remain high, “the balance between income and operating costs may shift”.

The glass, steel and minerals industries are all members of the Energy Intensive Users Group trade body, which warned of shutdowns in essential industries without help from the government and the energy regulator, Ofgem.

Richard Leese, the chairman of the group, said: “We have already seen the impact of the truly astronomical increases in energy costs on production in the fertiliser and steel sectors.

“Nobody wants to see a repeat in other industries this winter given that UK energy-intensive industries produce so many essential domestic and industrial products and are intrinsically linked with many supply chains.”

The group has called for exemptions for energy-intensive industries from measures designed to help fund renewable energy and penalise carbon emissions.

Any slowdown in work schedules could place a further drag on the economy, adding to concern in sectors such as construction, where shortages of materials and staff drove growth expectations to an eight-month low, according to survey figures released on Wednesday.

Spiking gas prices have already taken their toll on British business, forcing fertiliser plants to shut down and capsizing 12 energy suppliers. A 13th, Omni Energy, warned its customers on Wednesday that it could cease trading in November.

The energy adviser Cornwall Insights said it expected the effect to drive up household energy bills into 2023, by driving the government-imposed cap on energy prices higher.

It expects the energy price cap, currently set at £1,277 for an average dual fuel customer paying by direct debit, to reach £1,659 for summer 2022 and £1,663 for next winter.

The business department said: “We are determined to secure a competitive future for our energy-intensive industries and in recent years have provided them with extensive support, including more than £2bn to help with the costs of energy and to protect jobs.

“Our exposure to volatile global gas prices underscores the importance of our plan to build a strong, home-grown renewable energy sector to further reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.”

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Senators reject bill seeking to to reduce CBN’s regulatory power on FX market

Nigerian senators have rejected a bill seeking to amend the Foreign Exchange Act of 2004 expected to reduce the regulatory function of the Central Bank of Nigeria on the Fx Market.

The bill, titled “The Foreign Exchange (Control and Monitoring) Bill, 2024 (SB. 353),” was sponsored by Sani Musa (APC-Niger), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, and was first read on Tuesday, February 20.

According to NAN, Musa described the bill as crucial legislation intended to repeal the Foreign Exchange (Monitoring and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, Cap. F34, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.

He stated that the proposed law would regulate, monitor, and supervise market transactions and related matters.

He added that the bill will stabilize the country’s foreign exchange market.

“The Bill seeks to stabilize the value of the currency by ensuring the liberalization of foreign exchange transactions to maintain an equilibrium of the balance of international payments.”

However, senators vehemently opposed the bill.

They said it would be counterproductive to CBN’s effort at stabilizing the foreign exchange market.

Senators who opposed the bill are Solomon Adeola (Chairman of the Committee on Appropriation), Tokunbo Abiru (Chairman of the Committee on Banking, Insurance, and Other Financial Institutions), and Aliyu Wadada (Chairman of the Senate Public Accounts Committee.

Senator Ibrahim Dankwambo (APC-Gombe), giving reason for opposing the bill said that passing such a law would confuse Nigerians.

Similarly, Senator Adams Oshiomhole (APC-Edo) pointed out that the senators who had spoken had meticulously summarized and amplified the contradictions and negative implications of passing the law.

Oshiomhole said he believes the bill should not proceed further, as it would effectively take over the CBN’s monetary policy regulations.

The President of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio, urged Senator Musa to withdraw the proposed law for further consultations but the senator declined.

Senator Akpabio then called for a voice vote to decide its approval or rejection for a second reading and the majority of lawmakers voted against it.

The development comes as the Naira recorded its first appreciationp against the dollar on Thursday, exchanging at N1,554.65 per dollar.

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Oyebanji Seeks Belgium’s Partnership in Technology, Agriculture, Intellectual Capacity Devt for Wealth Creation

Ekiti State Governor, Mr Biodun Oyebanji says his administration is building blocks for mutual bilateral relationships between the State and developed countries of the world to turn around the fortunes of its citizens.

Governor Oyebanji made this known during a meeting with the Belgium Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr Pieter Leenknegt at the Belgium Embassy in Abuja, on Wednesday, where potential areas of collaboration were discussed.

Governor Oyebanji who was accompanied by the some state officials, including Commissioner for Budget, Economic Planning and Performance Management, Mr Niyi Adebayo; and Commissioner for Finance, Mr Akin Oyebode, DG office of partnership Biodun Oyeleye, highlighted some critical areas of the State’s 30 – year development plan.

He noted that the state government has a clear vision of opportunities in the areas of ecosystem innovation, technology, renewable energy, environmental management and agricultural production and exportation as well as intellectual capacity development for wealth creation.

“Our vision for Ekiti State is clear. Despite the various challenges, indices and factors being that we are landlocked, we are committed to exploring and leveraging opportunities in ecosystem innovation, technology, renewable energy, and agricultural production. Collaboration with developed nations is crucial for the actualization of our 30-year development plan and ensure sustainable growth and prosperity for our people.”

The Governor highlighted the state’s substantial investments in social programs, commercial agriculture, and various intervention initiatives aimed at boosting the purchasing power of Ekiti’s citizens stressing the necessity of international collaboration to fully realize the state’s ambitious 30-year development plan.

In his response, Ambassador Leenknegt acknowledged Ekiti state’s efforts, which align with global best practices and ECOWAS standards. He advised the Ekiti government to expedite the completion of the state’s airport to improve access and connectivity.

He commended the initiatives behind the Ekiti Knowledge zone noting its potential to transform local knowledge into wealth, expressing Belgium’s interest in partnering with Ekiti State in areas such as communication technology, transportation, and tropical agriculture, including cacao and palm kernel production as well as enhancing academic partnerships between Belgian institutions and universities in Ekiti State.

“We recognize and appreciate the significant strides being made by the Ekiti State government. The Ekiti Knowledge Zone is a remarkable initiative with the potential to turn local knowledge into wealth. Belgium is keen to explore collaboration in areas such as communication technology, transportation, and tropical agriculture, including cacao and palm kernel production.” Said the Ambassador

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NCAA to sanction airlines over deceitful departure schedules

National carrier gets licence today, local airlines fault process

The Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has condemned what it calls the prevalent cases of deceitful departure time scheduling by airlines, warning the erring airlines to desist from the infraction or face dire regulatory actions.

The Acting Director General, Civil Aviation, Nigeria, Captain Chris Najomo, while declaring this on Tuesday at the Authority’s corporate headquarters in Abuja, said the NCAA now runs a zero-tolerance approach to regulatory infractions.

Speaking through the NCAA Director of Public Affairs and Consumer Protection, Mr. Michael Achimugu, the acting DG warned the airlines to desist from the infraction or face dire regulatory actions.

“He made the ease of doing business the crux of his action plan for the NCAA. In line with that action plan, he has made processes for licensing easy for operators. The time to secure AOC is now shorter and less cumbersome than it used to be in the past,” he stated.

“The NCAA therefore expects reciprocity from airlines. Chief of which is world-class services to passengers.

Najomo said that if the NCAA is making doing business easier for operators, the operators must satisfy the passengers too with superior services.

He said, “It has come to our notice that some airlines are being reported for advertising deceitful departure times. The NCAA regulation says no airline shall display deceitful passenger departure time at its counter, advert material, or on its website.

“We want to make it very clear that the DGCA has directed monitoring and offenders will face serious regulatory actions.”

According to him, the Authority believes in safety, discipline, and economic regulation which is evidenced in the recent suspension of ten PNCF holders for failing to comply with the recertification advisory issued in April 2024.

He indicated that whilst the NCAA supports airlines to be profitable because of their critical value to the economy, it is important passengers are treated fairly.

Speaking about the ease of doing business environment at the NCAA, Capt. Najomo said the ease of business is an area the Authority will continue to improve.

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