BLOG ARTICLE: 18/01/2023

Central role of UK ceramics in decarbonisation journey ignored by Government’s Net Zero Review


Central role of UK ceramics in decarbonisation journey ignored by Government’s Net Zero Review

The Government-sponsored Net Zero Review, led by former energy minister Chris Skidmore, has now been published. The 340-page document makes 129 recommendations aimed at seizing the opportunities presented by a green economy.

The review looks at the greater role business can play, making better use of infrastructure and more energy efficient homes. The aim is to maximise economic investment and jobs, while working towards net zero by 2050.

Skidmore says it is an ‘historic opportunity’, however the British Ceramic Confederation (BCC) fears it is in fact a ‘missed opportunity’.

BCC Chief Executive Rob Flello said: “We are disappointed in Skidmore’s Net Zero Review as it is a missed opportunity to consider the importance of energy intensive industry (Ells) within the net zero journey.

“Ells must be the next big users of energy after homes and transport, and surely deserved a bigger mention in the review.

“However, it is the lack of understanding about the significant and central role that ceramics plays within the net zero journey that is concerning. Ceramics are key to decarbonising society and contribute to a net zero world by directly reducing manufacturing emissions and indirectly helping downstream consumers reduce energy and emissions.

“Without ceramics, the production of renewable energy is hampered as, without refractories, there is no steel for wind turbines and no glass for photovoltaic panels. Ceramics are needed for electric vehicle batteries. Without high temperature industrial processes, there are no durable homes or commercial properties. There is no heat from waste without advanced ceramics. The list goes on.

“Therefore, the failure to recognise the fundamental role ceramics plays in the nation’s net zero mission is a missed moment.

“As for achieving net zero by 2050, the technologies that will enable deep decarbonisation (hydrogen, electrification, carbon capture and bioenergy) are either commercially unviable or simply unavailable.

“The use of hydrogen alone poses many unanswered questions. As yet, we do not know whether every ceramic product can be made using hydrogen-fired kilns. Hydrogen delivery poses various issues as ceramics manufacturers are often located in rural areas, miles from the nearest town, or are surrounded by houses. Most of our members, along with many UK manufacturers, also operate from older factories that are not geared up to use hydrogen within their pipework.

“To answer these questions, the UK ceramics sector needs support, so that it can free up investment to develop and deploy innovative technologies that are workable and sustainable.

“Therefore, a deeper understanding of energy intensive industry is required so that decarbonisation is a positive journey and does not result in a loss of international competitiveness, carbon leakage (loss of emissions, jobs, and investment abroad) and emissions offshoring, leading to an increase in global emissions, as well other detrimental environmental and modern slavery impacts.

“Over the past 10 years, the UK’s ceramic manufacturers have invested £600million of their own money into decarbonisation. However, there is only one pot of money and if you have to spend it on high energy and carbon emission costs, there is little left to invest in decarbonisation.

“Therefore, we back the call by the Energy Intensive Users’ Group and the Manufacturers’ Climate Change Group for the Government to implement the following Skidmore’s recommendations to:
• Consider the risk of production moving abroad as a result of climate action (i.e., carbon leakage) and ensure that sufficient mitigation measures are in place.
• Extend the Industrial Energy Transformation Fund further and increase its budget by £185 million, in line with the Conservative Manifesto.
• Develop and implement an ambitious and pragmatic ‘10 year’ delivery roadmap for the scaling up of hydrogen production and act quickly to re-envisage and implement a clear CCUS roadmap, by the end of 2023.

“UK ceramics is critical to UK manufacturing, construction, and net zero. Government needs to support it, not ignore it.”