Figures released confirm a continued fall in emissions from UK paper mills

Official 2016 emissions data has just been released and the downward trend in emissions from the sector has continued. 2016 emissions are 3.4 per cent lower than those in 2015, and an impressive 48.5 per cent lower than in 2008.

While some of this reduction can be attributed to lower production, the great majority has been delivered by investment in new power generation, switching to lower carbon fuels, and a continued focus on energy efficiency.

After allowing for changes in production levels, the figures show that the amount of EU ETS-reported carbon dioxide emitted by UK paper mills (per tonne of production) has fallen by almost a third in just nine years.

Papermaking is intrinsically energy intensive, and mill operators are constantly seeking ways to incrementally improve efficiency to remain competitive – energy inefficient mills simply cannot compete with more efficient competitors. All mills have energy managers and initiatives to identify and deliver energy savings through such measures as the use of new pumps, improved lighting, and better process controls. As well as these incremental changes, UK mills are also using highly efficient combined heat and power (CHP) plants, making much of their own electricity, and making productive use of heat normally wasted in conventional power generation.

Even with such success in reducing emissions, it is frustrating to note that the sector remains short of EU ETS allowances. In 2016, the sector was 26 per cent short of allowances as EU governments decided to auction available allowances, preferring to raise revenue rather than support industry.

CPI director general, Andrew Large, welcomed the new figures: “I’m pleased to note that UK mills continue to reduce their emissions of fossil carbon. However, we remain the largest net-importer of paper and paper products in the world, with associated emissions not being counted in the UK. We look forward to working with Government to develop a new industrial strategy and to help create a business-friendly location for a growing paper-based sector. With energy being such a critical cost for key parts of the manufacturing economy, competitively priced and secure supplies of energy are a must if we are to support and grow foundation industries such as papermaking in the UK.”