All cold store operators must qualify for energy support says Cold Chain Federation

Reading, UK: The government must ensure all cold storage operators can qualify for enhanced support when energy bill relief is slashed at the end of March 2023, the Cold Chain Federation says.

Only a small proportion of cold storage operators will qualify for enhanced support based on the government’s initial eligibility list, the federation says.

This fails to recognise the unique seasonal energy needs of cold storage operators, and the role of the whole industry as critical infrastructure for the nation’s food supply, the federation says.

Government announced yesterday that from 1 April 2023 the current Energy Bill Relief Scheme will end and a new scheme, the Energy Bills Discount Scheme, will come into force.

With the basic discount offered by the new scheme vastly reduced, some sectors who either use a higher proportion of energy, or are exposed to international competition, will be able to access an enhanced level of support. Exact details have not yet been provided but it is likely most cold storage businesses will not qualify for the enhanced discount.

Tom Southall, policy director, Cold Chain Federation, said: “The new scheme is a completely different design, offering a fixed discount on the wholesale energy price above a minimum threshold rather than setting a maximum price for electricity and gas.

Tom Southall, policy director, Cold Chain Federation: “the Energy Bill Relief Scheme has been vital for many in our industry, but this crucial lifeline is set to be slashed just as the weather starts to warm up and our energy need increases.”

“The EBDS [Energy Bills Discount Scheme] only applies to the wholesale energy price element of your tariff. From April 2023 the discount will provide significantly less support than the current scheme.

“Keeping food safe through cold storage and distribution requires significant energy and the Energy Bill Relief Scheme has been vital for many in our industry, but this crucial lifeline is set to be slashed just as the weather starts to warm up and our energy need increases.

“The new scheme will leave businesses across the food supply chain at the mercy of a volatile market, and exorbitant energy bills throughout the food chain ultimately result in higher prices for consumers. The government is gambling on wholesale rates remaining lower than they were in 2022, and that this will filter through to business energy tariffs,” Southall said.

“The nation relies on the cold chain’s service every single day of the year, and we believe it is illogical that not all cold storage operators qualify for the enhanced support. We are seeking urgent clarifications on who exactly is eligible and making a strong case to Ministers and officials for all cold storage operators to qualify.”