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MPs warn Energy Bill could hit North-East jobs
THOUSANDS of North-East jobs are at risk unless ministers make urgent changes to the new Energy Bill, MPs have warned.
The government is set to give energy companies the go ahead to hike electricity bills to help fund investment in new low-carbon production.
Energy-intensive industries, such as steel plants, would be exempt from the additional costs, Energy Minister Ed Davey said when outlining the plans earlier this month. Without the exemption industry leaders feared heavy industries would be forced to cut jobs or move overseas. But the clause applies only to firms that were operating between 2005 to 2011 meaning SSI, which brought the former Corus site back into production in April 2012, would face a massive hike in its energy bill. The move would deliver a potentially devastating blow to the works which has struggled to make ends meet this year.
Labour MP Alex Cunningham, who represents Stockton North, urged the government to close the loophole or risk jeopardising the future of the 1,800 workers employed at the Redcar plant.
"This would be a tremendous blow to SSI and to other manufacturers in our region who won't get the exemption," said Mr Cunningham. "The government must sort this out. We need clarity and we need it now rather than leaving a cloud of doubt hanging over these vital employers."
An SSI spokesman said he hoped the government would see sense and make the necessary changes.
Mr Cunningham also wants the government to introduce measures that see more contracts to build wind farms in this country going to UK firms, such as Tag Energy Solutions which last year opened a £23m wind turbine foundations plant near Billingham.
The UK has more than 60 per cent of the European Union's offshore wind capacity - three times greater than that of Denmark, the next largest. But that vast majority of contracts to build UK sites have been given to German, Dutch, Swedish and Norwegian suppliers.
"The Energy Bill should be used to ensure that contracts to build British wind farms, both onshore and offshore, go to British companies, preferably Teesside ones," Mr Cunningham said.
"The government is making the right noises but it's all rather woolly. We need decisive action."