LONDON (Reuters) -Britain is considering plans to subsidise power bills for energy intensive industries such as steel and cement, in an effort to support hundreds of businesses facing record high energy prices.
The move comes weeks before a new prime minister is due to take office, with forecasts of a long recession and soaring inflation — spurred mainly by rising energy prices — dominating the political agenda.
The government said on Friday it has launched a consultation into a support scheme that could raise the exemption for businesses from certain environmental and policy costs from 85% of costs up to 100%.
“With global energy prices at record highs, it is essential we explore what more we can do to deliver a competitive future for those strategic industries so we can cut production costs and protect jobs across the UK,” business minister Kwasi Kwarteng said in a statement.
The plans, which could help some 300 businesses that support 60,000 jobs, reflect Britain’s higher industrial electricity prices compared with those elsewhere in Europe, the department for business, energy and industrial strategy said.
British wholesale gas prices remain elevated after hitting record highs following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The steel industry welcomed the proposals, calling the consultation a “significant step” that should provide much needed relief amid “extremely challenging circumstances”.
“Launching this consultation now provides the future Government with the option to introduce this scheme given current high electricity prices,” Gareth Stace, director general of industry body UK Steel, said in a statement.
The consultation comes four months after the government extended by three years a compensation scheme that provided high energy-using businesses support for electricity costs.
(Reporting by Farouq Suleiman and Sachin Ravikumar; editing by William James)