By Max Clarke

UK companies producing steel, cement, ceramics, glass, aluminium and chemicals are vital to the UK economy, but face serious risks as a result of rising energy costs, says a new study published today (Wednesday) by the TUC and the Energy Intensive Users Group (EIUG).

Technology Innovation for Energy Intensive Industry in the United Kingdom - prepared for the two organisations by the Centre for Low Carbon Futures - says that these energy intensive companies must innovate to survive, and calls on the government to make sure there is a place for them in its plans forthe low carbon economy of the future.

These industries directly employ some 125,000 people in 2,800 individual businesses around the UK, and many more employees are to be found within their supply chains. The annual turnover of the UK's energy intensive sector is approximately £23 billion, which contributes around £5 billion to the UK economy, says the report.

Technology Innovation for Energy Intensive Industry in the United Kingdom says that to remain part of the UK's economic future, there must be a much stronger government policy focus on low carbon manufacturing - and on moves to limit the carbon emissions produced by the power sector - if the competitiveness of UK heavy industry is to be ensured.

According to the report, much of the energy intensive sectors require 'transformative technologies' to cut their emissions significantly. Key priorities include carbon capture and storage for industries like steel and chemicals, process changes, and switching to biomass as an energy supply.

Long-term regulatory reform, policy support and finance are all also required to bridge the gap between the initial research stages and the commercial viability of these emerging technologies, says the report.

The new study took first-hand evidence from industry to assess the innovative low carbon technology solutions needed for the UK's key energy intensive sectors. Potential technology options, barriers to low carbon investment and the need for policy support and technical co-operation were examined sector by sector.

The research reflects the similar aims of employers and unions to support the successful transition of these key industries to a low carbon economy.

The broader benefits of securing the future of the energy intensive sectors and their emissions reduction potential must be recognised, says the report, which requires a supportive policy framework and an ongoing dialogue between government, industry and the unions.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: 'The jobs of thousands of employees are dependent upon the ability of our energy intensive industries to remain part of the UK's economic success story.

'But they can only do so if the conditions are created to enable them to do this, and investors are sufficiently convinced to put their money into the new green technologies. This is where the government comes in. Ministers must start planning for a low-carbon economy which has our energy intensive industries at its heart.'

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