The first UK Steel Council meeting in five months took place on 21 February, following rising concern from steel campaigners due to climbing energy prices and fear of mass plant closure following Liberty Steel’s winding up order.

According to a government report, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng who co-chaired the meeting opened by confirming the government’s commitment to helping the steel industry modernise, increase competitiveness and transition to a cleaner and profitable future. He reiterated the need for ‘a sustainable industry and discussed the ongoing work to explore an overarching, longer-term approach for the sector.’

Other items raised included electricity prices, the quality and availability of scrap for steel making and what would be required to create a market for low carbon steel. The council also discussed what government support, and on what timescales, might be needed to enable a transition to a competitive low carbon future. The UK government has already announced a £250 million Clean Steel Fund that expects to help the industry transition to a low carbon future and it claims that since 2013, it has provided over £600 million in relief to the sector to help with the costs of electricity.

“The whole UK steel sector is united in its desire.... to deliver a decarbonised steel sector that is at the heart of the decarbonisation of our economy.''

Gareth Stace , UK Steel director-general

Speaking to UK Newspaper The Mirror, UK Steel director-general Gareth Stace commented: “The whole UK steel sector is united in its desire to work with Kwasi Kwarteng, Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson to deliver a decarbonised steel sector that is at the heart of the decarbonisation of our economy and accelerates the levelling-up of communities across the country. While we face challenges from high electricity prices and global steel overcapacity - in addition to Britain’s entry as an independent trading nation and the need to establish our own trade defence mechanisms - we are looking forward to productive and positive discussions, in particular on decarbonisation''.

As stated in the government report of the meeting, it was agreed the Council would meet again after summer to discuss progress, in addition to the ongoing meetings of the Steel Procurement Taskforce, chaired by Investment Minister Lord Grimstone, working to address difficulties reported by the sector in competing for and securing major public contractors.

The UK government is also currently reviewing carbon strategies as a result of forming the UK Emissions Trading Scheme (UK ETS) following its departure from the EU ETS post-brexit. After one year within the scheme, government officials are assessing the challenges faced in a pandemic economy, which will inescapably have direct consequences on their ability to fund projects.

“Just as steel built our past, it is a vital part of our future.”

Gareth Stace , UK Steel director-general

“As a sector, we stand ready to work with Kwasi Kwarteng to deliver a modern near-zero steel industry and to allow the UK to be a world leader in this, ’’ Stace continued. “Just as steel built our past, it is a vital part of our future.”

Source: Gov.uk/The Mirror