Employees at South Yorkshire steel plants are working nights and weekends unnecessarily and sitting in the cold and dark because successive governments have failed to act on energy.
That was the stark message from major energy users at a conference in Sheffield.
Mark Broxholme, managing director of Tata Steel Speciality said his company had cut energy consumption by 20 per cent since 2005.
It had recently invested £7 million in a range of measures that cut its energy bill by £3 million, only to see most of those savings wiped out by new energy taxes.
Now, it faced a £1 million increase in its £75 million a year energy bill because the mild winter meant demand would be less than it had told the energy companies it expected.
At the same time, energy management rules meant it had to switch power off during the day, forcing it to operate at night and weekends, when electricity is cheaper, even though its plants are operating at 75 per cent of capacity.
Employees had to sit in the dark with everything turned off during periods of energy management, when heating a control pulpit rockets from 11p to £38.60 and running a PC shoots up to £6.20 an hour, said Mr Broxholme.
Labour MP Nic Dakin, whose Scunthorpe constituency includes a major Tata steel plant, said: “It’s like a thrid world approach to energy, rather than a modern, 21st century approach. We should be shocked and determined to do something about it.
“Manufacturing is important. All the major political parties are committed in their rhetoric to manufacturing. The big challenge is to turn that rhetoric into solid reality.”