ONE of the region's biggest employers fears that crippling energy costs are stifling job creation and investment.
Bosses at Teesside iron and steel maker SSI UK have urged the Chancellor to announce energy tax breaks in today's Budget that will help the Thai-owned company - and other heavy industries - to balance the books.
It is being widely predicted that George Osborne will bow to pressure and abandon any further increases in the Carbon Price Floor (CPF), introduced in April 2013.
Loading article content
The CPF was designed to penalise companies who create pollution, and to encourage investment in green energy.
But the implementation of the levy has left many British companies which use large amounts of energy, including chemicals and steel works, from paying more in tax than their counterparts elsewhere in the EU.
The CPF sets a minimum price for every tonne of carbon dioxide emitted. It is expected to rise sharply by 2030 to encourage construction of new low-carbon power sources like nuclear and wind farms while making it too expensive to run coal-fired power plants.
It has also been blamed for hiking up domestic energy bills.
An anticipated freeze could save householders from having to pay as much as £20 a year extra on their household bills by 2020, analysts say.
For the likes of SSI UK, a U-turn by the Chancellor could help the firm to survive and grow in a fiercely competitive global market.
Cornelius Louwrens SSI UK business director and chief operating officer, said: "SSI UK has a burden of costs related to legislation on CO2 allowances and energy all of which affect our competitive position in what continue to be challenging steel market conditions.
"Bearing in mind our ambition to grow the SSI UK business and the volume of steel we produce, I cannot over emphasise the importance of further assistance from Government and any moves in the budget, not just in terms of the carbon floor price, to improve that situation will be welcomed."
Environmentalists and operators of nuclear and renewable energy facilities are opposed to a freeze and say it would also worsen the risk of blackouts and scare away investors in power plants.