Energy is top of the policy agenda in a way that we haven’t seen for decades.

For a generation, policy in Britain and most other European countries has been based on trying to find a balance between the “trilemma” of sometimes competing priorities – making sure that we can keep the lights on, keep bills down and minimise the environmental impact of our energy production and usage.

For most of that time, the environmental part of that has seemed the most pressing, with ready access to cheap gas seeming to solve concerns around energy security and costs. Those assumptions have vanished over the past year.

High energy costs, made worse by a combination of the fall-out from the covid pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, have dominated the news for several months.

The huge increases in gas and electricity costs are causing a lot of pain for a lot of families, and the Government has responded with two packages of measures – worth a total of £37billion to help soften the impact of prices that are rising around the world.

But the impact is also falling heavily on businesses – particularly on energy-intense industries like much of the Black Country manufacturing that our local economy still relies on – where they do not have the protection (limited though it is) that consumers get from the energy price cap.

Last week I met with Servosteel in Pensnett to listen to the challenges they face with energy bills running into tens of thousands of pounds every month, and to discuss the Repowering the Black Country project that’s being backed by the Local Enterprise Partnership and Andy Street.

Repowering the Black Country is one of the seven major industrial clusters across the country and is being led by a range of top local businesses – large and small. It is working on ways to reduce manufacturing businesses’ reliance on expensive fossils fuels to reduce costs, make our manufacturers more competitive, reduce carbon emissions and protect local jobs.

Coincidentally, while I was meeting with Servosteel and some of the team behind Repowering the Black Country on Thursday, I received a message that I had been successful in getting a question to the Prime Minister at this week’s Prime Minister’s Questions.

It’s always exciting to get a PMQ. Every week around 300 MPs apply to ask a question and 15 names are drawn at random and so most MPs only get one or two questions each year.

It is even more rare to come out as the first question as there is obviously only one of those each week, and it was the first time that I have opened the PMQs session.

It was a great opportunity to highlight the challenges faced by our local manufacturers and the need for businesses, councils and government to work together to find a way of reducing their energy costs and their environmental impact.

We are seeking a relatively small amount of money so that Repowering the Black Country can establish a pilot project to show what can be done, and then if successful extend the scheme to other parts of the country.

I will continue to press this issue in Parliament and directly with Ministers so that we can give our local manufacturers the best possible chance of succeeding, decarbonising and creating the high-skilled high-pay jobs that people in Dudley need.