UK small businesses are fully committed to saving energy but need more help according to research published this week.
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) polled members and found that there was “overwhelming support for energy efficiency” with nine in 10 (90%) seeking to be more to find ways to do this more effectively.
What the research results emphasise is that small businesses need much more advice and support from government and the energy companies, which is something that SaveMoneyCutCarbon has been consistently advocating.
A national strategy that helps businesses, organisations and households to make effective, sustainable energy and water savings is sorely needed.
Two in three (60%) small firms say that enhanced tax relief would encourage them to become more energy efficient but many are not aware of any support available or find it hard to navigate.
Small business would also welcome support from energy companies on how to consume less energy. Longer energy contracts in return for improved support and advice from energy suppliers were broadly supported by nine in ten (89%) of the companies questioned.
Four out of five (78%) FSB members say that they are motivated by cost savings in carrying out energy efficiency measures but seven out of 10 (70%) small businesses said protecting the environment was an important driver, while a quarter highlighted improved energy efficiency as a way to attract customers and help promote their business.
The fact that three fifths of small businesses (58%) said they had already taken small steps towards energy efficiency, such as installing energy efficient lighting and equipment is encouraging and shows that there is ample scope for greater adoption across the UK.
We know that there are big savings to be made by installing LED lighting and, depending on the size of business, the fitting of smart lighting and heat controls, as well as water saving solutions. While time is always precious, every business should find conduct an energy audit, which would pinpoint where less energy can be consumed and the annual savings gained.
Our Learn & Save resource is a comprehensive guide that covers the range from how to save energy and water, cut carbon emissions and make the right purchasing decisions, for example, what to look for when choosing an LED panel.
Barriers to ongoing action among small business owners exist and need to be addressed. These include finding ways to resolve the challenge of not owning the premises where businesses operate, which was cited by nearly half of those polled as an obstacle to making changes (45%).
One in five businesses also said that they had a poor understanding of the options available (20%) and 29% advised that they lacked the capital to invest (29%). This is where interest-free loans and clearer advice, backed by Government could make a swift and sizeable difference.
Small business also gave their backing to energy companies providing more support on how to consume less energy. Longer energy contracts in return for improved support and advice from energy suppliers were broadly supported by nine in ten (89%) of the companies questioned.
Many small businesses also require quick payback on energy saving measures. The poll showed that more than half (55%) want to see a return on investment within two years with two fifths (39%) needing payback inside a 12 months.
The FSB believes that smart meters will be a vital tool for giving small businesses the information they need to make the right decisions on energy use and has called for the hardware roll out to be supported by an ongoing package of information and support from energy companies.
The national smart meter installation programme is behind schedule but the aim was for this to be completed by 2020.
Energy efficiency enthusiasts
John Allan, FSB National Chairman advises: “Small businesses are really enthusiastic about energy efficiency and this desire should be capitalised on for the good of their business and the environment. However, what our research does tell us is a simple ‘one-size fits all’ approach will not work as different businesses are driven by a diverse range of factors.
“The energy market will continue to fail small firms until it can help businesses reduce their energy consumption, as well as their underlying unit costs.
“There are several initiatives in place to help businesses become energy efficient, including the Green Deal. But Government and energy companies need to do more to understand the different circumstances and motivations of small businesses to help promote further action on energy efficiency.”
The task for government is complex and there were signs before the General Election that the Department for Energy and Climate Change was actively seeking ways to help. It is crucial that this focus is sharpened over the next five years to help all businesses, organisations and households cut energy and water consumption.