The UK’s smaller companies need more help from the Government to install energy efficiency solutions, according to a national survey.
A new poll of 2,100 businesses by the British Chamber of Commerce (BCC) – 91% of them small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) – shows that 36% believe the single most important action from Government would be to provide grants towards costs of installing energy-saving products.
This appeal is set against a backdrop of increased pressures on costs with only 13% of those surveyed advising that they had seen a decrease in energy costs over the past three years. At the same time, 35% have seen these costs rise and 37% report no change.
The lack of activity on energy-saving in SMEs is not through lack of awareness, with only 8% of businesses saying they requested further information on the range of energy measures that could be installed.
Cost of investment
The BCC advises:
“When asked what is preventing businesses from investing in energy efficiency measures, 23% of the largest firms said that other investments were taking priority, compared with 13% overall, and 15% of businesses state that savings would not be worth the cost of investment.”
From our experience, there are substantial savings to be made with a range of energy and water efficiency measures, from LED lighting and lighting controls to smart pumps, low-flush toilets and waterless urinals.
Return on investment is usually swift and even with longer-term payback, the benefits accrue over many years. Sustainability goes hand in hand with stability, and taking control of energy and water costs is a clear way to reinforce that.
However, we’ve seen challenges with SMEs that are echoed in the survey with more than a quarter of businesses saying they had no influence or input into energy efficiency improvements in the premises they rent.
Help from landlords
We support the BCC’s appeal to landlords to help leaseholders that were “looking to save money and make their energy use work for them”.
The survey was supported by British Gas, whose managing director of UK business Gab Barbaro says:
“It’s clear from this research that businesses in rented and leased premises need more help from their commercial landlords, and new regulations to tackle the least energy-efficient premises can’t come soon enough.
“I’d urge all businesses to seek help from their supplier or landlord, and start with the basics. For example, by applying for a smart meter, businesses could much more accurately work out what’s driving their energy use and make considered decisions about how to reduce it.”
And in the light of concerns over the £11 billion national smart meter roll-out, the survey found that only 6% of those polled had faith that smart meters were the most important thing that Government and suppliers could do to help firms save energy.
It would seem that most companies are not too bothered whether the smart meter programme meets the deadline of 2020. Far more crucial to the successful transition to a low-carbon economy are the right incentives.
As Mike Spicer, BCC’s director of research and economics says:
“These results demonstrate that getting the economics of investment right for energy efficiency is crucial to promoting take-up.
“At a time when businesses face growing upfront cost pressures from other sources, grants and tax breaks have an important role to play in offsetting the cost of new energy efficiency measures. On its own, more information won’t do the job.”