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While soaring energy costs place a heavy burden on many small British businesses, improving energy efficiency could offer a way for these promising SMEs to benefit both their finances and the environment.
The Federation of Small Businesses has long been campaigning to create fairer energy policies for small businesses, working with government to reform markets and reduce the financial burden this irreplaceable resource places on SMEs.
Although progress has been made, rising prices still place pressure on the small business community, meaning opportunities to reduce energy costs through efficiency savings can prove invaluable. In fact, a recent report compiled at the request of government climate advisors estimates that billions of pounds worth of yearly savings could be possible by 2030 if UK consumers and businesses act to reduce energy wastage.
Despite these clear rewards, just 40 per cent of SMEs have taken steps to improve energy efficiency, according to the FSB, particularly since many assume taking action will require prohibitively expensive initial costs. Speaking to the Guardian in a recent small business panel, E.ON’s SME engagement manager Siân Evans hoped to dispel this myth, commenting;
“It doesn’t have to involve massive capital investment. It can be as simple as turning off the light and changing the light bulbs. Those seemingly insignificant steps, when added together, can lead to some significant savings.”
energy monitor – photo by tristanf
The FSB’s water and energy chairman, Allen Creedy, also highlights that encouraging staff to alter their behaviour slightly can have a major impact on energy use, explaining that SME owners need to create a system that motivates employees to take an interest in efficiency.
“Buy an energy monitor and challenge the staff to use it to reduce consumption,” advises Creedy, adding:
“Reward the staff for saving money. Harness their ideas and talent.”
For businesses looking to overcome inefficiency on a larger scale, there are also a number of schemes open to SMEs that provide funding and guidance on energy matters. At the end of January, the government announced it would be earmarking an additional £10 million for the Energy Entrepreneurs Fund, which awards successful SMEs funding to implement energy-efficient technologies.
“This investment will give SMEs a vital boost to drive forward the development of a range of innovative low carbon designs, helping cut costs and bringing new technologies to market in this sector,” Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Barker announced at the time, acknowledging, “Innovation is vital for the move towards a low carbon economy and an essential part of our long term economic plan.”