UK SMEs have much to gain from cutting energy bills

Energy is one of the biggest overheads for SMEs, so insulating offices and producing clean energy could potentially save thousands on fuel bills.

The methods by which small businesses can improve their bottom line through energy efficiency was the subject of a recent Guardian seminar, held in association with E.ON. The evening saw SME owners from across the UK joining energy experts to debate what can really be done to reduce demand and bring those bills down.
While there are many technological solutions, according to panellist Siân Evans, SME Customer Engagement Manager at E.ON, you first need to understand how you are using your energy in order to find ways to reduce it.
"It doesn't have to involve massive capital investment," she said. "It can be as simple as turning off the light and changing the lightbulbs. Those seemingly insignificant steps, when added together, can lead to some significant savings."
As Evans was quick to point out, the SME market is incredibly diverse. From bakers to candlestick makers, the energy needs of each business can vary dramatically. There cannot be, therefore, a one-size-fits-all approach to energy efficiency for small businesses. However, there are simple measures that all firms can implement to reduce energy wastage.
Panellist Allen Creedy, environment, water and energy chairman for the Federation of Small Businesses, identified three main approaches to cutting the cost of powering an SME. The first is the simple action of switching off lights and equipment when not in use. The second step is the more complex task of upgrading devices, such as the thermostat, to ensure energy output is kept as lean as possible. And finally, business owners should look into changing the very fabric of the building – investing in insulation, draught proofing or double glazing.
A different mindset
Behavioural changes such as flicking a light switch or powering down computers at the end of the day may sound overly simplistic and trivial, but, as Gateway Energy Solutions managing director Andrew Kneeshaw explained, they can have a major impact on the business's overall productivity.
He claimed an increased awareness of energy efficiency has led to huge savings for many entrepreneurs, and that there have been significant drops in energy usage across several industry sectors over the past 10 years.
"There are two sides to this," he commented. "One is the fact that we are probably producing things better, but then there's also the fact that people have become much more focused on energy efficiency.  There are sectors that I am quite heavily involved in – agriculture for instance – where we have seen something like a 25-35% drop in energy use output."
Key discussion points
  • Energy efficiency doesn't have to involve massive capital investment – steps to cut bills can be as simple as remembering to switch lights and equipment off when not in use
  • Reducing energy costs is a team effort and it is important to find ways to engage staff by raising awareness of the benefits and providing incentives to care
  • Smart meters can help SME owners track the amount of energy being used, while smartphone apps may hold the key to monitoring energy in the future
  • Persuading landlords and those who own the building stock to invest in energy efficiency is a key area we need to focus on. Creating tenant/landlord partnerships where both parties reap the benefits could be one way forward
Source: The Guardian