EXCLUSIVE: Local gov scheme for SMEs missing energy efficiency ‘opportunity’

A local government scheme helping small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) reduce energy costs is a "missed opportunity" in driving energy efficiency in business, says the Association for the Conservation of Energy (ACE).

Launching the scheme yesterday, the Local Government Association (LGA) said it would target an initial 60,000 enterprises across seven local authority areas and will help give SMEs access to cheaper gas and electricity prices, and free advice on how to avoid energy contract pitfalls, such as expensive rollover contracts.

However, ACE director Andrew Warren told edie that the local government scheme is missing out on a chance to instil energy efficiency into those businesses.

“What strikes me as a large potential missed opportunity is that the LGA seem overtly not to have included within this initiative any attempt to alert smaller businesses to the undeniable fact that, in 99 examples out of 100, such businesses are occupying premises which waste energy.

“In many cases they could be functioning just as effectively using a fraction of the fuel currently burnt,” he added.

Warren stressed that on a practical level every small business could be providing the same services to customers as today with lower costs by buying each kilowatt at a lower unit cost, but also by minimising the number of units of gas and electricity consumed on the premises.

Although each local authority currently has responsibilities to deliver energy efficiency improvements in all housing in their area, they do not have an official role in helping local businesses reduce energy and resource wastage.

Calling for more action, Warren said the LGA should get behind the European Commission’s efforts to reduce the environmental impact of SMEs instead of focusing on lowering the cost of current fuel consumption levels.

Last month, the European Commissioner for Environment, Janez Potocnik, announced that SMEs will be one of the Commission’s top priorities in its effort to reduce resource consumption and the EU’s environmental impact.

“I challenge the LGA to get behind the Potocnik campaign, just as much as their own fuel purchasing one,” said Warren.

Talking to edie last month, Potocnik said that it was essential to focus much of the European Commission’s attention on SMEs because “they are the drivers of our development”.

Leigh Stringer

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