SEA and easy
Site Energy Assessments (SEAs), part of the government's Action Energy Programme, are completely free initial reports on how well or badly your organisation is using energy. Vilnis Vesma introduces a valuable, if little known, source of grants for companies wishing to cut their energy bills.
Cutting your energy consumption is not only good for the environment, it is
one of the few truly quantifiable methods of achieving environmental continuous
improvement, and therefore an important matter to any company with environmental
systems certification to maintain. Sadly many companies’ energy saving programmes,
if they ever had them, have languished through a decade of falling real energy
prices. But help is at hand thanks to a government initiative funded from Climate
Change Levy (CCL) receipts.
SEA visits are quite short (one day maximum on a site whose energy bill is
between £50,000 and £100,000, for example) and they have to be comprehensive
in their coverage. This means that their conclusions cannot realistically include
costed recommendations, nor can they investigate specific processes in any depth.
Larger sites are usually allowed more time (up to fivedays where the energy
spend exceeds half a million pounds) but there has been some rationing, so it
is difficult to predict what any applicant would get. Nevertheless, even a two-day
visit can be beneficial if that is all that is allowed. Normally only one site
per applicant would be accepted, but this is not a hard-and-fast rule. In one
case a client submitted applications for all five of his sites, and all were
accepted, albeit on a limited overall ration of time. If multiple sites are
to be assessed, ones with different attributes are preferred.
Although an SEA is supposed to be comprehensive in its coverage, applicants
can nonetheless ask the consultant to focus on particular areas, such as: lighting;
motors and drives; monitoring and targeting; training and motivation; or a range
of other technological and management topics. The scheme administrators supposedly
select a nearby consultant with the required background, but in practice the
scheme has been virtually kept secret, so most applicants have actually been
introduced by registered consultants who then get to do the work.
An organisation which has had an SEA report can subsequently apply for the second
level of Action Energy service, Specific Measures Assessment. SMA builds on
recommendations contained in the SEA report and is designed to enable the client
to develop specific high-priority measures further. Suppose that the SEA report
had identified ‘monitoring and targeting’ as an important theme. The client
would then discuss this requirement with an approved consultant to determine
the scope and nature of a project with that particular focus, including its
likely duration and cost. The client would then file an application for the
Under the rules of SMA, the first two days’ consultancy are fully funded by
the Action Energy programme, with a 50 per cent subsidy for the balance. If
the total subsidy exceeds £5,000, the applicant will need to demonstrate
that at least three quotations had been obtained. £5,000 is quite a generous
limit. For example, if the specialist consultant charges £500 per day,
a project of 18 days or fewer would escape the need for competitive procurement
(two days at £500 subsidy each, plus 16 days at £250 subsidy). The
client’s net liability in this example would be £4,000, but they would
need to meet the whole of the consultant’s £9,000 bill in the first instance.
SMA projects represent exceptionally good value for money, especially considering
that only the most competent advisers are registered to carry them out.
SMAs were initially floated as projects which followed the (free) SEAs, but
a question arose early on: can an applicant qualify for SMA subsidy if they
have already paid for a general energy survey and don’t need a free one? The
official position is yes they may, as long as they can produce an energy survey
report equivalent to the SEA standard. Furthermore, it seems that even more
leeway may sometimes be allowed, so it may be worthwhile discussing with your
chosen consultant how to bypass the SEA stage.
Application forms for both SEAs and SMAs can be obtained through the government’s
Environment and Energy Helpline on 0800 585794.