In saving energy and, in turn, money, your business is able to be more competitive. We’ve put together a guide to improvements you can make to save energy and money in your SME business.
According to the Carbon Trust, a 20% cut in energy costs represents the same bottom line benefit as a 5% increase in sales in many businesses. To identify where energy savings can be achieved, you should look at how energy is currently being used in your business. Take a walk around the premises and note what is being used, wasteful energy use and opportunities for savings.
Heating typically accounts for about half of the energy used in offices and can eat up a huge amount of energy in other areas of your business, notes the Carbon Trust. Many businesses are overheated as result of heating areas like storage areas and corridors to the same temperature as occupied areas that are in constant use. For every 1°C of overheating, heating costs rise by about 8%, so you should identify areas where heating could be reduced.
Switching to LED – Light Emitting Diode – lighting is the quickest and simplest action you can take to reduce energy usage in your business, argues Myles McCarthy, director of implementation at the Carbon Trust.
Payback on investment in LED lighting is typically between one and three years, according to McCarthy. For example, one retail outlet client invested £74,000 in new lighting, resulting in a 74% lighting energy reduction and savings of around £33,000 per year, he says.
You can also think about installing movement detectorsto control lighting in toilets, meeting rooms and other areas that are not in constant use.
Business equipment Encourage staff to ensure devices and photocopiers are switched off when not in use for long periods. Out of hours, consider using timers to turn off copiers and printers so it doesn’t have to be done manually.
You can also reduce energy waste by activating the power-saving functions on computers so that the monitor and computer automatically enter standby mode after a certain amount of inactivity. Importantly, make sure all computers are switched off at the end of the day to save energy and reduce the risk of a fire.
When purchasing new computers, think about whether laptops might be better suited to your business. According to EU Energy Star, laptops consume less energy than desktops and are said to increase productivity.
Involve your staff in energy saving by encouraging employees to put together an action plan for making the business more energy efficient. Appoint select staff members as energy champions and give them the authority to enforce energy-saving measures throughout your business, such as ensuring computers are switched off at the end of the day
Check your tariff
Why let one gas and electricity supplier monopolise your business? According to uSwitch.com, British Gas, EDF Energy, npower business, E.ON, SSE and ScottishPower all offer energy plans for business customers, but there are many other smaller companies providing competitive prices too.
First Utility, the UK’s largest independent gas and electricity supplier, recently announced it had become the first independent supplier to supply 1m customer accounts – the equivalent of 550,000 customers.
First Utility’s cheap gas and electricity tariffs are accountable for its phenomenal growth. Despite some reported First Utility customer service issues, the company has seen a ten-fold increase in its customer base in less than 3 years and has since announced it is investing £10m in customer service.
The news comes at the same time as reportedly two million customers have left the top suppliers in favour of better deals from smaller companies. Challenger companies such as First Utility, Utility Warehouse and Extra Energy offer competitive deals for SMEs.
Compare gas and electricity tariffs for your business to make sure you’re getting the best deal
Colin Urquart is a political commentator and energy blogger. He works with various agencies to support change in the energy sector.