A new independent report warns UK businesses are missing out on huge economic and environmental benefits of improved energy efficiency, and identifies numerous real and perceived barriers to widespread take up. The report authors say Government must act urgently to help businesses improve their facility energy efficiency and call on the Coalition to improve finance options for small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
Commercial buildings account for 10% of the UK’s carbon emissions and offer a huge amount of potential for carbon savings and increased energy efficiency.
The new report, entitled: ‘Building Efficiency: Reducing energy demand in the commercial sector‘ published jointly by the Westminster Sustainable Business Forum and Carbon Connect, argues significant benefits of taking action in helping UK firms undertake energy efficiency improvements – namely reduced energy bills, increased competitiveness and improved worker productivity.
The report follows a six-month, cross-party inquiry chaired by Conservative MP Oliver Colvile and Labour’s Lord Whitty and makes over a dozen recommendations for policy change, including calling on government to:
- Use the Green Investment Bank to fund a commercial subsidiary of The Green Deal Finance Company, under guarantee from HM Treasury, to offer low interest loans to SMEs to stimulate the market for energy efficiency.
- Launch national and ‘street by street’ awareness raising campaigns to communicate more fully the easy availability of Government-backed loans for energy efficiency measures via the non-domestic Green Deal scheme.
- Use Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) to help drive roll-out of energy efficiency measures amongst local businesses, by putting clearer guidance and instruction in future LEP funding streams;
- Improve awareness of energy efficiency measures in UK boardrooms by forcing senior company executives to sign off the ESOS Assessor’s final report of a company’s energy efficiency performance;
- Compile a comprehensive database of UK commercial buildings based on their energy efficiency, in order to provide a performance benchmark and help foster a culture of awareness and competition;
- Clampdown on commercial landlords failing to meet minimum energy efficiency standards by increasing financial penalties for those failing to produce Energy Performance Certificates and Display Energy Certificates for their buildings
- Help landlords make improvements by extending to 12 months the length of time a landlord can receive empty property rate relief from Local Authorities – providing energy efficiency improvements are being made.
Speaking ahead of the report’s publication, inquiry co-chair Oliver Colvile MP, said:
“The need to increase the resilience of our businesses against the threat of climate change, and energy price volatility could not be greater. The obvious cost savings, coupled with improved productivity that can be realised from energy efficiency, makes it quite clear that now is the time to invest on a large scale. To do that requires government intervention – to raise awareness, guarantee low cost loans, stimulate the market and incentivise the landlords. This report lays out clearly how that can be achieved quickly and cost effectively.”
The British Property Federation today welcomed the launch of the report. Liz Peace, Chief Executive of the British Property Federation, said at the report’s Westminster launch:
“There is a lot to be gained from focusing on energy efficiency in a non-domestic environment. New buildings are becoming more and more energy efficient, but as only around 2% of commercial buildings are replaced each year we believe there should be greater emphasis on energy saving initiatives targeted at existing properties.”
The trade body offered up its own recommendations in light of the ensuing debate, including a four-point plan for government to improve energy efficiency in the commercial sector.
- Getting Energy Performance Certificates right;
- Introducing Minimum Energy Performance Standards in a sensible way;
- Gathering good, comprehensive data with common metrics for measuring energy efficiency;
- Offering financial support to help businesses implement energy efficiency measures.