We talk about energy efficiency, but making the first move can be difficult.
Fiona Laing reports on the power company’s initiative to help its customers
It’s often only when an unexpectedly large power bill arrives or a heating system needs repairing that small businesses will look for energy efficiency advice. “Energy efficiency is something a lot of our customers talk about, but don’t really know how to get it going and make it work,” admitted Neil Clitheroe, chief executive officer of retail and generation at ScottishPower, as he opened a roundtable discussion in Edinburgh on the topic.
ScottishPower, which recently became a pledge ambassador of Resource Efficient Scotland, was hosting the event in partnership with The Scotsman in order to listen to people in business and find out what it could do to help small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) become more energy efficient.
“We have over 200,000 small business customers across the UK from micro businesses working from home to major industrial plants.
“Our biggest customer spends £10 million a month on energy, the smallest the same as a domestic customer,” said Clitheroe.
“What we have learned is how different the businesses are actually determines the sort of any energy advice they need and that is why the tie-up with Resource Efficient Scotland is around tailoring that advice,” he added.
Once a SME picks up on ScottishPower’s signposting of the Resource Efficient Scotland advice, there are two ways it can be accessed.
“We have ‘light touch’ support, allowing people to tap into the advice as they want,” said John Murray of Resource
Efficient Scotland. “There are web-based tools, information they can download, events, webinars and online training tools to empower people.”
The other side of the service is tailored one-to-one support. “A team of ten implementation advisers who explain and support businesses through the process of understanding what the options are,” explained Murray.
“There are also framework consultants who are experienced experts in their trade. They will provide free consultancy support to the businesses to identify what the options are and help them quantify what the inefficiencies are costing so that they can go on and use the loan schemes or access other finance options.”
The implementation advisers then support the clients in identifying what they need to do to implement those measures. “If there are [internal] barriers, the advisers can speak to other members of the business about the cost benefits or they can support with staff awareness, or help fill in an application form.”
Murray added that they too saw that businesses found it really challenging to prioritise energy efficiency over other competing priorities.
“It is a free service for SMEs, it saves them money, it seems to be a no-brainer, yet we experience that on a day-to-day basis.
“One of the key things our implementation advisers bring is that influencing, supporting, prioritising focus to help business to make a difference.”
The roundtable participants were all small businesses who all admitted that although they knew energy efficiency was an important issue, they were not actively pursuing any measures beyond turning radiators down on warm days.
One of the barriers they highlighted was being in leased premises. Iain Shillady of Staran Architects in Edinburgh, said: “Being a new smaller business in a leased property, it is trying to work out where best to spend the money. If you are there for potentially five years, it’s getting that balance right.”
Peter Banks of Fine Energy which also leases its Edinburgh office, added: “It is quite poor in terms of energy efficiency and we feel we should be making more effort, but it is difficult to see exactly what we can do.”
The concerns for businesses in leased premises are something Clith-
eroe promised ScottishPower would be looking at in the future. “There is no specific advice for leased versus owner-occupied premises because the things you can do are significantly different.
“There might be advice for restaurants or manufacturing plants, but you don’t want to invest heavily on retro-fitting a leased property if you don’t know if you’ll be there long.
“There are a lot of things you can do behaviourally, or in terms of the equipment you purchase, to make the premises more energy efficient,” added Clitheroe.
As he reflected at the end of the event: “Leasing – and being part of a bigger organisation in a local office – needs some thought: I don’t know what the answer is yet.”
Another of the takeaways from the roundtable for Clitheroe was the discussion around the triggers which prompt energy efficiency activity.
“We’ve probably thought about trigger points more on the residential side,” he said, pointing to the company’s initiatives in the domestic market when customers move home, sign a new contract or need a boiler replaced.
“We will have to ask how we build an energy efficiency service into the trigger points for businesses,” he promised.
The discussion turned to some of the rewards for companies who become more energy efficient.
For architect Shillady, it’s what his clients perceive as value. “Some operators have a green strategy and are actively pushing for energy efficiency and they can see the value in it. It’s probably both as a good ‘badge’ to have and in terms of saving money.”
Resource Efficient Scotland recognises that companies might want to highlight their green credentials to promote their own business.
“We allow businesses to do that through the Resource Efficient Pledge,” said Stephen Boyle, business sector manager for Resource Efficient Scotland.
“We encourage businesses throughout Scotland to take three pledges to fulfil in one year. As they start on that journey it pushes them down the lines of resource efficiency in their business.
“They can use that pledge badge to demonstrate to others their leadership in resource efficiency to their partners and clients. We work in collaboration with ScottishPower who is an ambassador for the Resource Efficient Pledge.”
The discussion then turned to how statutory regulations and supply chain processes might prompt more resource efficiency in the future. Clitheroe said: “In our own procurement processes for working with suppliers, we already have pretty strong health and safety assessments and I can see energy efficiency assessments developing over time in the big public organisations.”
Shillady agreed about the power of government requirements in forcing change through. He referred to next year’s deadline for all public contracts to have been designed on Building Information Modelling (BIM) meaning his practice has invested in the new software and skills required.
For Gilly Bain of Your GB Events, hearing about the energy efficiency help that is on offer from Scottish-
Power, means she can take a closer look at her own leased premises in Edinburgh’s New Town.
“I know now there is help there and it is accessible. I can get up and do something about it.”
She also admitted that she will be thinking about how she organises events in the future in terms of energy efficiency. “Looking at my company from our clients’ perspective and the events that we do today, shows me there must be a piece of that we can look at.”
Her first step might well be one of the Resource Efficient Scotland online downloads the “Sustainable Events Guide” which provides practical advice for organisers of events of all types.
ScottishPower meanwhile, plans to continue its work on promoting the range of advice and support on offer from Resource Efficient Scotland to help its business customers become more energy efficient.
Range of support on offer to small businesses in Scotland
The Resource Efficient Scotland programme is wider than the advice and support service for small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs).
Its overall remit is to provide one-to-one support, create guidance and demonstrate resource efficiency for all types of organisations – public, private and third sector –across all sectors.
“There are two main focuses,” Stephen Boyle, business sector manager for Resource Efficient Scotland, explained at the roundtable event.
“One is the advice and support service, while the other is where we work with key Scottish sectors which have a large presence and large energy, water and material use to try and help them move towards efficiency and, through doing that, sustainability.
“The largest sectors are food and drink, chemicals, retail, hospitality and tourism.
“We also work with the energy-intensive industries, such as paper and pulp, iron and steel, oil and gas, refineries, cement and ceramics,” said Boyle
“The sector programme is primarily there to do research, to create guidance where guidance is required and to demonstrate good practice.
“Last year, we worked with Scotmid at its Moredun store in Edinburgh. We managed to demonstrate that by taking resource efficient action in the retrofit process we saved that store 60 per cent of its energy use.”
Resource Efficient Scotland itself is part of the wider energy efficiency support offered to SMEs.
Energy Savings Trust runs a SME loan fund on behalf of the Scottish Government for energy efficient, renewables and other low carbon technologies. “We do about 100 loans a year,” said John Forbes of Energy Savings Trust.
“We also run a green network for business. We recognise that when businesses are thinking about energy efficiency or a significant investment in renewables, as well as speaking to suppliers and advice organisations, they also like to speak to their peers.
“We have about 150 businesses across Scotland willing to share their experiences about what it is really like to operate biomass heating or the actual efficiency benefits of the technology,” said Forbes.
“We also recognise that if we can generate demand and interest from businesses in investing in energy efficiency and low carbon technologies, we must make sure there is a viable supply chain in Scotland, so we work with installers and assessors to make sure they can deliver these services.”
Another aspect of the wider energy/resource efficiency agenda is transport and Energy Savings Trust runs a sustainable transport advice service on behalf of the Scottish Government.
“That’s looking at everything from encouraging people to drive more efficiently: if your average annual mileage is 8,700, you can save about £235 just by driving more efficiently,” said Forbes.
“We’re supporting the growth in electric vehicles and promoting the alternatives to driving, like walking and cycling.”
He added that the trust is also bringing together the non-domestic and domestic agendas. “If we can advise people on their energy efficiency at home, we hope they will bring those ideas into the workplace.”