Cost of doing business support

What steps can businesses take to manage energy consumption?

With rising energy prices, the cost of doing business over the cooler months is causing concern for many businesses. This is not helped by inflation pushing up the price of supply goods, such as ingredients and raw materials.

Many businesses are still recovering from the impact of the pandemic and do not have the cash reserves needed to help reduce their carbon emissions as winter approaches.

This includes not having spare capital funds to invest in alternative sources of renewable energy, such as solar panels. There may not be funds available to change how they heat their business, such as installing ground or air source heat pumps, or to encourage others to reduce their emissions by installing electric vehicle charging points. Whilst this may be the plan or goal for the future, there are some steps that can help with energy efficiency in the short term.

Questions such as: ‘Do I need to print that?’, ‘Does this device constantly need to be on charge?’, ‘Do I need to keep this on standby?’, ‘Do I need that light on?’  all play a part in reducing our day-to-day energy usage. Identifying phantom energy is paramount to helping save on your energy bills. Phantom energy is wasted energy caused by items left plugged in or on standby overnight when they could be switched off.

If you find that you cannot afford to pay your energy bill, contact your supplier as soon as you can to discuss your options. Citizens Advice has tips for small businesses struggling to afford their energy bills.

Although you may already have considered, or been aware of some of the tips and advice mentioned below, we hope that there is some advice that can help everyone.

Install a smart meter

If you haven’t got a smart meter already, this can help you identify what appliances or equipment are costing you money, and when. You can then take steps to reduce the use of some of these items, especially during peak times. For example, if your business has a dishwasher, you might want to set it to run overnight if you are charged less for your electricity at off-peak times.

Contact your energy supplier to check if you are eligible for a smart meter. More information about smart meters can be found on the Money Saving Expert website

Find out where your heat loss occurs

The council has a thermal imaging camera that can help you assess where your business is losing heat. Addressing this is a big step to saving you money on your heating bills, for example, by improving your insulation. Contact the team for more information by emailing openforbusiness@scambs.gov.uk.

Doors and windows

This might seem obvious, but take a good look at your doors and windows to see whether they need resealing to eliminate drafts. Also, make sure that internal doors and windows are closed whenever possible to help reduce heat loss.

Radiators and heaters

Make sure that heating panels are not obstructed by desks or tables being positioned in front of them, which will reduce how effective they are. You can even get reflective panels to put behind radiators to make sure you are getting the most heat from them.

Turn down the thermostat

Reducing your room temperature by just 1 degree will make a difference to your heating bills. If you can turn it down to 18 or 19 degrees – all the better.

Switch it off

If something’s not in use, does it need to be on? Lots of people leave computers on instead of turning them off when they’re not using them. Did you know that laptops are more efficient to use than traditional desktop computers? Encourage lights to be turned off and close doors when rooms are not in use.

Lighting

If you haven’t already swapped bulbs to low energy LEDs, this is will make a difference. Not only that, but installing motion sensors to detect when workspaces are not in use means that lights are off when not required. Another handy tip is to check that your lightbulbs are clean. Dirty lights are less bright than clean ones, meaning that you might need more of them on. Once clean, you shouldn’t need so many on.

Fridges and freezers

Are your appliances energy efficient? When did you last defrost your fridge or freezer? Defrosting them makes them more energy efficient. If your appliances are old or outdated, perhaps consider replacing them with more energy efficient models.

Taps

If you have dripping taps, it’s time to get them repaired. Especially if your hot water tap has a leak. Fixing this will mean that your boiler won’t have to keep heating water where it has been lost.

Get your team involved

If you employ staff, why not ask them to be involved in helping you reduce your business energy costs. You could appoint an ‘Energy Champion’ who can help identify where you are using more energy than you need to. For example, most offices have a kitchen where staff can make hot drinks. Are they filling the kettle up to make only one drink? They could be encouraged to just boil what they need. An energy champion in your business can really help make a difference by building team ‘buy-in’ in supporting the reduction of energy costs.

Get plants

If you are worried that your workspaces might become stuffy with doors and windows closed, why not add some air-purifying plants? Plants are good for many reasons. In the summer they help the environment ‘feel cooler’ but they also do a great job at helping to reduce carbon dioxide in the working environment; which has also got to be good for your staff and their wellbeing. There are many benefits to having plants in your workplace.

Diversification

Do you have space that is sitting unused? Are there areas in your building that can accommodate more people than they currently do? For example, rooms in pubs could be used for meetings and conferences or by community groups. Perhaps you have outbuildings that could be rented out to local start ups? Can you set up a ‘hub’ - a space for those who perhaps are not in the workplace all the time?

By reviewing the space your business occupies, maybe you could offer low-cost serviced facilities for other businesses? This way, you can make the energy use for your property as efficient as possible while earning extra income.

Cooking and kitchens

If your business provides hospitality and food for customers, you might want to review when your busy and quiet times are. Many takeaways and food providers are rethinking the service they offer, given the rising costs of energy and ingredients, and are looking at the cost of trading at certain times and days. Some are experiencing other issues such as not having enough staff, or not being able to fill vacant positions. Some businesses, such as pubs, are taking additional steps by not opening kitchens 7 days a week. Instead, they work with independent traders who park on the premises and provide food during times when it is not cost effective for the business to operate a full kitchen service.

Supply chain

Do you regularly review your supply chain? Are you getting the best value for money? Is there a local company that could prove to be more cost effective? The journey of food and last mile delivery is topical and there could be savings - both in cost and carbon emissions - to be made in using hyper-local suppliers.

UK-Centric Supply Chains offers advice to manufacturing, engineering or food and drink businesses looking to secure and streamline their supply chain.

Reduce, reuse, recycle

Do you regularly send items to landfill that could be reused? We all know that glass, cardboard, paper and most plastics are recyclable, but what about things like pallets and used coffee grounds? This is an ideal time to evaluate your waste and consider if it can be repurposed, rather than thrown away.

Greater Cambridgeshire Shared Commercial Waste Service can help identify where your business can cut down on the amount of waste that it’s generating; saving you money and benefiting the environment.

Electric vehicle share schemes

If your business delivers at certain times of the day, and you have a vehicle that spends part of the day parked at your premises, have you considered looking at sharing an electric vehicle with another local company? Sharing costs on such resources can reduce costs, and make your business greener and more efficient.

Get advice and support

British Business Bank have put together a free downloadable guide that provides impartial information to help businesses through survival and onto recovery; helping them stabilise and move forward to growth and future success.

Business Debtline is run by the Money Advice Trust and can help those who are self-employed or have small businesses.

GroceryAid has joined forces with Business Debtline to raise awareness of the free financial advice and support available for independent retailers and small business owners.

Visit our Greener business page for lots of useful resources available to businesses that can also provide tips and advice on conserving energy.

Our Grants and funding page includes details of schemes designed to help businesses improve their sustainability and energy, including the Workplace Charging Scheme.

If you need support or advice on reducing your carbon emissions, assisting with diversification, or any issues impacting your business, please contact us by email at openforbusiness@scambs.gov.uk.

Small Business Britain have launched a new Help service. Whether there are specific questions you are struggling with, support you need, or topics you want covered in training, you can email help@smallbusinessbritain.uk at any time in confidence, about whatever you need help with.