Content Coms asks: What do SMEs really need from energy efficiency schemes?
First things first, the news is unequivocally good. Policymakers are seeking views on proposals for an energy efficiency scheme, to be focused on helping smaller businesses. SMEs across the UK should ensure they investigate the new scheme and respond before the deadline in early May.
As an SME ourselves, and equally as an expert across UK low carbon, we at Content Coms have put our heads together, to consider the top elements we feel would deliver the most positive outcomes for the coming scheme, both commercially and environmentally.
1. Ease of use is key
If there is one thing that repeatedly causes headaches across this country, it’s the complexity of environmental regulation and policy.
For years, both large and small firms have been faced with myriad green schemes to navigate, some punitive, some aspirational.
So, in this new energy efficiency scheme, please can simplicity be the watchword? Might firms be able to apply without filling in pages and pages of red tape? Let’s make it simple to get efficiency moving.
2. Speed of release
Another essential element is swift release of funds and support. Especially now, with Brexit dominating the political horizon, firms are seeking the ability to make decisions fast and build funding into their investment and infrastructure pipeline. Energy efficiency saves money – so help us deliver it swiftly.
The details of the coming scheme aren’t certain, but money from government to leverage against energy efficiency is always welcome. Please can we ensure any cash can be released quickly, rather than, for example, only becoming available after a company has invested in efficiency kit itself?
Some argue this investment should be required before cash can be released, effectively paying back the firm’s initial outlay and ensuring money goes on actual efficiency measures. But if this takes years to happen, cashflow is hit and firms aren’t given the flexibility they require to operate at best pace.
3. Positive, not prescriptive
We all understand that where public money is concerned, transparency must be paramount. Nonetheless, we would welcome a scheme that doesn’t lay down a preselected list of measures which money can be pulled down to support.
Let the SME sector do what it’s best at; innovate. How about letting firms come up with bespoke, unique energy efficiency ideas that match precisely with their individual operational requirements and opportunities? Let’s not box them into a corner where cash is only available if offset against a more efficient boiler or lighting system, for example.
4. Decent running time
Please can the new efficiency scheme for SMEs run for a decent period of time? All too often schemes are launched, only to be axed, altered or paused after a year or so while results are calibrated.
We understand the need for this in terms of aforementioned transparency. But let’s not ask firms to dash to the line, before handing over enough cash to get them started, just to find the next promised tranche isn’t happening as the scheme’s moved into ‘analysis’ mode.
“At Content Coms, we recognise and welcome new energy efficiency opportunities,” comments Joanna Watchman, our CEO and Founder at Content Coms.
“But please let’s avoid some of the mistakes that our years in the energy efficient sector have taught us schemes often make. Make this scheme simple, fast, predictable, well run and lend it some longevity.
“With these elements in place, the government will be doing exactly the right thing to help the SME sector do its bit for the UK low carbon transition. And we will also have more competitive, greener businesses too.”
Content Coms is one of the UK’s leading B2B communications consultancies specialising in the energy, environment and technology sectors. Keep up-to-date with the latest industry news and analysis here.