There are lots of good reasons why energy supply companies
should be making a growing range of energy efficiency
and green energy solutions
available to their business customers
For a start it’s what many of their business customers are now demanding: in order to cut their energy bills, to meet their corporate social responsibility (CSR) requirements and to comply with regulations such as the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme and the smart meter rollout that begins in 2014.
But what are the energy suppliers doing to help? And of those that claim to, how easily are they making that information available – and are their solutions up to the mark anyway?
We contacted all of the Bix Six suppliers and several of the smaller players and asked them what energy efficiency and green energy solutions they offer their business customers – both large and small. Only four of the smaller suppliers – Ecotricity, First Utility, Good Energy and SmartestEnergy – supplied us with details. Of the Big Six, only npower responded to our request at all, directing us to its website.
One of the problems is the Big Six have such complicated offerings – broken down by business size or industry sector or energy usage, etc. This reflects one of the frustrations many of their business customers (and domestic customers) are voicing about them – it’s not always easy to elicit clear information from them, let alone trust the deal you are being offered is fair. (Ofgem is introducing a number of reforms
to protect businesses against such problems)
We have tried to put together a summary of what’s on offer in terms of energy efficiency and green energy solutions – in the case of the Big Six, we have relied on information that is easily accessible on their websites.
Under its Energy 360
programme, British Gas offers what it calls a “suite of products” to help businesses save energy. These include advice on energy saving measures and contracts that include a smart meter as well as automatic monitoring and targeting of energy use.
In February 2012, the energy supplier also launched 'Business Energy Insight’, a new free service will enable British Gas business customers that have a smart meters to analyse their energy usage via a user-friendly online 'dashboard’. In addition, customers can get advice on how to reduce their energy consumption from trained British Gas energy efficiency advisors.
The British Gas website is the only one of the Big Six’s that does not apparently separate the services available to small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) from those available to larger businesses. As such, it is not immediately clear how much of Energy 360 SMEs are able to access.
British Gas also offers its business customers a supply contract
which includes commercial electricity generated from sustainable sources (subject to availability).EDF
According to its website, EDF currently only offers its SME clients a downloadable energy savings tips booklet, energy saving tips and posters for the workplace encouraging staff to save energy. However, the company told us it is due to launch a new ‘self audit’ energy efficiency product for SMEs in February.
E.ON segments its services according to size of business. For smaller businesses – those defined as using up to one gigawatt hours (GWh) business electricity or 1.5 GWh business gas – its services include Business EnergyManager
, which, among other things, provides customers with an energy monitor and software to help them understand their energy usage.EasyGreen
is E.ON’s green tariff for business customers, promising to match every unit of electricity used with a unit generated from a renewable wind or hydro source.npower
Like E.ON, n.power offers an energy efficiency product specifically designed for SMEs. SmartStart
includes a free energy monitor, a dedicated helpline and communication materials to help get staff on board with the idea of saving energy.
n.power also has a green tariff
for larger business customers, which matches usage with renewable power generated from onshore and offshore wind, hydro and solar photovoltaic sources.SSE
On its website, SSE says the company has “many ways to help your business cut its carbon emissions, from fully audited and certificated hydro power to Climate Change Levy (CCL) exempt renewably generated electricity” but details are a bit tricky to find. The main website directs businesses to a ‘Business Energy Centre’ website, which has generic advice on energy efficiency
and energy management
for those prepared to spend time looking for it, but no obvious mention of specific products and services.
Likewise, there are details of the company’s experience as the “UK’s leader in generating electricity from renewable sources
”, but no obvious information on specific products and services available.Scottish Power
Scottish Power provides energy efficiency advice for SMEs through its SMART
pack. Energy saving advice is also available from a free helpline.
The section of the website dedicated to business customers does not appear to give any details of the green tariffs available, however.Good Energy
Good Energy offers energy efficiency advice
through its customer service.
“Every member of our customer care team is ‘fluent in energy’; they have been trained to the Energy Savings Trust-endorsed standard to offer energy efficiency advice,” ceo Juliet Davenport told us.
Good Energy’s USP, of course is that it is the only UK energy supplier whose electricity fuel mix is 100 per cent renewable and its tariff for SMEs is one of only two currently certified by the Green Energy Supply Certification Scheme (the other being E.ON’s EasyGreen). Details of the service available to businesses are on the website
Ecotricity offers a choice of two green tariffs for its SME
customers. The ‘New Energy’ tariff is dedicated to new build and all the green energy in this tariff (this year, 41 per cent of the total) comes from Ecotricity’s own windmills. ‘New Energy Plus’ is for businesses that want a 100 per cent green supply now – so the 41 per cent from Ecotricity’s own windmills is topped up with green energy from other sources.
“Ecotricity is a unique offer – a not-for-dividend company that re-invests 82.2p in every pound of customers bills into generating new sources of green energy rather than paying dividends to shareholders,” said an Ecotricity spokesperson.
Ecotricity told us it is actively seeking to install smart meters at all its business customers’ sites, though energy efficiency solutions do not feature prominently on its website.First Utility
First Utility’s ‘big thing’ is helping customers manage their energy consumption through the use of smart meters
. It it claims to be the first company in the UK to begin a national rollout of smart meters.
SmartestEnergy told us “we don’t supply energy efficiency products and services as such, but we do have significant experience of helping customers find sustainable solutions to their energy needs”.SmartestEnergy
only supplies large energy users in the half hourly metered market with renewable energy and “good quality” CHP (combined heat and power) purchased from its portfolio of more than 540 independent generation sites.Green energy solutions
The choice of green energy options available to small business customers is undoubtedly confusing. Good Energy’s Juliet Davenport’s tip is to look at the fuel mix on offer. “While most energy suppliers have a green tariff, the overall amount of renewable electricity they supply gives a much better indication of their commitment to green energy,” she says.
The independent website www.electricityinfo.org
has this information.
Other possible sources of information include the previously mentioned The Green Energy Supply Certification Scheme
and The Ethical Company Organisation
, which also ranks energy suppliers on various ethical criteria.
Ofgem published a fact sheet
in 2009 with information and advice on green tariffs for domestic consumers and small businesses.