Ahead of the publication of the government’s long-awaited Energy Bill, and in the wake of controversy over energy costs, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has released the results of a wide-ranging business energy survey. Based on the responses of almost 3,500 companies, the results show that the energy market must deliver security, affordability, and certainty for business.The findings show that:
Businesses believe that energy security issues will become a major concern in the future, with 59% of large businesses, 44% of medium-sized businesses, and 38% of small businesses already worried about their future energy supply
90% believe that the UK requires a diverse energy mix to avoid future supply problems
Disruption to supply is already a reality for some businesses, with 10% experiencing a cut in their energy supply on five or more occasions in the past three years
Nearly 40% of businesses feel that rising costs have adversely affected their growth, a clear signal that action is needed
While rising energy costs are due in part to global factors, the UK government has the capability to prevent costs rising in the future through better policy choices
The results show that the UK should follow the example of countries such as Germany and offer more substantial relief to energy-intensive industries that are most impacted by government policies
Policy certainty and awareness
While 56% of respondents believe government initiatives to increase energy efficiency are positive, initiatives like the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme, which has been repeatedly changed, only garners support from fewer than three in 10 businesses
Over 60% of businesses were  unaware of the Green Deal, the government’s flagship energy efficiency programme, prior to completing the survey, and of those that are aware of the scheme 30% are sceptical that savings anticipated by the government will actually be achieved
Most businesses recognise the need to improve their energy efficiency, with 63% saying they are motivated to reduce their energy usage by environmental concerns
Commenting on the survey results, Dr Adam Marshall, Director of Policy at the BCC, said:
“Secure energy supplies are vital for the future wellbeing of the UK economy. No business can succeed unless the UK has energy policies and an energy market that deliver affordability, certainty and security.
“Energy security is one of the most profound challenges facing the UK, and government energy policies require clarity and consistency to ensure that it meets the challenge. This requires the creation of an energy market that will deliver a diverse energy mix, at reasonable cost to businesses. The UK should not find itself in a situation where it becomes more dependent on fossil fuels from overseas or on one technology at home. To create such a market, the government must provide more certainty for investors than it has in the past.
“As the government embarks on far reaching reforms, it must also ensure that policy changes do not mean excessive costs for business. We are concerned that once the carbon floor price comes into force, it will increase costs for all businesses and negatively impact on the competitiveness of the UK. During a difficult economic time policies should not be considered that negatively affect the affordability of energy for businesses.
“We have seen unending media coverage on rising energy costs on households, followed by political pledges to take action. Business energy needs and costs deserve the same attention, because ever rising energy costs mean fewer jobs and less investment.”