ERDF funded, business low carbon/energy efficiency project offering free energy assessments and grants to small and medium sized enterprises
Small and Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs) form a large proportion of the businesses operating in County Durham, UK where around 87% of business have fewer than 10 employees. BEEP is an ERDF initiative ideally suited to offer free energy assessments and grants to help improve business productivity, energy efficiency and lower carbon emissions by reducing energy and water costs. Because of their size SMEs are often ineligible for this type of support and grant funding, yet they report that resource costs are a key concern for the economic viability of their operations. This pro-gramme therefore helps SMEs to help reduce business costs and increase their environmental sustainability credentials by funding energy efficient and low carbon technology. BEEP achieves this using a team of auditors that carry out energy assessments at participating businesses to assess energy consumption and devise cost effective strategies to reduce site energy and water costs. This leads to the organisation receiving an energy efficiency plan that details, low, medium and high cost interventions that are tailored to the needs of each business. Once the energy efficiency plan has been developed, the SME can access an ERDF grant for up to 40% of the capital cost of installing low carbon and energy efficient technologies with the remaining 60% provided by the business. The SME receives training to ensure they understand their plan and BEEP also offers online support and information through its website.
The project is funded via an ERDF grant (value €597,439 matched by €168,140 from Durham County Council and €224,187 from SMEs)
Evidence of success
Success is evidenced by SME sign-up and against the outcomes the project is required to meet: estimated reductions in carbon emissions (2,060 tonnes) and number of enterprises supported (240 in total). BEEP is expected to meet these targets easily by the end of the project. Success is also measured qualitatively from interest in the project from SMEs telling each other about the project. Partner agencies who engage with businesses also report positive messages about the BEEP project
There was concern when the project began that businesses would not come forward to take part or that they would not take up the grant opportunities but in both cases there was no problem once engagement with SMEs began. Word of mouth between SMEs has been a powerful tool in maintaining interest
Potential for learning or transfer
This model is extremely transferrable and could be adopted in most regions, nationally or internationally. There is interest from several regions across England in sharing BEEP’s experiences and learning from the best practice delivered. This interest is a measure of success and also highlights the potential for transfer to other contexts. The interactive website and social media support associated with the project also facilitates learning transfer. Another opportunity for learning or transfer is associated with the assessment findings. These provide powerful insights for better understanding the challenges SMEs face with respect to energy provision by considering energy demands or opportunities for low carbon low carbon technology. This may be associated either with SMEs in general or within specific sub-sectors. BEEP is supported by a steering group of industry stakeholders and includes an SME focus group that feedback on interactions with BEEP, allowing for practice improvement
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