The Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) has announced £19m of funding for entrepreneurs with innovative ideas and products in energy efficiency, storage and low carbon generation. The funding comes from the second phase of the Energy Entrepreneurs Fund, which has already allocated £16m since autumn 2012 to help bring a range of new and innovative low carbon products to market.The scheme particularly aims to assist SMEs. The previous phase funded projects including energy storage, heat storage, tidal turbine testing, a thermally-insulating window and an “Eco power shower”. The funding comes at a time when energy efficiency has emerged as a key growth strategy for businesses. Nearly half of SMEs in the UK are benefitting from the commercial benefits of saving energy, according to new research from energy supplier npower. npower’s Business Energy Index (nBEI) – which surveyed 500 SMEs across a variety of sectors – showed that businesses are recognising the benefits of cutting energy use, including reduced overheads and reinvestment of savings back into the business in terms of premises improvements, staff and new equipment. This is a substantial increase on 2011, when the nBEI was last published, when only 24 per cent of businesses saw the commercial benefits of saving energy. Some 44 per cent of SMEs reduced their overall energy consumption by five to 10 per cent in the last year, while 59 per cent say they are planning to increase energy efficiency initiatives. However, respondents were critical of a lack of government support for energy-efficient businesses. Nearly half of businesses say they need external advice or support to make more informed decisions, and do not feel the government offers useful advice in this area. Phil Scholes, SME markets director at npower, commented: “It’s really encouraging to see this trend of ‘energy efficiency entrepreneurs’. We need to make sure plans and initiatives are in place so SMEs can fully realise the growth opportunities provided by energy efficiency. The nBEI shows many SMEs often aren’t able to achieve their full energy saving potential without some support, whether that is financial or general advice. This is where we believe energy suppliers, together with government, can really help.” This call for increasing government support is echoed by 53 per cent of SMEs, who believe government grants should be made available to assist in the financing of energy efficiency projects. On a visit to previous funding winners Yorkshire Water near Bradford, energy secretary Edward Davey said: “This funding will get ideas off the ground and into the market, create new green jobs, and help the UK get ahead in the innovation global race. “An ambitious and driven small business sector can steer the economic recovery in the right direction. So I want to see Britain’s brightest and best SMEs sending in their applications.” Subject to the demand and quality of applications, DECC expects to open Calls for projects every four to six months from June 2013, until the full funding has been allocated.
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