A tenth of small businesses generate own power
More than one in 10 small businesses now generates electricity on site, according to new figures that underscore the increasing shift towards localised power production in the UK.
The Federation of Small Businesses said that 12pc of its members generated their own power, primarily using solar panels, which have boomed in recent years thanks to Government subsidy schemes.
However, the group said ministers must do more to encourage other firms to follow suit to help meet the UK’s climate change targets while also addressing fears about Britain’s reliance on energy imports. Some 86% of FSB members were concerned about import dependence, with just over half calling for the UK to aim for full self-sufficiency, it said.
It called on the Government to “urgently” produce a new strategy, known as a “carbon plan”, setting out how it would ensure secure energy supplies and also hit climate targets that require the UK to slash its emissions.
A UK carbon plan was last produced in 2011, covering the period until the mid-2020s.
While an updated plan looking out to 2030 and beyond had been due by the end of 2016, its publication has been delayed indefinitely.
“Ultimately, we want to know what the Government’s strategic plan is for guaranteeing energy,” an FSB spokesman said. “The world has changed dramatically since the Government last produced a carbon plan – so it’s way out of date. It’s urgent that a new one is produced.”
Small businesses needed to be at the heart of the next plan, it argued. “Making it easier and more attractive for small firms to contribute to the generation of green energy would both help to meet carbon targets and make the UK more self-sufficient with supplies.”
The FSB said ministers needed to tackle the barriers to businesses in rented premises installing their own energy generation and also needed to do more to provide businesses with “trusted, accurate and user-friendly information” on energy generation and management to help counter a sea of misinformation.
“There is a huge amount of information in the public domain. However, much of it is inaccurate, out of date, inappropriate, or provided by those with a commercial angle or other vested interest,” it said.
The UK imports electricity from the continent through subsea ‘interconnector’ cables. Ministers have backed plans for a series of new interconnectors to import more electricity to back up intermittent renewables, but critics question whether they are as reliable as building domestic power plants.
The UK was a net exporter of gas until 2003 but is now about 50% reliant on imports, a figure that is forecast to rise to three-quarters by 2030 as North Sea supplies dwindle. Indigenous shale gas production is seen as one way to offset this trend.