Conference PaperPDF Available

Challenges of designing and delivering effective SME energy policy



SMEs (small and medium enterprises) are widely acknowledged as a difficult target for energy policy. This is in part due to their diversity: they operate in every sector, in all property types and vary from one person operations with no business premises, to manufacturers with up to 250 employees. Their energy use is poorly understood: evidence on where, why and how much energy they use is incomplete. This paper uses theory, literature review and examples from the UK and France to investigate where the major difficulties arise in designing effective, economic and equitable policy for SMEs, and suggests how this might be improved. Firstly, the policy context is described with reference to the scale and characteristics of SMEs. Available data on their energy use and potential for savings are presented from literature, followed by a discussion of different models of understanding SME decision-making. Three categories of options available to policy makers are described: (1) designing 'universal' policy (2) developing organisational policy designed with minimum obligation thresholds, and (3) deploying measures specifically targeted at SMEs. We argue that the focal unit of policy design is the crucial factor influencing whether SMEs are likely to be included in scope. Where the organisation is the primary focus, SMEs are more likely to be exempted, whereas universal policy such as those focused on products, buildings or technologies may hold potential for extending the benefits of energy efficiency to SMEs. Targeted SME policies largely consist of incentives and information provision, and are typically delivered by business support organisations with primary aims to support economic growth. We argue that while there are benefits from utilising existing support networks for delivering energy efficiency programmes, SMEs with stable business plans are deprioritised, and contradictory effects may arise.
Challenges of designing and delivering
eective SME energy policy
Sam Hampton
Environmental Change Institute
University of Oxford
South Parks Road
Tina Fawcett
Environmental Change Institute
University of Oxford
South Parks Road
SME, policies and measures, energy demand
SMEs (small and medium enterprises) are widely acknowledged
as a dicult target for energy policy. is is in part due to their
diversity: they operate in every sector, in all property types and
vary from one person operations with no business premises,
to manufacturers with up to 250 employees. eir energy use
is poorly understood: evidence on where, why and how much
energy they use is incomplete. is paper uses theory, literature
review and examples from the UK and France to investigate
where the major diculties arise in designing eective, eco-
nomic and equitable policy for SMEs, and suggests how this
might be improved. Firstly, the policy context is described with
reference to the scale and characteristics of SMEs. Available
data on their energy use and potential for savings are presented
from literature, followed by a discussion of dierent models
of understanding SME decision-making. ree categories of
options available to policy makers are described: (1)designing
‘universal’ policy (2)developing organisational policy designed
with minimum obligation thresholds, and (3)deploying meas-
ures specically targeted at SMEs. We argue that the focal unit
of policy design is the crucial factor inuencing whether SMEs
are likely to be included in scope. Where the organisation is the
primary focus, SMEs are more likely to be exempted, whereas
universal policy such as those focused on products, buildings
or technologies may hold potential for extending the benets of
energy eciency to SMEs. Targeted SME policies largely con-
sist of incentives and information provision, and are typically
delivered by business support organisations with primary aims
to support economic growth. We argue that while there are
benets from utilising existing support networks for delivering
energy eciency programmes, SMEs with stable business plans
are deprioritised, and contradictory eects may arise.
With the Paris Agreement (UNFCCC, 2015) now ratied by the
majority of nations in Europe, the emphasis shis to developing
energy and climate policy t for meeting the ambitious target
of limiting global average temperatures to 2°C of warming.
Emissions reductions from all sectors of the economy will be
required for this feat, including the commercial and industrial
sectors, of which small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)
represent a signicant proportion. A recent study estimates that
SMEs collectively consume more than 13% of energy globally,
and that signicant opportunities exist to implement energy
eciency measures with potential for savings of up to 30%
(IEA, 2015). However, in many priority areas such as energy
eciency and low-carbon heat, ‘SMEs are poorly addressed by
existing policies’ (Committee on Climate Change, 2016).
Whereas a range of policies have been developed in the UK
and France to ensure that corporations take steps to mitigate
climate change according to the ‘polluter pays’ principle, SMEs
are oen exempted from regulation, taxes and market-based
mechanisms. e rationale for these exclusions is expressed by
a narrative of protecting SMEs from the burden of bureaucracy
and paper-work, which are perceived as barriers to growth and
productivity (Cabinet Oce, 2016). SMEs are considered to
have limited capacity for economies of scale, to suer from lack
of information, time or expertise to deal with regulations or
Contents Keywords Authors
administrative rules, and to nd it more dicult or expensive
to access capital than larger organisations. us regulation has
a disproportionate eect in terms of cost and administration
on SMEs (Nyman, 2016). e term ‘red tape’ (excessive bureau-
cracy or adherence to ocial rules) dates back to the 16th cen-
tury, being used to bind the eighty petitions issued to the Pope
by King Henry VIII when seeking a divorce from Catherine
of Aragon (Dickson, 2014). Its negative connotations still per-
vade European political discourse today. e European Com-
mission has held a conference and competition for ‘Red Tape
Reduction’ (High Level Group on Administrative Burdens,
2014), while the UK regularly surveys businesses’ perceptions
of regulation (BEIS, 2016) and has created a programme called
‘Cutting Red Tape’ which reviews policy in dierent sectors on
a rolling basis (Cabinet Oce, 2016).
Acknowledging the strength of resistance to SME regula-
tion, this paper identies the challenges faced by policy mak-
ers tasked with reducing energy consumption and carbon
emissions from the commercial and industrial sectors, and
presents some alternative options. e authors’ research on
SMEs is focused on the UK. However, including perspectives
from another country adds both interesting case study mate-
rial, and the opportunity for comparisons to enrich the analy-
sis of policy design and implementation. France was chosen
as it was thought likely to be reasonably similar to the UK -
and that therefore the intersection between energy policy and
SMEs could be understood without a full comparative analysis.
e next section provides context to the policy challenge. It
describes the scale and characteristics of the SME population
and provides a summary of the available evidence relating to
their energy use. e third section describes three categories
of energy policy (1) ‘universal’ approaches (2) organisational
policy designed with minimum obligation thresholds, and (3)
targeted SME policy. Because SMEs are largely excluded from
the second category, a policy gap is identied, and the discus
sion proposes options for lling this gap by designing policy,
which is not focused on the organisational unit. A variety of
alternative focal units for policy are identied from academic
literature, including legal status, data availability and business
practices. Given the prevalence of targeted SME policy taking
the form of ‘business support, the discussion describes the pit-
falls of delivering energy eciency policy through organisa-
tions with a primary remit to deliver economic growth. e
conclusion summarises the challenges faced by policy makers,
and suggests areas for further research.
Context setting: SMEs as energy consumers
SMEs are dened by only one parameter: size. e European
Union denes SMEs as independent organisations with fewer
than 250sta and a turnover or balance sheet of up to €50m
or €43m respectively. ere are an estimated 23million SMEs
in the EU, providing between 53% and 70% of employment in
dierent member states (Eurostat, 2015).
SMEs operate in every sector of the economy, varying by
sector, management structure, legal status and premises type.
SMEs are inuential in the energy system as a whole, beyond
their role as consumers. For example, representing 86 % of
employment in the UK construction sector (1.8million) and
employing 46% of workers (2.3million) in the motor vehicles
trade and repair industry. As such they inuence the ways in
which energy is consumed in the built environment and by the
transportation system. In this paper however they are primar-
ily addressed as energy consumers, for which data is imper-
fect. Whereas the USA measures energy used for manufactur-
ing by business size, and gures are available for SME energy
consumption by fuel in Australia, in Europe, gures are largely
unavailable at the national scale. For example, while the IEA
quotes estimates that 70% of energy used in the Italian indus-
trial sector comes from SME manufacturers (2015), its cited
source (Trianni and Cagno, 2011) includes only an estimate of
‘over 60%’, with no further reference provided.
e UK government estimates that SMEs in the UK spend
£49.6bn (€58.6bn) annually on all forms of energy consump-
tion (DECC, 2016). Of all energy use in non-domestic build-
ings, SMEs are estimated to represent 57% of electricity and
50% of gas demand (DECC, 2015). However, these national
gures are approximations, subject to a range of assumptions
and currently being revised as part of eorts to improve data on
non-domestic buildings and energy consumed by their inhab-
itants (Nicholls, 2014). Energy consumption in non-domestic
buildings does not represent the totality of SME greenhouse
gas (GHG) emissions however. 59.4% of SMEs operate from
domestic premises in the UK (BIS, 2015a, 2015b) meaning that
when designing policy, simple segmentation based on building
type is insucient to capture the breadth of SME energy de-
mand. Transport also represents a major source of energy con-
sumption by SMEs. It has been suggested that travel demand
management may represent the largest opportunity for savings,
however disaggregating national travel data to identify SME be-
haviours is a complex and error-prone task (DECC, 2016).
Context setting: Energy saving potential and decision
Collecting reliable, representative data on energy used by SMEs
at a national scale is a dicult task. is paucity of data poses
a challenge to policy makers aiming to quantify and evaluate
the impact of existing energy policy on SMEs, and to design
new instruments on the basis of evidence. Nonetheless, there is
evidence to suggest that energy eciency opportunities are sig-
nicant amongst SMEs (IEA, 2015) . UK government research
estimates that SMEs could reduce energy costs by 18–24% by
maximising on energy eciency opportunities (DECC, 2014).
A report identies the scale of the ‘missed opportunity’ for
UK SMEs to save between £1.26bn (€1.49bn) and £2.63bn
(€3.11bn) in buildings, with 37% of the savings requiring zero
capital investment (ibid.). Despite the availability low-cost op-
portunities such as behavioural change and improved opera-
tion of energy using equipment to SMEs (ibid.), a recent survey
found that more than 60% of SME owners do not regard en-
ergy eciency as a key priority, and only 1 in 10 had made en-
ergy savings in the previous 12 months (Scottish Power, 2016).
Understanding the decision making processes of SMEs is es-
sential for policy-makers encouraging the take up of energy
eciency measures. A considerable literature has focused on
the barriers to uptake of energy eciency measures by SMEs
(Brown, 2001; Crocker, 2012; Sorrell et al., 2011; Trianni and
Cagno, 2012, 2011). Barriers analysis is based on an economi-
cally rational model of decision making, and typically com-
Contents Keywords Authors
prises studies using interview and self-reported survey data by
owners and managers. ere are critiques of both the meth-
ods used and the underlying theoretical assumptions from re-
searchers in that tradition, and from those outside (Sorrell et
al., 2011; Banks et al., 2012). To highlight one methodological
problem, in their sample of Italian SMEs for example, Trianni
and Cagno (2012) unsurprisingly nd that their interviewees
reported that ‘lack of managerial awareness’ was their least sig-
nicant barrier, compared to access to capital or information
on investment payback times relating to energy ecient tech-
nologies. It seems unlikely that owners and managers would
identify their own lack of awareness as a signicant barrier, as
it is dicult to have insight into personal unawareness. e va-
lidity of self-reported barriers is open to question, particularly
as an isolated form of evidence. More signicantly, if policy
makers share the ‘rational economic actor’ model of SMEs,
then policies will be designed to overcome barriers found by
research. If this framing only gives a partial account of decision
making, removal of the barriers identied is unlikely to deliver
the anticipated improvement in energy eciency.
ere is evidence showing that non-economic factors can
be important in SME decisions on energy. For example, envi-
ronmental values can be a signicant factor for motivating ac-
tion on energy eciency, and the attitudes of individuals can
have greater signicance for SMEs than for larger organisations
(Williams and Schaefer, 2013). However, one of the problems
for all empirical research on SMEs is that given their breadth
and diversity, it tends to be limited in scale and geography, fo-
cusing on individual sectors. What is true for one SME sector,
may not be true for others. Whereas pro-environmental values
were found to be signicant in a small sample of SME owner
managers (ibid.), a survey of IT professionals found that envi-
ronmental issues were factored into investment decisions less
frequently for SMEs compared to larger organisations where
decision making is comparatively more structured and proce-
dural (Quocirca, 2016).
A UK government commissioned report adds depth to a lit-
erature focused on drivers and barriers. Building on the energy
eciency ‘paradox’ (DeCanio, 1998) which uncovers ways in
which enterprises do not behave according to rational eco-
nomic principles, Banks et al. (2012) develop a more complex
model for energy behaviours and decision making processes in
non-domestic organisations (of all sizes, not just SMEs). ey
argue that energy behaviours and eciency investments are
embedded in the ‘socio-technical landscapes’ of organisations,
which in turn are framed by broader social, material, market
and regulatory domains. is model can help explain empirical
evidence of economically ‘irrational’ behaviours, such as that
from a recent study of SME tourism businesses in the south
west of England, where energy management was largely absent
as a practice, despite energy representing a signicant cost base
for many surveyed businesses (Coles et al., 2016). While Banks
et al’s model helps to build a more complete picture of the mul-
tiple factors contributing to decision-making by SMEs, it does
not easily lead to simple policy solutions. However, the report
did make a number of suggestions for policy, including: making
energy use more visible and salient; highlighting the strategic
importance of eciency investments; focusing policy on the
earlier stages of decision-making - noticing opportunities and
assembling options.
It is beyond the scope of this paper to more fully debate the
dierent implications of these decision-making models to pol-
icy design. e barriers model is probably still most inuential
in policy-making, albeit with increasing interest in more com-
plex explanations of organisational behaviours around energy.
For the remainder of the paper, policies, which are based on
dierent models of decision-making, are explored equally.
Energy policy approaches
When compiling a list of national and European level policies
aimed at reducing GHG emissions from organisations, three
categories emerged. Firstly, ‘universal’ policies include promot-
ing smart technology, innovation or raising eciency standards
for all organisations including SMEs. e second is focused on
the organisation as unit, usually taking the form of taxes and
regulation, with a minimum size threshold excluding most or
all SMEs. A third category of policy includes instruments for
SMEs directly, usually in the form of information or incentives
such as funding and advice. is section expands on these cat-
egories with reference to energy policy in the UK and France.
Universal policy rarely focuses on the organisation as the tar-
get for regulation, tax or incentives, but most oen addresses
products, markets, infrastructures and technologies. SMEs,
like larger organisations and householders, are included in
the scope of these policies. e EU’s eco-design and energy
labelling directive is one example, where minimum eciency
standards are applied to energy consuming products used by
all sectors of the economy, such as air-conditioners, refrigera-
tors and lighting appliances. Similarly, the Energy Performance
of Buildings Directive (EPBD) sets standards for eciency in
new buildings - domestic and commercial - and requires the
publication of energy performance certicates when premises
are advertised for sale or rental.
e uptake of smart technologies has been identied by the
UK government as holding potential for energy eciency, rep-
resenting a potential £8.6bn (€10.2bn) savings for SMEs in the
UK (DECC, 2016). e report identies seven signicant smart
technologies suitable for SMEs, including integrated building
management systems (IBMS), remotely managed demand re-
sponsive equipment and eet management soware. It nds
greatest potential in the accommodation and food service sec-
tors, which consumes signicant quantities of energy for space
heating, food processing and transportation.
Despite not being identied as one of the technologies with
greatest potential in the UK government report, smart meters
are being rolled out as a major universal policy, aecting all
domestic dwellings and non-domestic buildings.
Most large or-
ganisations in the UK have already installed smart or advanced
meters, so SMEs are at the heart of the UK roll-out, which aims
to be complete by 2020. France has a similar smart meter de-
ployment programme, and the approaches to these policies
reect the dierent traditions of the two countries. Whereas
in France the regulated network operator is named as the re-
sponsible authority for implementing the roll-out of smart me-
ters, UK electricity suppliers are mandated to install all smart
meters. France has selected a single device called ‘Linky’, and
plans to deploy 35 million before the end of 2022, while the UK
Contents Keywords Authors
regulator has permitted competition amongst suppliers, each in
the process of distributing their own branded devices.
Energy market design forms an important part of the na-
tional context within which SME policy is set. e key impact
of energy markets on SMEs will be on energy prices. Compari-
sons of national statistics on prices paid by SMEs are not avail-
able. Using the prices faced by both households and industrial
consumers as a proxy, the data show gas prices are similar in the
UK and France, but electricity is signicantly cheaper in France
(approximately 50% cheaper for industrial customers in 2015)
(Eurostat, 2016)1. Other market eects on SMEs could include:
the incentives available for generating energy or engaging in
demand response; the prevalence of ESCOs; and whether in-
novations in energy supply and service are encouraged.
A number of policies set at the national and EU level are de-
signed to target large organisations, and exempt smaller en-
ergy users. e EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EUETS) for
example, seeks to limit emissions from the largest energy-using
installations, such as power stations and industrial plants, while
the UK’s Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) – a manda-
tory carbon reporting and pricing scheme – requires only
businesses consuming more than 6,000MWh of electricity per
year to participate. Article 8 of the Energy Eciency Direc-
tive (EED), transposed into national law as France’s Manda-
tory Energy Audit programme and the UK’s Energy Savings
Opportunity Scheme, requires only large enterprises to carry
out regular energy audits. While the rationale of focusing on
the largest energy consumers to deliver the greatest change at
minimal administrative cost is reasonable, the scale of change
required to meet the EU’s 40% GHG reduction target by 2030
(UNFCCC, 2015) means that excluding the collectively signi-
cant contribution from SMEs poses a risk to policy-makers.
While policies such as the EUETS and CRC exclude all
SMEs, another major UK policy – an energy tax called the Cli-
mate Change Levy (CCL) – does aect many SMEs. e CCL
exemption threshold is low meaning that a large number of
SMEs therefore pay the CCL (Enerdata, 2014)
. Very signicant
reductions in Levy rates are available for signatories to Climate
Change Agreements (CCAs)3 (Environment Agency, 2014).
However it is likely that the majority of SMEs do not benet
from these reductions, as industries which are dominated by
SMEs such as construction, vehicle repair and maintenance
and those oering professional services are not represented by
CCAs. us, while the smallest SMEs are excluded from the
scope of this policy, most have to pay tax at the full rate and
cannot participate in a reduction scheme designed to benet
larger businesses.
Public policy tradition varies between France and the UK,
with the former typically implementing policy from the ‘top
down, with central agencies responsible for administering
1. Market design is far from the only influence on price: underlying costs due to
fuels, electricity generating technologies and infrastructure are clearly critical, as
are government decisions on taxation and levies.
2. This tax is payable on gas (0.195p/kWh, €0.22c/kWh) and electricity (0.559p/
kWh, €0.64c/kWh) consumption for all businesses using more than 4397 kWh/
month and 1000kWh/month respectively.
3. Signatories’ CCL payments are reduced by 90% for electricity and 65% on other
fuels based on commitments to energy and emissions reductions.
regulation; as opposed to publicly funded non-governmental
organisations and market based mechanisms more common
in the UK. is is typied by an example of resource eciency
policy (where energy is a key resource) - the Producer Respon-
sibility regulations. In force since 1997, the UK’s Packaging
Regulations have helped to substantially increase recycling
rates by placing obligations on manufacturers, processers,
wholesalers and retailers of packaging products. A complex
market structure was created to share the burden of responsi-
bility, and a market established for trading recycling certicates
for each of seven packaging materials (paper, plastic, glass etc),
with 50organisations registered with the Environment Agency
as approved ‘compliance schemes’. France on the other hand
implemented the EU Directive from the ‘top down’, with only
one government-run scheme administering compliance and
collecting fees from producers to subsidise the recycling of
packaging waste. Given the complexity of compliance in the
UK model, small contributors – dened as handling less than
50tonnes of packaging and with a turnover of less than £2m
(€2.4m) – are excluded from the regulations. In France on the
other hand, where compliance is administratively straightfor
ward, companies of all sizes handling packaging are required
to register and contribute towards its recycling subsidy. is
example of resource eciency regulation shows how the dif-
ferent traditions of policy design can inuence SMEs; where
compliance is considered administratively burdensome, small-
er producers are excluded.
SMEs are directly aected by universal policies which address
technologies, appliances or markets as their focus, whereas
when energy policy is designed to target the organisation as
the obligated entity, SMEs are oen excluded from scope. is
leaves a policy gap relating to the signicant consumption of
energy by SMEs. Table 14 describes energy policy measures
designed specically to target SMEs. Data is drawn from the
ODYSSEE-MURE project, which produces a database of en
ergy eciency data and policies across the EU, including classi-
fying SME measures (ODYSSEE-MURE, n.d.). Consistent with
the narrative of cutting red tape for SMEs, energy policies for
smaller organisations are largely designed as ‘carrots’, including
incentive schemes and information provision. No ‘sticks’ such
as taxes, regulations or standards exclusively designed for SMEs
could be identied across the EU, although as discussed above
in relation to the Climate Change Levy in the UK, exemptions
may systematically exclude SMEs.
In the UK and France, SME policy is led by the idea of
‘business support’, with a focus on economic growth, job
creation and skills development. In the UK, business support
is characterised by continual reform, including the creation
and dissolution of a plethora of publicly funded national and
local organisations. Blackburn (2012) describes how the na-
tional ‘Business Link’ programme and the Regional Develop-
ment Agencies were continually restructured throughout the
4. Non-domestic Smart Meter roll-out: Situation diers in France as gas meter roll-
out not mandated. Regulated Network Operator (ERDF) is responsible for funding
roll-out (as opposed to suppliers). Although this may be considered a universal
policy approach, in practice SMEs are targeted as nearly all larger organisations
have smart meters installed.
Contents Keywords Authors
1990s and 2000s, leading to a complex marketplace ‘crowded
with initiatives’. e Business Link service was closed in 2011
and Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) have since become
increasingly inuential, supported with signicant resources
by central government and administering European Struc-
tural and Investment Funds, worth €10.8bn (£9.1bn) from
2014–2020. Economic growth remains at the heart of busi-
ness support strategy, with the 39LEPs mandated to produce
‘strategic economic plans’ which include transport, skills and
inward investment strategy. Energy and environment feature
sporadically in LEP strategies, but is sometimes attached to
funds they are responsible for handling, such as the European
Regional Development Fund (ERDF), which has a funding
stream for supporting SMEs in ‘the shi towards a low car-
bon economy’. With its priorities set at the EU level, ERDF
represents the single largest source of funding for SME en-
ergy eciency in both the UK and France, with over €769m
(£650m) awarded to date for sustainable development and
risk prevention projects in France alone (L’Europe s’engage
en France, n.d.).
As illustrated in Table 1 the majority of policy designed
with SMEs at the centre takes an incentive based approach,
with a large proportion of ‘business support’ taking the form
of grants, loans or face-to-face advice. In the UK, business
support policy has had varied success. e Richard Report
(2008) heavily criticised business support programmes op-
Table 1. Energy eciency policies focused on SMEs in France and the UK.
Policy type
Policy sub-type
Policy Detail
e.g. Grants,
loans, advice
FR&UK: The European Regional Development Fund specically targets SMEs, with a
focus on sustainable growth and job creation. Regional projects focus on local needs,
for instance reducing reliance on vehicles, saving time, money and emissions (Hampton,
UK: Local Enterprise Partnerships are handling increasingly signicant funds, with a
focus on delivering local growth. Many offer direct support to SMEs (e.g. through EU
funding), including energy efciency advice, grants and loans.
UK: The Energy Saving Trust is funded by government to provide advice, including to
SMEs. Loans are available to Scottish SMEs.
UK: The Carbon Trust hosts an SME network and offers nance and training for energy
FR: ADEME’s ‘Investment for the Future programme’ (“Investissements d’Avenir”:
Includes various schemes:
‘SME Initiatives’ funds innovative SMEs are funded (up to €200,000 granted over 3
Ecotechnologies Fund is an SME equity investment fund worth €150m.
FR: Energy saving certicates (Energy Efciency Obligation Scheme): A list of energy
efciency products may be paid for with a low interest loan.
FR: Green Loans: Loans (up to €5m) have low interest rates, and require no guarantee.
Used to nance energy efcient or less polluting process or manufacturing eco-products.
efciency advice
and publications
UK: DECC’s ‘SME guide to energy efciency’ provides simple advice on low-cost
measures in non-domestic buildings.
FR: ADEME provides information targeted at businesses on energy efciency, reducing
pollution, transport management and renewable generation.
UK: Energy utilities are increasingly offering energy savings advice to SMEs (as required
by their licence to operate).
Smart Meter
UK: Energy suppliers are mandated to install smart meters in all non-domestic properties
by 2020. Anticipated benets include 2.8% energy reduction from improved energy
Contents Keywords Authors
erating under the Labour government (1997–2010), nding
that only 34% of local schemes had been evaluated in any
way, and that only 0.5% of small businesses both used and
were satised with government funded support services. De-
spite its national scope and branding, Business Link services
achieved between 1 and 20% market penetration between
2005/6 and 2010/11 (Blackburn, 2012). Such gures appear
to illustrate the failure of business support approaches to SME
policy, but may in fact be a reection of targeted approaches.
With economic growth and job creation at the heart of busi-
ness support policy, many programmes are specically tar-
geted at businesses with employees (32% of all businesses),
and some further focusing on those with the greatest growth
potential (ibid.). Business Link identied ‘Growth’ and ‘Cor-
porate Growth’ businesses, dening these as ‘critical to the
productivity agenda [requiring] pro-active and intensive re-
lationship management by Business Link’. In contrast, more
than 2.5m ‘Lifestyle’ businesses were identied, characterised
as providing the ‘lowest opportunity for value upli in terms
of each individual business and the UK’ (Business Link Seg-
mentation Model 2005–06, cited by Blackburn, 2012). ese
approaches to targeting growth-oriented businesses continue
to dominate the strategic plans of business support organisa-
tions such as LEPs, inuencing the ways that energy eciency
incentive programmes are implemented.
Despite the signicant provision of incentive-based policy
for SMEs, little eort is made to quantify and aggregate emis-
sions and energy savings brought about by business support
initiatives at the national scale, and neither the UK or French
Article 7 submissions – setting out how national energy savings
targets will be met under the EED – include any reference to
SME business support policies (European Commission, 2016).
In the ex-post evaluation of the 2007–2013 ERDF programme
which included an estimate of 152,219jobs created, the only
mention of CO2 emissions savings was in a small scale case
study, despite being a strategic priority (European Commis-
sion, 2016). If incentive based schemes such as those funded
by ERDF were to be quantitatively evaluated and formally in-
cluded in the UK’s energy reduction targets, they may benet
from greater prominence, monitoring by central government
and rigorous evaluation. Such an exercise would pose a signi-
cant challenge however, as estimates of emissions savings for
projects delivered at the local level oen fail to follow carbon
accounting principles (Hampton, 2016a).
Energy policy focused on the organisation as the target unit in
the UK and France frequently includes minimum thresholds
and exemptions for SMEs, particularly in relation to taxes and
regulatory instruments. is is strongly inuenced by a nar-
rative, which seeks to minimise red-tape for SMEs, acknowl-
edging their comparatively lower administrative capacity. e
approach to policy making seems similar in both countries,
with EU-level policy obviously being inuential in reducing
national dierences. However, the UK’s more market-focused
approach to policy design can increase complexity, and result
in SMEs being exempted from policy initiatives (e.g. recycling
of packaging). Where eorts are made to plug the gap created
by regulatory exemptions, these are led by ‘carrots’ such as in-
centive schemes, advice and information provision. However,
the fact that energy and emissions savings from these policies
are not included in national targets suggests that there is little
pressure from central government to rigorously and quantita-
tively evaluate and aggregate impacts.
is discussion builds on these ndings by presenting two
distinct arguments. Firstly we argue that while ‘carrot’ ap-
proaches are crucial for reducing emissions from SMEs, these
are not sucient to achieve the scale of carbon reductions re-
quired to meet the EU’s emissions reductions targets. Universal
approaches such as building regulations and product standards
present opportunities for extending energy eciency through-
out the economy, but usually involve hard-fought legislation.
Approaches, which focus on smart technologies, building
tenancy infrastructures or business practices may help policy
makers at the national level to target policies at SMEs in ways
which avoid additional administrative burden. Second, we ar-
gue that while incentive based programmes, which target SMEs
are essential, questions remain over the ways in which these are
delivered by business support organisations, which primarily
exist to promote economic growth and job creation. We argue
that low carbon initiatives and energy eciency programmes
are ‘bolted-on’ to these priorities, meaning that SMEs with sta-
ble business plans are deprioritised, and ‘contradictory’ eects
may arise (Marsden et al., 2014).
SMEs are less likely to be excluded from policy when the unit
of focus is not the organisation, but technologies, products,
accreditation or buildings. ese policies are more politically
palatable than taxes and regulations placed on businesses and
can have signicant impact on emissions reductions (Euro-
pean Commission, 2015). erefore, in the design of such ap-
proaches, the target of the policy becomes crucial. Table 2 sets
outs a number of ways in which energy policy can dene its
unit of focus.
Table2 shows that there are a number of options for policy
makers to design approaches other than by focusing on char-
acteristics of organisations such as size, sector, location or busi-
ness strategy. As a diagnostic category, size highlights the nature
of the SME energy policy gap, but as organisations with fewer
than 250employees are so diverse, it is not an adequate basis on
which to designing eective solutions. As described in section
3.2, the number of policies targeting the organisation as the
unit of focus which exclude smaller users implies that seeking
alternative approaches may oer potential to include SMEs in
scope, and help to close the policy gap.
Alternative policy approaches serve dierent purposes.
When focused on individual technologies, problems, or
building types, policy is driven by particular outcomes, such
as increasing the proportion of distributed renewable energy
generation, reducing air pollution in urban areas, or increas-
ing eciency in space heating or lighting. Although such
pro-environmental policies inevitably face resistance from
a variety of sources such as industry incumbents, the lobby
which seeks to protect SMEs from burdensome regulation is
not mobilised to the same degree as when policy targets or-
ganisations. For example, whereas the UK roll-out of smart
meters is set to cost more than £10bn (€11.8bn) in total, op-
position from SME representatives has been limited. Empha-
Contents Keywords Authors
sising the benets of greater control and cost saving potential,
as well as capitalising on the opportunity for energy advice
to be oered during installation have helped to gain support
from SMEs, and may oer insights for the promotion of other
smart technologies such as Integrated Building Management
Systems (IMBS).
e ‘split-incentive’ is a signicant barrier to energy ecien-
cy investments for SMEs occupying non-domestic premises
(DECC, 2014), and so segmenting on the basis of legal status
of building tenancy can help to direct policy instruments tar-
geted at overcoming this principle-agent problem. Focusing
on legal infrastructure cuts across organisational size catego-
ries, as large businesses are also aected, such as retail chains
leasing large numbers of small properties (Janda et al., 2016).
Green leases represent one possible way through this ‘wicked’
problem for businesses of all sizes, and could be promoted by
local or national government, for instance by using their own
purchasing power to introduce the practice (ibid).
Table 2. Options for energy policy focus.
Detail and examples
Size of organisation
The EU SME denition differentiates between sizes based on employee numbers: Micro <10
employees; Small 10–49 employees; Medium-sized 50–249 employees; Large >250 employees.
Trade associations seek to represent businesses in sectors such as construction, retail and
manufacturing. However, SME representative organisations tend to be seen to represent SMEs
across sectors, and there are few examples of SME specic sector associations.
This segmentation approach is dominant in the UK as Local Enterprise Partnerships explicitly
address economic challenges and strengths in the local geographic area. Regional Councils and
Chambers of Commerce provide business advice in France.
Business strategy
Organisations can be segmented according to their plans for growth. Business Link in the UK
for example developed approaches to identify businesses with most job creation and growth
Building type
The UK Building Energy Efciency Survey (BEES) gathers evidence on energy use in non-
domestic buildings, accounting for size and sector of business occupants.
Building regulations in France and UK set energy efciency standards.
Renewable generating technologies are supported by policies such as feed-in-tariffs and the
renewable heat incentive.
Product standards target energy consuming technology such as vacuum cleaners and
Waste regulations, including producer responsibility and landll tax incentivise recycling as an
environmental practice.
Low Emissions Zones in urban areas are enforced to reduce air pollution.
Data availability
Energy data availability is variable for SMEs (Janda et al., 2014). Whereas some organisations
have advanced or smart metering capability and an employed energy manager, others have
legacy meters and no energy analysis.
The smart meter roll-out directly addresses elements of this discrepancy.
Legal infrastructure
Janda et al (2014) argue that owner occupiers, landlords and tenants vary signicantly in relation
to energy practices and investment potential.
Powells et al (2015) call for a focus on common business practices, including how technology
and spaces are used, and the role of knowledge, skill and organisational meanings in energy
Determinants of
Anable et al (2015) seek to segment business travel by looking beyond the behaviour, to the
determinants and drivers. These include aspects of organisational culture, governance and
strategic mission.
Contents Keywords Authors
Recent academic work has suggested that an attention to
business practices, and the drivers behind behaviours may help
to produce eective policy. With increasing proportions of in-
termittent renewables on the electricity grid, there are nancial
and emissions-based benets from increasing exibility on the
demand side. Realising the potential £8.6bn (€9.9bn) savings
resulting from the use of smart technologies as identied by
the UK government depends however on the integration of
smart technologies into energy users’ existing practices. Look-
ing in depth at SME activities for example, Powells et al. (2015)
identify exibility in some everyday business practices, such as
those reliant on mobile ICT technology, or heating practices
and rigidity in others. e growing use of portable ICT equip-
ment, ‘cloud-based’ systems and even storage-heating may en-
able SMEs to take advantage of time-of-use taris and partake
in ‘active network management’ in future smart grids. In-depth
social scientic studies such as this may help policy makers to
target instruments at particular practices, rather than approach
the organisation as the focal unit, potentially encountering re-
sistance to red tape.
One practice relevant to a large proportion of SMEs is work-
ing from home, which is undertaken by more than 25% of the
workforce in the UK, and 19% in France. A number of stud-
ies have sought to quantify the energy and environmental im-
pacts of the practice, nding potential savings of up to £3bn
(€3.55bn), and over 3m TCO2e in the UK (Carbon Trust, 2014).
However, the environmental benets of home working depend
on a number of variables, including the length of the commute
and the exible use of oce space by employers, meaning that
the precise circumstances of telework can inuence net energy
demand (Banister et al., 2007). Based on interviews with a sam-
ple of UK workers, one study indicated that home workers may
be likely to tolerate lower ambient temperatures when working
from home, and are likely to conduct energy using practices
such as laundry during the working day: both of which have
potential benets for the electricity system (Hampton, 2016b).
Designing public policy which intervenes in behaviours in the
domestic setting is problematic both practically and politically,
and encouraging working from home may therefore be best
pursued as intra-corporate policy. Nonetheless, examples exist
of central government initiatives to support the spread of ex-
ible work, including the UK Department for Transport’s (DfT)
Anywhere Working’ initiative. Social scientic energy research
can contribute to these initiatives by highlighting the factors
with most impact on energy and emissions savings.
For SMEs in the service industry, transport is likely to rep-
resent a signicant proportion of energy consumption. In
a report commissioned by the UK DfT, Anable et al (2015)
argue that research on travel behaviour oen focuses on the
question of ‘why do you travel’, leading to narrow insights
based on individual motivation and conscious choice. is
in turn leads to policies dominated by the tradition of behav-
ioural economics or ‘nudge’, which has been found to have
limited impact on travel behaviours (Behavioural Insights
Team, 2017). e authors instead identify a need for policy
to address the wider ‘determinants of [business] travel behav-
iour’, which include contextual factors such as the economic,
social and regulatory operating environment, an individual
company’s mission, degree of employee autonomy and deci-
sion-making hierarchies.
Practice-based analyses typically provide policy recommen-
dations which imply a need for wide-reaching mechanisms that
cut across the boundaries of government departments’ juris-
dictions, and can be problematic for civil servants wishing to
develop and deliver policies inuencing SME travel with lim-
ited budgets and scope for intervention. For example, Eadson
(2014) appeals directly to business support policy makers in
proposing that pro-environmental behaviours could be fos-
tered through better engagement by SMEs within local civil
networks. However, the realisation of these measures would
require coordination beyond business support networks, in-
cluding local community groups, the charity sector and local
government. Further, although the social and spatial embed-
ding of SMEs may help to foster sustainable mobility practices,
these are priorities that are primarily supported by the DfT
rather than the Department for Business, Energy and Indus-
trial Strategy, implying a need for cross departmental support
and evaluation.
Given the scale of the challenge of meeting the emissions re-
ductions targets set during the Paris climate agreements, there
is certainly a case for radical changes to be made in the design
of policy. Stopping short of a policy paradigm shi however,
the alternative focuses identied in the examples above point
to smaller scale opportunities for intervention. Smart technolo-
gies such as IBMS and eet management represent areas for
policy makers to explore further, having already been identied
as having potential for nancial and emissions savings. Green-
leases, potentially introduced through government building
portfolios, may help to address the ‘split-incentive problem,
oen cited as limiting the capacity for SME building tenants to
implement eciency savings. Finally, promoting the practice
of working from home and supporting SMEs to become more
embedded in local communities oer further potential.
As illustrated in section 3.3, business-support represents a sig-
nicant proportion of the incentive-based policies targeted at
SMEs. In the UK, the ERDF represents the single largest source
of funds for SMEs, and in the 2014–2020 programme in Eng-
land, €792m (£670 m) has been allocated to supporting the
‘shi towards a low-carbon economy’, with a further €1.4bn
(£1.2bn) to support SME competitiveness (European Com-
mission, n.d.). Local Enterprise Partnerships are responsible
for distributing these funds through energy eciency pro-
grammes, which are designed and delivered according to the
priorities set out by LEPs’ ‘strategic economic plans. As such,
energy eciency tends to be couched in the narrative of ‘re-
source eciency’, leading to maximal prot (OBS, n.d.), while
the low carbon sector is promoted on the basis of its above-
average growth and job creation potential (WOELEP, n.d.).
While there is merit in integrating energy eciency into exist-
ing networks of business support delivery, there are potential
pitfalls associated with this approach.
e rst is that the reach of energy eciency programmes is
inevitably inuenced by existing networks of advisors, attract-
ing well-networked, externally focused and growth-oriented
businesses (Open University, 2013). SMEs less likely to be
reached include those with business plans prioritising stability
and consolidation, and those operating for more than 5years.
From an energy perspective, an assumption worthy of empiri-
Contents Keywords Authors
while others are at a very exploratory stage. We have brought
together a list of SME-specic policies from the UK and France
to show what is already in place.
Whichever focus or focuses are used, a signicant propor-
tion of SME energy policy is based on the provision of infor-
mation and incentives, primarily delivered in both the UK and
France by regional business support organisations. While of-
fering benets in terms of using existing networks and known
brands, there are disadvantages in that these organisations
tend to support only certain types of SMEs - and not necessar-
ily those with the greatest opportunity for energy savings. In
addition, their central goals are based on growth, rather than
promoting a lower carbon, more energy ecient economy.
It is clear that there are a number of challenges to design-
ing and implementing eective energy policy for SMEs, but
we have suggested that addressing this group as a whole may
not oer the best solutions. For the future, there is a clear need
for the improved evaluation and monitoring of local energy ef-
ciency programmes. Reliable, quantitative data, aggregated
at a national scale would help to formalise the SME contri-
bution towards energy eciency, leading to greater attention
from policy makers with a national remit. Energy researchers
from positivist traditions can help in these eorts. ere is also
a need for further research into the policy implications of al-
ternative units of focus; in highlighting opportunities in areas
such as building tenancy or working from home, social scien-
tists can help to support policy makers in bringing the benets
of energy eciency to SMEs.
Anable, J., Darnton, A., Pangbourne, K., Lane, B., Banks, N.,
Henry, N., 2015. Evidence Base Review of Business Travel
Behaviour to Inform Development of a Segmentation of
Businesses. Department For Transport.
Banister, D., Newson, C., Ledbury, M., 2007. e costs of
transport on the environment - the role of teleworking
in reducing carbon emissions (Working Paper No. 1024).
Transport Studies Unit, Oxford University Centre for the
Banks, N., Fawcett, T., Redgrove, Z., 2012. What are the fac-
tors inuencing energy behaviours and decision-making
in the non-domestic sector? A rapid evidence assess-
ment. Centre for Sustainable Energy and ECI, University
of Oxford, Department of Energy and Climate Change,
Behavioural Insights Team, 2017. An Evaluation of Low Cost
Workplace-Based Interventions to Encourage Use of Sus-
tainable Transport (Client: Department for Transport).
BEIS, 2016. Business Perceptions Survey 2016 (BEIS Research
Paper No. 293).
BIS, 2015a. Small Business Survey 2014: Businesses with no
employees (No. BIS RESEARCH PAPER NUMBER 225).
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
BIS, 2015b. Small Business Survey 2014: SME employers (No.
BIS RESEARCH PAPER NUMBER 214). Department for
Business, Innovation and Skills.
Blackburn, R., 2012. Segmenting the SME market and impli-
cations for service provision: a literature review. Res. Pap.
Ref 9, 12.
cal testing is that low-growth businesses are likely to operate
from older buildings, and use older, less ecient process equip-
ment. If true, not only would this highlight a group of SMEs
which could signicantly benet from energy eciency meas-
ures, but it would challenge business support organisations re-
sponsible for delivering energy eciency programmes to seek
alternative networks and audiences for their messaging.
Second, not only does the growth narrative skew the reach
of energy eciency programmes, it may also produce what
Marsden et al (2014) describe as ‘contradictory’ policy im-
pacts. For instance, an assumption implicit in the economic
growth narrative is that higher levels of trac are a sign of pro-
ductivity. is leads to a situation where LEPs fund expansions
to the road network and boost access to airports while simul-
taneously delivering behaviour change initiatives designed to
encourage shiing to lower carbon modes of transport (Coast
to Capital, 2014; GBSLEP, 2016). Further, the UK’s Depart-
ment for International Trade (DIT), oen working through
and alongside LEPs, encourages SMEs to export and has in
recent years oered grants for business owners to explore in-
ternational markets. Another example of a policy which has
potential for contradictory consequences includes the avail-
ability of funding such as capital grants for replacing energy
using equipment or the Enhanced Capital Allowances (ECA)
scheme in the UK. Whereas some measures such as replacing
halogen bulbs with LEDs before the end of their useful life may
be justied on the basis of radically reduced energy costs, the
net impact of funding for other equipment is more contentious
(Rosenow et al., 2016). e energy impact of replacing motors,
drives and refrigeration equipment for example, depends on
the eciency of existing machinery and the intended use of
new and old units. Many schemes (such as ECA in the UK)
assume, but do not require, the disposal of older equipment,
meaning that energy consumption may increase overall. ese
policies indicate that SME energy eciency policy in the UK is
not currently aligned with its broader industrial strategy, and
in some cases, energy eciency goals can be undermined by
economic growth policy.
is paper has identied a number of challenges regarding de-
signing and delivering eective SME policy. Firstly, although
SMEs collectively are very signicant users of energy, there is
an incomplete understanding of their energy consumption and
the potential for energy savings. Next, there is disagreement as
to how SMEs make decisions around energy, and therefore how
policy can be best designed to inuence their choices. Given
their huge diversity in business sectors, types of buildings oc-
cupied, equipment used, forms of organisation, and so on,
using empirical evidence on SMEs to improve understanding
and policy design is inherently dicult. Further, policies which
impose additional costs or administrative burdens on SMEs
are strongly resisted. Acknowledging the limitations of current
policy opportunities, including widespread resistance to ‘red
tape’, we explore new ways of focusing policy design, so that
SMEs are included. Possible policy focuses include building
type, business strategy, legal infrastructure, practices and tech-
nologies. Some of these are already use, e.g. in setting universal
minimum eciency standards for end use energy equipment,
Contents Keywords Authors
on_small_and_medium-sized_enterprises (accessed
GBSLEP, 2016. A Greater Birmingham for a Greater Britain:
Strategic Economic Plan 2016–2030.
Hampton, S., 2016a. Policy in practice: can policy pro-
grammes learn from practice theory?, in: 4th European
Conference on Behaviour and Energy Eciency. Pre-
sented at the BEHAVE, University of Coimbra, Portugal.
Hampton, S., 2016b. e practice of working from home and
the place of energy, in: What Energy Is for: e Making
and Dynamics of Demand. Presented at the DEMAND,
Lancaster University.
High Level Group on Administrative Burdens, 2014. Cutting
Red Tape in Europe.
IEA, 2015. Accelerating Energy Eciency in Small and
Medium-sized Enterprises, Policy Pathway.
Janda, K.B., Bottrill, C., Layberry, R., 2014. Learning from the
“data poor”: Energy management in understudied organi-
zations. J. Prop. Invest. Finance 32, 424–442.
Janda, K.B., Bright, S., Patrick, J., Wilkinson, S., Dixon, T.J.,
2016. e evolution of green leases: towards inter-organ-
izational environmental governance. Build. Res. Inf. 44,
L’Europe s’engage en France, n.d. Beneciaries of European
Funds [WWW Document]. URL http://cartobenef.asp- (accessed 12.29.16).
Marsden, G., Mullen, C., Bache, I., Bartle, I., Flinders, M.,
2014. Carbon reduction and travel behaviour: Discourses,
disputes and contradictions in governance. Transp. Policy
35, 71–78. doi:10.1016/j.tranpol.2014.05.012
Nicholls, C., 2014. Energy use in non-domestic buildings: the
UK government’s new evidence base. Build. Res. Inf. 42,
109–117. doi:10.1080/09613218.2014.832484
Nyman, M., 2016. DG GROW - e SME test in the European
OBS, n.d. Business Resource Eciency [WWW Document].
tent/low-carbon-0 (accessed 12.15.16).
ODYSSEE-MURE, n.d. Energy Eciency Trends & Policies
[WWW Document]. URL
(accessed 12.8.16).
Open University, 2013. Quarterly survey of small business in
Great Britain. Special Topic: business advice and informa-
tion (No. Vol 29(3)). Open University.
Powells, G., Bell, S., Judson, E., Lyon, S., Wardle, R., Capova,
K., Bulkeley, H., 2015. Fostering active network man-
agement through SMEs’ practises. Energy Ec. 1–14.
Quocirca, 2016. SMEs: closing the sustainability gap (White
Richard, D., 2008. Small Business and Government: e Rich-
ard Report (Submission to Shadow Cabinet).
Rosenow, J., Fawcett, T., Eyre, N., Oikonomou, V., 2016.
Energy eciency and the policy mix. Build. Res. Inf. 44,
562–574. doi:10.1080/09613218.2016.1138803
Scottish Power, 2016. Survey Reveals SMEs Missing Out On
Energy Savings [WWW Document]. URL https://www.
partnership (accessed 11.30.16).
Brown, M.A. (Ed.), 2001. Market failures and barriers as a basis
for clean energy policies. Energy Policy 29, 1197–1208.
Cabinet Oce, 2016. Cutting Red Tape home page [WWW
Document]. Cut. Red Tape. URL https://cutting-red-tape.
cabineto (accessed 11.29.16).
Carbon Trust, 2014. Homeworking: helping businesses cut
costs and reduce their carbon footprint.
Coast to Capital, 2014. Strategic Economic Plan: Appendices
and Transport Annex.
Coles, T., Dinan, C., Warren, N., 2016. Energy practices
among small- and medium-sized tourism enterprises: a
case of misdirected eort? J. Clean. Prod. 111, 399–408.
Committee on Climate Change, 2016. Next steps for UK heat
Crocker, R., 2012. SME Perceptions of Low Carbon Options:
Drivers, Barriers and Business Sector Dierences. Earth
Environ. 7, 232–259.
DeCanio, S.J., 1998. e eciency paradox: bureaucratic and
organizational barriers to protable energy-saving invest-
ments. Energy Policy 26, 441–454.
DECC, 2016. Potential of Smart Technologies in SMEs.
DECC, 2015. e Non-Domestic National Energy Eciency
Data-Framework: Energy Statistics 2006–12.
DECC, 2014. Research to Assess the Barriers and Drivers to
Energy Eciency in Small and Medium Sized Enterprises.
Dickson, D., 2014. e People’s Government: An Introduction
to Democracy, e People’s Government: An Introduc-
tion to Democracy. Cambridge University Press.
Eadson, W., 2014. Towards a spatially and socially embed-
ded approach to SME support for carbon reduction.
People Place Policy Online 8, 129–138. doi:10.3351/
Enerdata, 2014. Electricity use per household [WWW Docu-
ment]. URL
household-electricity-use.html (accessed 12.7.16).
Environment Agency, 2014. Climate change agreements:
umbrella agreements [WWW Document]. URL
change-agreements-umbrella-agreements (accessed
European Commission, 2016. WP1: Synthesis report. Task 3
Country Report: United Kingdom, Ex-post evaluation of
Cohesion Policy programmes 2007–2013. Directorate-
General for Regional and Urban Policy.
European Commission, 2015. Energy Performance of Build-
ings Directive (EPBD) Compliance Study (No. Specic
Contract No. MOVE/ENER/SRD.1/2012-409-Lot3/
European Commission, n.d. ERDF England [WWW
Document]. URL
kingdom/2014uk16rfop001 (accessed 1.11.17).
Eurostat, 2016. Energy price statistics. [WWW Document].
industrial_consumers (accessed 2.15.17).
Eurostat, 2015. Statistics on small and medium-sized
enterprises [WWW Document]. URL http://ec.europa.
Contents Keywords Authors
Engagement with Environmental and Climate Change
Issues: SMEs and Sustainability - Managers’ Values
and Engagement. Bus. Strategy Environ. 22, 173–186.
WOELEP, n.d. West of England Local Enterprise Partnership -
Low Carbon Industries [WWW Document]. URL http://
low-carbon (accessed 12.15.16).
is research was funded by the UK Research Councils (Grant
no: EPSRC EP/L024756/1) as part of the Decision Making
eme of the UK Energy Research Centre Phase 3. anks to El-
odie Trauchessec and Catherine Guermont-Bernardi of ADEME
for additional information on SME energy policy in France.
Sorrell, S., Mallett, A., Nye, S., 2011. Barriers to industrial
energy eciency: A literature review (Working Paper
No. 10/2011). United Nations Industrial Development
Trianni, A., Cagno, E., 2012. Dealing with barriers to energy
eciency and SMEs: Some empirical evidences. 7th Bi-
enn. Int. Workshop “Advances Energy Stud. 37, 494–504.
Trianni, A., Cagno, E., 2011. Energy Eciency Barriers in In-
dustrial Operations: Evidence from the Italian SMEs Manu-
facturing Industry. Energy Product. Ind. Partn. Oppor. 12.
UNFCCC, 2015. Decision 1/CP.21: Adoption of the Paris
Agreement. United Nations Framework Convention on
Climate Change.
Williams, S., Schaefer, A., 2013. Small and Medium-Sized
Enterprises and Sustainability: Managers’ Values and
Contents Keywords Authors
... To achieve some of these UN SDG targets, suggested a "full exploration and promotion of renewable energy sources (including hydro, solar and wind), energy efficiency practices, as well as the application of energy conservation measures in various sectors" (Hampton and Fawcett, 2017;Kalantzis and Revoltella, 2019;Rahil et al., 2019). This position is in line with some empirical studies conducted by the (Kumar, Fujii and Managi, 2015) on linking renewable energy to rural development. ...
... This research is first of its kind in attempting to help SMEs in Wula to transition towards a model for low carbon sustainable energy and address social, economic and environmental challenges. The study has adopted cocreation and bottom-up approach to include SMEs owners and managers to understand the problems and have their perspective on the demand side of sustainable energy which has been underdeveloped in the context of SMEs energy strategy (Hampton and Fawcett, 2017). The study found that SMEs in the Global South have significant potential to accelerate towards energy transition in communities. ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
There is an increasing focus on sustainable energy in developing countries as part of their transition to low carbon economy. Approximately, 40% of the world's population, mostly in low-and middle-income countries, do not have access to modern energy. Developing countries including Nigeria are facing energy poverty. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have a role in achieving the United Nations' (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Absence of sustainable energy is hindering the growth of SMEs in the Global South with impacts on society. In Nigeria, inaccessibility and regular outages of power from the national grid compels SMEs to rely on fossil-fuel based energy which exacerbates pollution and carbon footprint having environmental, social and economic consequences. This project evaluates the potential of sustainable energy in SMEs for minimizing carbon footprint and accelerating the energy transition in a local community of Wula, Nigeria. This exploratory investigation conducted semi-structured interviews with 16 SMEs to obtain data on energy consumption including energy type, quantity consumed and annual cost to estimate carbon footprint and identify sustainable energy needs. The study found that there is significant potential for sustainable energy in the local community and joined-up approach in interventions cannot only address environmental issues but social issues in the local community. The analysis indicates that SMEs spend $13,563.4 annually on fossil fuel-based energy and consume 33,215 litres of petrol/annum; and an estimated carbon footprint of 76,891.0642 KgCO2e (equivalent of 76.89106 tCO2e) per annum. The project helps to understand the state of the problem and plans to reduce CO2 emissions and sustain SMEs by installing sustainable energy systems based on the community needs and contribute towards the SDGs. This could open new markets and business opportunities for the poor in the rural area, hence lift families out of poverty and transform lives as a contribution towards SDGs.
... The energy use by MSMEs is not well understood, documentation on why, how much and where energy is used is inadequate (Hampton and Fawcett, 2017). The major problem facing the fresh cut industry is the inadequate data on the amount of water consumed at the particular phases of the processing line (Olmez, 2013). ...
... At the organisation level, it will reduce energy costs, and at the industry level, it will reduce energy demand (Bala Subrahmanya, 2005). Hampton and Fawcett (2017) asserted that it is difficult to implement energy policies in SMEs, as their energy use is poorly deciphered and documented. ...
Purpose The purpose of the paper is to examine the monitoring of electrical energy consumption, measures adopted for reducing energy consumption, barriers to energy efficiency improvement and driving forces for energy efficiency improvement in three industrial clusters. It is intends to capture the managerial perspectives on energy saving practices and to identify the possible energy saving opportunities in small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Design/methodology/approach Three industrial clusters were identified for the study. Research instrument based in-person survey was conducted in which the authors directly administered the questionnaire to all the 181 organisations. This was thought of to facilitate not so well-educated respondents. The survey took about six months in which 110 units responded. Descriptive statistics, exploratory factor analysis and path analysis were used to draw inferences. Findings There is ample scope for energy savings in the studied clusters. Energy efficiency in many organisations has deteriorated. Their attitude to embrace new or modern technology is shunning. Management’s belief that prevailing technology is efficient, lack of skilled labour, lack of accessibility to updated or modern technology, and lack of compatibility of new technology are found to be the barriers to energy efficiency improvement. Benchmarking by appropriate governments and publicly financed energy auditing act as the driving forces. Originality/value The SMEs must use simple yet powerful energy auditing practices on regular basis to reduce energy consumption. This will not only result in lesser energy costs but also lessen the burden on environment. As these are predominantly small enterprises, appropriate governments interventions are essential to bring the desired change.
... The paper considers that the AMR system is not available to SMEs and the classical meters are read only annually or quarterly. The authors consider in [25] that a rational decision-making process (DMP) based on a databases management (DBM) is imperative for a real application of energy efficiency measures, which should also consider a schedule and optimization steps (SOS). Two typical load profiles for SME energy demand are found in [26] using a Smart Meter database, one for operation process, which includes the peak load, and other for the inactivity time. ...
Full-text available
The paper presents a new vision on the energy consumption management in the case of the small and medium enterprises (SMEs), integrated into an advanced decision support platform, with technical and economic benefits on increasing the energy efficiency, with four modules for database management, profiling, forecasting, and production scheduling. Inside each module, artificial intelligence and data mining techniques were proposed to remove the uncertainties regarding the dynamic of technological flows. Thus, the data management module includes the data mining techniques, that extract the technical details on the energy consumption needed in the development of production scheduling strategies, the profiling module uses an original approach based on clustering techniques to determine the typical energy consumption profiles required in the optimal planning of the activities, the forecasting module contains a new approach based on an expert system to forecast the total energy consumption of the SMEs, and production scheduling module integrates a heuristic optimization method to obtain the optimal solutions in flattening the energy consumption profile. The testing was done for a small enterprise from Romania, belonging to the domain of trade and repair of vehicles. The obtained results highlighted the advantages of the proposed decision support platform on the decrease in the intensity of energy consumption per unit of product, reduction of the purchase costs, and modification of the impact for which energy bills have on the operational costs.
... The paper considers the SMEs without AMR system as "poor data" because the energy managers are missing, and the classical meters are read-only annually or quarterly. In [21], the authors consider that a rational decision-making process (DMP) based on a Databases Management (DBM) is imperative for a real application of energy efficiency measures, which must consider a schedule and optimization steps (SOS). In [22], by processing the Smart Meter (SM) database, two typical load profiles for SME energy demand are found, one for operation process, which includes the peak load, and one for the inactivity time. ...
Full-text available
The paper presents a new vision on the energy consumption management in the case of the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), integrated into an advanced decision support platform, with technical and economic benefits on increasing the energy efficiency, which contains modules for database management, profiling, forecasting, and production scheduling. Inside each module, Artificial Intelligence and Data Mining techniques were proposed to remove the uncertainties regarding the dynamic of technological flows. Thus, the data management module includes the Data Mining techniques, that extract the technical details on the energy consumption needed in the development of production scheduling strategies, the profiling module uses an original approach based on clustering techniques to determine the typical energy consumption profiles required in the optimal planning of the activities, the forecasting module contains a new approach based on an expert system to forecast the total energy consumption of the SMEs, and production scheduling module integrates a heuristic optimization method to obtain the optimal solutions in flattening the energy consumption profile. The testing was done for a small enterprise from Romania, belonging to the domain of trade and repair of vehicles. The obtained results highlighted the advantages of the proposed decision support platform on the decrease in the intensity of energy consumption per unit of product, reduction of the purchase costs, and modification of the impact whom the energy bills have on the operational costs.
... Despite its pervasiveness, the barriers and drivers approach has been subject to criticism. Hampton and Fawcett (2017) raise methodological concerns, pointing to the reliance on surveys and interviews with business owners and managers, who may be more likely to identify financial reasons for inaction, rather than lack of managerial knowledge or other internal factors. Challenges have also been made to the model of decisionmaking underpinning the barriers and drivers literature, which largely assumes that SMEs will act according to rational economic principles when barriers are removed, for instance, by supportive policy (Banks et al. 2012;Revell 2007;Revell and Blackburn 2007). ...
Full-text available
Energy consumption by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) is collectively significant, and whilst opportunities for substantial, cost-effective efficiency savings exist, take up is low. Whereas research tackling this challenge typically focuses on barriers and drivers to action, this paper offers an alternative perspective, investigating energy management as a practice. Drawing on practice theory and the concept of organisational sensemaking, narrative accounts provide in-depth insights into energy management practice within three SMEs. Auto-ethnographic reflections from 5 years of providing energy and environmental advice are supplemented by findings from carbon footprint assessments and interviews. Findings show that despite energy management being perceived as a peripheral business activity, it is intertwined with organisational identity and knowledge production in each of the three SMEs. Business advisors are instrumental in steering SME energy management practices and have a responsibility to reflect on how they influence processes of knowledge production and meaning-making in organisations. Implications for policy-makers, advisors and the research community are discussed.
Full-text available
This research evaluates cost of energy as a major factor impeding entrepreneurial activities and the how the adoption of alternative or other energy systems could help reduce the cost of doing business for SME's (small-scale and medium enterprises) across Nigeria. The research study also considers factors that could lead to the adoption of other sources of energy like off grid Solar systems by Small Business in Nigeria. The study makes a preliminary attempt at understanding the links between alternative energy systems as an innovation solution in relation to the socioeconomic situation of SME's through published documentary data and surveys. The study highlights the major contribution of energy cost as a one of the major sources of hinderance to SME's in their ability to successfully carryout their business endeavours in Nigeria. Aside from the discovery of the impact of cost of energy on SME activity, the level of adaption of alternative sources of energy is noted to be quite low amongst SME's as small business owners appear to be more attuned to owning generators and stocking fuel (petrol & Diesel) as a preferred choice as opposed to investing in alternative energy choices such as solar energy systems. The adaption of SME's to alternative sources of energy was noted to not be significantly influenced the socioeconomic capacity of the small business enterprises. As the decision to go for alternative energy seemed to be more associated with issues like reliability of such systems (maintenance of batteries and solar panels), issues with access electricity for charging purposes, and the quantum of energy generated by such systems. In major observation, however, involves a lack of advocacy and awareness creation of the plausible environmental and financial gains, safety, application, capacity and durability of alternative energy sources and systems. As a further study, there could be need to explore the sustainability gains in relation to the future growth and survival of SME's if there is policy and enablement for the adaption by SME's of alternative energy systems in Nigeria.
The 2018 IPCC report states that all sectors of the economy, and actors at all scales from individuals to governments, must take urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are important actors whose use of energy, and potential for energy and carbon savings, are largely overlooked by current efficiency policy in the UK and EU. Using theory, empirical evidence and policy analysis, this paper sets out the case for increased policy focus on SMEs, and proposes ways forward. SMEs account for more than half of industrial and commercial energy use, however, the details of their energy use and the potential for savings is poorly understood. While energy end-uses are similar to those in larger enterprises, SMEs’ capacity for paying attention to energy and responding to policy are different, as are their decision-making processes. Designing and delivering effective policy for this heterogenous group will require strategic segmentation and targeted interventions, in turn demanding improved data. We set out a research agenda to address deficiencies in data and evidence, and propose a series of options for policy makers.
Technical Report
Full-text available
This report has been prepared as background to the to the UNIDO report “If industrial energy efficiency pays, why is it not happening?” The objectives are to: identify the nature, operation and determinants of different barriers to the adoption of energy efficient technologies in industry; assess the prevalence and relative importance of these barriers in different contexts; and provide a springboard to determine where to most effectively address policy efforts. A companion report examines policy options for developing countries in more detail.
Full-text available
Around 18% of the United Kingdom’s (UK) total greenhouse gas emissions come from non-domestic buildings and a further 22% from industrial processes (usually housed within non-domestic buildings). Therefore, if the UK is to meet its target to reduce emissions by 80% in 2050, significant reductions in non-domestic emissions are needed. This will require thoughtful policy making underpinned by realistic understandings of the way organisations make decisions about energy use. DECC has commissioned this research to gain an overview of existing research evidence relating to energy efficiency behaviours in non-domestic settings.
Full-text available
Improving the environmental performance of non-domestic buildings is a complex and ‘wicked’ problem due to conflicting interests and incentives. This is particularly challenging in tenanted spaces, where landlord and tenant interactions are regulated through leases that traditionally ignore environmental considerations. ‘Green leasing’ is conceptualized as a form of ‘middle-out’ inter-organizational environmental governance that operates between organizations, alongside other drivers. This paper investigates how leases are evolving to become ‘greener’ in the UK and Australia, providing evidence from five varied sources on: (1) UK office and retail leases, (2) UK retail sector energy management, (3) a major UK retailer case study; (4) office leasing in Sydney, and (5) expert interviews on Australian retail leases. With some exceptions, the evidence reveals an increasing trend towards green leases in prime offices in both countries, but not in retail or sub-prime offices. Generally introduced by landlords, adopted green leases contain a variety of ambitions and levels of enforcement. As an evolving form of private–private environmental governance, green leases form a valuable framework for further tenant–landlord cooperation within properties and across portfolios. This increased cohesion could create new opportunities for polycentric governance, particularly at the interface of cities and the property industry.
Full-text available
Energy efficiency policy is expected to play a key role for meeting the EU’s energy targets (particularly for reduced energy demand and reduced CO2 emissions) using a range of policy instrument combinations. However, most analyses undertaken so far have focused on single policy measures rather than developing a more generic framework for assessing to what extent a particular policy mix is effective and under which specific conditions. This paper both contributes to the theoretical literature on policy mixes, and undertakes an empirical analysis of the current policy mixes in buildings efficiency policy in 14 EU countries. Building on the existing literature, and using expert knowledge, an assessment of the interaction of 55 pairs of policies is presented. This identifies policy mixes likely to deliver more, less or the same energy savings in combination than singly. The theoretical assessment is compared to actual policy mixes present within the EU, highlighting that combinations of multiple financial incentives may need further investigation. By bringing these forms of knowledge together, the paper suggests how buildings policy mixes could be made more effective, shows gaps in current knowledge, and highlights key research needs.
Full-text available
Discussion of sustainable tourism has become dominated by the issue of climate change. As a major source of emissions, the tourism sector has a vital role to play in efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change. Within the current body of knowledge and among major policy discourses, the prevailing paradigm has been to encourage action: reduced emissions will follow innovations in managerial practices and the uptake of the latest, most resource-efficient technologies. This paper examines energy practices among small- and medium-sized tourism enterprises (SMTEs), reporting empirical research conducted as part of a five-year programme. Although energy was a significant cost of production, it did not feature prominently in the business administration of most SMTEs. A major knowledge gap was exposed regarding how energy was consumed and administered by individual businesses. The paper argues for a major shift in thinking away from the number of actions as the key success criterion. Action alone is no guarantee of emissions reductions in a sector where growth is the dominant imperative. Instead, a crucial reorientation towards stimulating higher levels of energy literacy among SMTEs is necessary in parallel to rebalancing of attention towards energy generation.
Full-text available
This paper discusses support for Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) to encourage carbon reduction in relation to conceptualisations of SMEs as socially and spatially embedded entities. The conceptual discussion is married to conclusions from an evidence review of SME carbon reduction support to argue that there is a need for coordinated local support architecture framed around both recognising and fostering the notion of SMEs as ‘spatially tied’ local citizens. The paper concludes with a discussion of the practical policy implications of such an approach, including wider projects of civic engagement with SMEs alongside focused, targeted interventions aimed at disruptive change to SME practices.
Full-text available
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to present new empirical data on leases, energy management, and energy meters in the UK, with a particular focus on small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and other “minor” players. The paper develops a new segmentation model that identifies six different combinations of energy and organizational conditions. Design/methodology/approach – The authors surveyed participants in an online energy management and data analytics service. A 30-question online survey gathered data from 31 respondents on three kinds of infrastructure – legal, organizational, and technical. Findings – SMEs and other minor players are generally “data poor,” lack energy managers, and have legacy meters that are read only annually or quarterly; some rent via leases that inhibit permanent alterations to the premises, including the meter. Research limitations/implications – The research is exploratory and subject to self-selection bias. Further research is needed into: lease language, governance structures, social practices to facilitate cooperation between tenants and landlords; the scope for energy management positions in small organizations; low-cost “smart-er” meters that can be reversibly retrofitted onto existing energy meters; and the combination of these areas. Practical implications – Organizations may need to augment a combination of legal, organizational, and technical infrastructures to enable better energy management. Social implications – SMEs and other “minor” energy users are important to society and the economy, yet they are often overlooked by government programs. This developing data set can help policymakers include these groups in their programs. Originality/value – This paper presents a new conceptual framework for future research and new empirical data on understudied groups.
The People’s Government is premised on the idea that democracy is based on two fundamental rights: freedom and liberty. Many believe these rights are synonymous, but they are actually complementary opposites. Liberty is the right to be left alone, while freedom is the right to participate in a political community. How people view democracy depends on which of these two rights they think is more important. Liberal democrats place a higher value on liberty, while free democrats see freedom as the primary right. From this starting point, the author adds five dimensions to define and distinguish democratic societies: rights, participation and representation, inclusion, equality, and power. Liberal democracies emphasize individualism, negative rights, representative government, inclusive citizenship, equal opportunity, and limited government. Free democracies stress community, positive rights, direct participation, exclusive citizenship, equal outcomes, and robust government. The book examines the most important arguments for and against democracy, and explores the life cycle of democracies – how countries democratize, mature, and fail. Finally, the author uses the five dimensions established earlier to evaluate and grade American democracy.
Managing the electricity network through 'smart grid' systems is a key strategy to address challenges of energy security, low carbon transitions and the replacement of ageing infrastructure networks in the UK. Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) have a significant role in shaping patterns of energy consumption. Understanding how their activities interrelate with changes in electricity systems is critical for active network management. A significant challenge for the transformation of electricity systems involves comprehending the complexity that stems from the variety of commercial activities and diversity of social and organizational practises among SMEs that interact with material infrastructures. We engage with SMEs to consider how smart grid interventions 'fit' into everyday operational activities. Drawing on analysis of empirical data on electricity use, smart metre data, surveys, interviews and 'energy tours' with SMEs to understand lighting, space heating and cooling, refrigeration and IT use, this paper argues for experimenting with the use of practise theory as a framework for bringing together technical and social aspects of energy use in SMEs. This approach reveals that material circumstances and temporal factors shape current energy demand among SMEs, with 'connectedness' an emergent factor.
Conference Paper
The practice of working from home has become widespread in the UK and is on the rise. There are potentially positive implications for energy consumption and carbon emissions associated with home working, but these depend on myriad variables. Attending to the doings and sayings of home work provides a more in-depth perspective on the role of energy compared with quantitative models of household consumption. Whilst ‘energy sociology’ has investigated a range of energy consuming practices in the domestic setting, no study in this tradition has focussed on home working. This paper draws on interviews with fifteen home workers on the use of energy when working from home, finding three emerging themes: comfort, control and flexibility. Findings from interviews are presented according to these themes and the meanings, materials and competences of each are drawn out. The discussion combines ideas from practice theory, actor network theory and discourses of affect to argue that comfort, control and flexibility are bound up in the constellation of elements making up the practice of working from home, and that they emerge from performances which have both intentional and affective dimensions. Parallels are drawn between contemporary discourses of energy demand and the three themes, including adaptive comfort and its links with control; and flexibility and demand-side response. The conclusion summarises key ideas, suggests areas for further research and discusses implications for policy.