The Smarter Choices consortium launches a pilot aimed at UK manufacturing SMEs to overcome current barriers to energy efficiency after successfully winning Department of Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) funding. The programme will offer a one-stop-shop in the form of a digital platform, showcasing results from independent energy assessments, framing projects for financial review, and supporting SME users from project implementation to monitoring and evaluation. The Smarter Choices platform will provide a comprehensive offering with bundled access to financing, the choice of recommended and accredited contractors, integration of the latest Measurement & Verification (M&V) technology and performance insurance.
While currently in development, the pilot will provide detailed energy audits for up to 35 SMEs at no cost. An additional opportunity to implement quality-assured energy efficiency measures using the Smarter Choices platform with support from an independent energy expert will extend to 10 of those SME participants. These SMEs will also be given options for financing with guaranteed savings and free M&V monitoring equipment to quantify their energy savings.
The core project partners include VRM Tech, a team with wide experience on digital platforms and IoT hardware for innovative solutions in energy efficiency; Oxford Innovation which provides business support and advice to SMEs to help them grow; finance partner Joule Assets which works with UK investors to aggregate small projects, providing off-balance sheet financing for energy efficiency and behind-the-meter generation; and Future Climate, specialists in research and the policy environment for energy efficiency in buildings.
Dr. Joanne Wade, Chair of the Smarter Choices Steering Group commented “Having overseen the consortium’s Phase 1 feasibility studies in 2019, I’m delighted that it has been awarded further funding from BEIS to undertake pilot testing for Phase 2 in 2020. SMEs in the UK are a critical sector to target with significant potential to improve energy efficiency, competitiveness and reduce carbon emissions. The Smarter Choices solution has been designed to unlock this market by offering a comprehensive and compelling offer. I look forward to seeing how this project is developed into a fully commercial model following further real-life testing.”
Eoin McGuckian, COO of VRM Tech said “VRM, as the project leader, is delighted to have been awarded funding following on from our initial feasibility work with our partners in Phase 1. This showed high levels of interest from the SMEs which want to invest in high quality energy efficiency projects that deliver results. A key aspect to the design of our Smarter Choices solution is to offer a comprehensive solution with high quality and independent expert advice, quality-assured installations and ongoing monitoring to verify that savings are achieved. We look forward to working with our pilot SME partners during 2020 to test and refine our offering.”
The UK government has identified that in order to achieve its net-zero carbon target by 2050, it needs to enable the business sector to improve energy efficiency by at least 20% by 2030. Of all the energy used by businesses in the UK for heating, air conditioning and lighting, well over half is used by smaller companies, but SMEs are historically hard to reach with energy saving programmes. The funding has been provided under BEIS “Boosting access for SMEs to energy efficiency” (BASEE) competition, launched in March 2019.