U.K. Targets SMBs For No-Interest Energy Efficiency Loans

U.K. Targets SMBs For No-Interest Energy Efficiency Loans

Jeff Greenall took out a £31,000 (US$51,339) zero-interest loan last year to replace his bakery’s 80-year old oven and aging electric boilers.

He used the funds to install a new energy efficient gas-powered steam oven that shrunk Cavan Bakery’s gas consumption by 75 percent. The new system also saves the bakery, located in Middlesex, U.K., 500 units of electricity every month. That translates to a reduction of 81 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per year.

The Cavan Bakery is one of more than 2,500 small U.K. businesses that have taken advantage of an energy-efficiency loan through the Carbon Trust, a government-funded company formed to accelerate a transition to a low-carbon economy.

The Carbon Trust announced today it has made it easier for small- and medium-sized businesses to make their operations more efficient. The company expanded eligibility for the interest-free loan program, which will dole out £100m (US$165.6 million) over the next two years, including £84 million in new allocations from the 2009 government budget.

“The Carbon Trust was very helpful, and applying for the loan was incredibly straight forward,” Greenall said in a statement. “I kept thinking, ‘What’s the catch?’” Jeff Greenall (left), owner of the Cavan Bakery, with Tom Delay, Carbon Trust CEO, and Vince Cable, MP for Twickenham and member of Parliament Images courtesy of the Carbon Trust
The government-backed loans are now available in smaller and larger amounts: The minimum amount dropped from £5,000 (US$8,283) to £3,000 (US$4,970), while the maximum doubled from £200,000 (US$331,319) to £400,000 (US$662,639).

The loan funding has steadily increased in value over the last few years. The unsecured loans are repayable over a four-year period. Eligible businesses have fewer than 250 employees and may not be in the agriculture, horticulture or fishing sectors, or fall under the government’s Carbon Reduction Commitment trading program, which covers organizations such as retailers, hospitals and schools. The company also lends to medium-sized businesses that spend less than £500,000 (US$828,310) on electricity every year.

Another U.K. small business, Hepworth and Co., secured a £9,000 (US$12,676) loan that covered slightly more than half of a project that would replace a 20-year old oil-fired boiler that supplied heat at the small brewery. The move will cut the company’s energy bills by nearly £2,000 (US$2,816), which breaks down to a five-year payback. Emissions will decline 4.5 tonnes per year.

In addition to the loans, the Carbon Trust also offers businesses advice and consulting services, and played a pivotal role in developing product carbon labels. The company estimates U.K. businesses could save more than £2.5 billion (US$3.5 billion) annually by taking steps to reduce emissions, such as boiler retrofits or lighting upgrades. Since its inception in 2001, the Carbon Trust estimates it has helped U.K. businesses save more than £1 billion (US$1.67 billion) and 17 million tons of CO2 emissions, and expects these savings to double by 2011.   

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