By Max Clarke

Just over one in five financial directors feels able to manage energy costs, with significantly greater numbers confident in managing their staff costs (84%), suppliers (41%) and equipment (37%), according to findings from a survey carried out by British Gas Business and Financial Director magazine.

Against a backdrop of economic uncertainty, this research suggests British businesses are overlooking effective cost saving measures, including energy efficiency, to prioritise more complex and costly operational improvements.

Large numbers are planning tough measures in the coming year, including driving staff performance, and cutting headcount and salaries, rather than prioritising the potential 10-25 percent savings available from effective energy management. This is at a time when inflation and unemployment are at record highs.

Just 23% of the financial directors surveyed said they felt best able to manage their energy over the next 12 months, suggesting that many financial directors do not fully realise the potential savings simple efficiency measures can yield.

Furthermore, the research suggests that many financial directors are struggle to effectively justify an increased focus on energy efficiency; and 68% admit that energy efficiency is only ‘very occasionally’ or ‘hardly ever’ discussed in board meetings.

39% of respondents recognise that the biggest challenge to controlling and managing energy use is the fact that energy management is simply not considered a business priority: just one in five enterprises has a smartmeter, meaning that the remaining 80% are failing to take advantage simple measures to better manage power consumption. Smart meters are considered the first step towards better energy management as they give real-time readings of energy usage and put an end to estimated bills.

“Our findings demonstrate the untapped opportunity to use energy management as a tool to control costs" Said Kanat Emiroglu, Managing Director of British Gas Business. "This can start with the installation of smart meter technology that puts customers in control, identifies energy savings and helps change behaviour. With our energy experts and dedicated B2B engineer force we can then advise on the installation of a range of financially appropriate energy efficiency improvements and micro-generation technologies.

“From working with over 650,000 business and public sector customers we know that some simple energy efficiency measures can help save businesses at least 10 percent on their costs. Those that go a step further and make energy efficiency and the use of renewable technologies a business priority that is discussed at the top table level can achieve savings of 20-30 percent.”