More than half (55%) of businesses in England and Wales would like the government to offer more grants and tax breaks towards the costs of energy efficiency measures, according to the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) and British Gas.

The survey of more than 2,100 businesses shows that only a small percentage of businesses believe more information (8%) or financing options for measures such as insulation, LED lighting and solar panels (4%) will help them to manage and reduce their energy costs.

A third (36%) of those surveyed believe that the most important thing the government could do for business is provide grants towards the cost of installing energy efficiency measures, while 19% suggested the most effective intervention would be tax breaks.

Those in rented properties (27%) said a major barrier to action was feeling they have no influence over energy efficiency improvements on their site.

The results also reveal that work is needed to promote the use of smart meters for businesses: only 6% of respondents suggested this should be the highest priority for Government and suppliers. To address this issue, British Gas is contacting its SME customers to explain the benefits of smart meters and to encourage them to apply for one online.

Mike Spicer, director of research and economics at the BCC, said: “These results demonstrate that getting the economics of investment right for energy efficiency is crucial to promoting take-up. At a time when businesses face growing upfront cost pressures from other sources, grants and tax breaks have an important role to play in offsetting the cost of new energy efficiency measures. On its own, more information won’t do the job.”

Gab Barbaro, managing director of British Gas Business, said: “It’s clear from this research that businesses in rented and leased premises need more help from their commercial landlords, and new regulations to tackle the least energy-efficient premises can’t come soon enough.

“I’d urge all businesses to seek help from their supplier or landlord, and start with the basics. For example, by applying for a smart meter, businesses could much more accurately work out what’s driving their energy use and make considered decisions about how to reduce it.”

Respondents said no one issue prevented them from investing in energy efficiency measures. The most frequently cited barriers were the marginal level of savings they might achieve (15%), other investments taking priority (13%) and a lack of available funds (13%).

In addition, while more than 70% said they spend less than a tenth of their operating budget on energy, only 13% of businesses have seen their energy costs fall over the last three years. 36% said they had seen their costs rise; 37% reported little or no change, and 13% said they didn’t know.