If business owners weren't committed to reducing energy consumption before the recent price hikes, many are now given the significant opportunity to save expenditure.

This is brought into stark relief when you consider the latest figures. According to the Carbon Trust, SME’s account for 45% of UK business energy consumption.

Collectively, UK businesses could save up to £400 million a year, through basic emission reduction measures. But this clear financial incentive to improve can appear daunting to many. Many people will have heard of terms such as ‘smart meters', the recently announced 'carbon budget', 'incentives', 'feed-in tariffs' and CERT without knowing what they mean and how they can help their businesses.

But it doesn't have to be daunting. As long as the rewards are identified and staff are willing to get on board the opportunity is within your reach.

Fortunately we are witnessing a seismic shift in people's mindset. According to a recently published YouGov report, nearly half UK office workers (47%) are actively greener as a result of the economic downturn, with over 67% of office workers actively turning off computer equipment and machinery when not in use. It’s evident that there’s an element of desire for employees to be greener within the workplace, although, can being green, be simplified?

AlertMe (a leader in home energy management) carried out a live study of energy use in an average small business in the UK. It showed that if 10 of a 50 strong workforce left their PC and monitor on, while general office equipment such as a fax, two laser printers, a photocopier and a scanner remained on standby over a ten day period (Christmas), a staggering 331kg of CO2 emissions are emitted.

Scaling this up across 2.1 million small businesses in the UK, if just one computer and monitor is left on for 10 days, this equates to 8,973 tonnes of CO2 over a ten-day period. More worrying are the collective figures for weekends and public holidays (112 in the UK). If only one member of staff for every SME in the UK leaves their PC and monitor on at weekends and bank holidays, this equates to 98,500 tonnes of CO2. In money terms, that’s approximately £463 million wasted or 18,500 new staff on £25,000 salaries.

Of course it's often difficult for us to know exactly how much money is being spent or saved at any one time. Fortunately energy monitoring and control devices offer a 21st century solution, transforming hidden energy costs into visible, real time information that can be used to drive behaviour change.

So, what can businesses do to reduce energy costs?

The best ideas are, of course, the most obvious. Encourage your staff to turn (your newly installed energy efficient) lights off when they're not using the room, turn equipment off when they aren't using it especially at night and ensure that heating and cooling settings are reviewed to reduce unnecessary waste. In short, follow the checklist that most staff follow at home.

But you can get greater levels of buy-in by using smarter technologies that can display energy use for everyone in the company. By making energy use visible, you signal your commitment to addressing it. We have seen businesses being really creative here, creating targets by team or site and incentivising good behaviour by sharing the savings through social events for example.

The rewards are significant, the actions are simpler than ever and staff have a greater level of motivation than at any other time. Let's all take control and get smarter about energy.