The Business Energy Efficiency Programme (BEEP) launched in 2016 to help SMEs across County Durham to save money on their energy overheads.
Now, four years on, and into its second project, the scheme is evolving and adapting to the unprecedented climate, ensuring firms can still access the support they need. Leanne Fawcett chats to the team to find out more.
EDB: Tell us more about the Business Energy Efficiency Programme (BEEP).
BEEP team: We were launched by Durham County Council in 2016 to meet the growing demand for businesses to reduce their ongoing energy costs by operating in a more energy efficient way. Research has highlighted that energy efficiency and rising costs were a real concern for SMEs in the area but also there was a lot of confusion over where to start to do something about this.
The local authority was successful in applying for European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) finance, initially for three years, and from there BEEP was launched. Our aim is to work with businesses which are keen to reduce their energy overheads, so initially we would conduct an audit with them to learn more about the way they operate and where they’re using the most energy, in many cases a lot more than they need to. We can then guide them in making the necessary changes, providing a percentage of any capital expenditure through grant funding *(subject to the grant funding qualifying criteria).
EDB: The BEEP scheme has been hugely successful in helping businesses hasn’t it?
BEEP team: Yes, BEEP project has provided energy efficiency advice and support for over 300 County Durham based small to medium businesses (SMEs) in the past four years. All participating businesses have saved on their energy spending, running costs but also greatly reduced their carbon footprint. To date, participating businesses have contributed to reducing the county’s carbon emissions by 1951.00tonnes which is remarkable.
EDB: The BEEP scheme has been relaunched until September 2022. What are the priorities moving forward?
BEEP team: Our focus now continues to centre around energy efficiency and helping businesses reduce their carbon footprint. However, our help isn’t just tailored to the things businesses immediately think of i.e. lighting, reducing their stand-by usage etc; it could also be working with them to identify what types of renewable energy could work for them, or even helping them invest in an electric vehicle, which was recently demonstrated by our support to Peterlee takeaway Charltons. Innovation is also a key strand of the programme, helping businesses be more innovative in how they operate to improve efficiency and be leaner in the way they work.
EDB: How has the coronavirus pandemic affected the way you’re able to engage with businesses?
BEEP team: We appreciate that in these uncertain times, being more energy efficient might not be the number one priority. However, we can still carry out audits (remotely or on site) which could identify ways of the business saving money on their energy bills, bringing down their monthly costs. I think for most businesses that’s critically important right now, especially as we don’t know how long we’ll be under the coronavirus restrictions. It’s also worth pointing out that, even if they have an audit done now, they have until the project comes to an end in 2022 to apply for a grant.
EDB: Tell us more about the support you gave to Charltons.
BEEP team: We’d been working with the family business for some time after we were introduced at a Peterlee and Seaham networking event. They were keen to look at reducing their costs, and then of course everything changed when the coronavirus lockdown happened. Because they were unable to serve customers at their premises in Peterlee, they were instead delivering food orders.
However, as staff were using their own cars for deliveries, Charltons were concerned about the amount of fuel required to deliver orders and the resulting increase in the firm’s carbon footprint.
They applied for a grant to invest in an electric vehicle, which was successful, and the car has now become an integral part of operations, reducing both the business cost of the delivery service and the cost to the environment. beeb.uk.net / BEEP can be contacted on 03000 265547 or email@example.com.