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ESOS awareness rising but compliance still low

Despite nine out of ten large businesses being aware of the Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS), experts expect many to struggle to hit the looming December 2015 compliance deadline.

Despite nine out of ten large businesses being aware of the Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS), experts expect many to struggle to hit the looming December 2015 compliance deadline.

Preliminary research commissioned by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), due to be published in full in the autumn, found that 89 per cent of qualifying businesses had heard of ESOS by June 2015, with 94 per cent confident that they would meet the looming compliance deadline.

The initiative requires all businesses with over 250 employees, a turnover of more than €50 million (£39 million) or a balance sheet of €43 million (£34 million) to undertake specialist energy efficiency audits every four years, with the first assessments due by 5 December. 

Cost savings

The scheme is designed to help large businesses identify opportunities to cut their energy use and emissions. 

Nearly half of respondents from DECC’s commissioned research expect to identify new ways to make cost savings and just two per cent do not expect to implement any changes as a result of the scheme. 

Deadline struggle

However, experts predict that many businesses are still underprepared and may struggle to hit the compliance deadline, risking non-compliance fines of up to £50,000 in the process.

The Environment Agency, the scheme’s designated administrator, has revealed that only 120 businesses had notified them of compliance as of 14 August, out of an estimated 14,000 that fall under ESOS criteria. 

Despite this, ESOS project manager at the Environment Agency, Jo Scully, expects a surge of applications closer to the deadline.

“We are aware that many businesses are currently undertaking the relevant tasks to complete their ESOS assessments, and as such anticipate that the number of notifications will start to rise more significantly as we approach the deadline”, she said.

Assessor shortage

There are concerns, however, that a late rush for compliance may fail to provide a thorough assessment of energy saving opportunities and that the limited number of approved ESOS lead assessors across the UK will be unable to keep up with demand.

For example, the Carbon Trust is already reaching full capacity for its consultancy services, according to the organisation’s director of implementation, Myles McCarthy.

Speaking to BusinessGreen, McCarthy said: “We will soon get to the point where we are pretty much maxed out. We’ve pretty much stopped selling because we’ve got more than a sufficient pipeline to be working on with that deadline.”

Ensuring compliance

There are a number of different ways to ensure compliance with ESOS, including direct audits, Display Energy Certificates (DECs) and the ISO 50001 energy management standard. 

A Government guide designed to help businesses choose the best approach for their needs is available here.