Helping small businesses think smarter about energy costs

Information on how Centrica supports our small and medium (SME) business customers

Last week, small businesses from across the UK met in Birmingham to discuss latest developments and to share ideas at the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) Annual conference.

We want to support our small and medium (SME) business customers the best we can because we believe SME’s are the life-blood of the UK economy and that their success, is critical to growth.

With the economy recovering from a deep recession, recent years have seen tough trading conditions for SME’s. As a leading energy supplier to the sector, British Gas Business (BGB) is well placed to help.

Last year, we helped nearly 7,400 businesses in the UK to spread the cost of energy through longer-term payment options and reduced their debt by a total of £6.7m

A recent survey for British Gas Business showed that one in four small businesses would like to cut their fixed costs, and almost two thirds wanted to hear more about how to save energy.

Understanding energy use is a first step to using less. We’ve now installed over 340,000 smart meters for our business customers, which represents 60% of the total currently installed for UK businesses.

With accurate billing and real-time data on consumption, smart meters are enabling a growing number of small businesses to take a fresh look at their energy use and make changes – with often impressive results.

We helped the owner of a hair salon in Lincolnshire who was using an old storage heating system and fans to heat and cool his premises, upgrade to a new, more efficient, outdoor air source heat pump. The owner was able to access funding to help pay for the work and, with a payback period of between three and five years, is now looking forward to reduced heating bills of up to 70%.

However, energy efficiency needn’t cost anything – for this business owner simply asking hairdressers to switch off hairdryers when not in use and switching electrical equipment off properly rather than leaving them on standby, will make a noticeable difference to monthly bills.

Listening to customers

In 2013, we listened to our customers by leading the industry with our decision to end auto-rollover contracts, to make sure our customers were able to get the best deal for them.

The BGB SME Engagement Panel helps us better listen to customer needs. With over 1,000 members subscribed, customers can take part in polls, forums and focus groups alongside Q&A sessions where members can discuss their energy issues and ask questions directly to our management team.

Customer feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, with one member commenting that:

“The forum is one of the best ways to put forward our views and suggestions.”

And another had this to say following a Q&A session:

“The best thing about British Gas is the opportunity to take part in these debates. This has formed my opinion of BGB more than anything else.”

Supporting fledgling businesses

We’re helping smaller businesses with free expert advice and energy efficiency measures though a special Energy Efficiency Fund. Eligible micro-businesses will receive a free on-site energy survey, as well as fully-funded installations of energy saving measures valued up to £6,000 per business.

It is vital to support the growth of new businesses in Britain, which will provide jobs and skills for the future. If all businesses can make sustainable energy choices, not only will this help to reduce their costs and cut carbon, it will also grow and support our economy more broadly too.

From tomorrow, you will be able to read more about what we’re doing to help customers in our Corporate Responsibility Report 2014.