Providing grants to SMEs to carry out energy retrofits and install renewables.
Back in 2018, we hosted a green business workshop with the Carbon Trust. During that workshop, we asked small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) what they needed to become more sustainable. Unsurprisingly, funding was a key challenge – these businesses had great ideas and were energised to make a positive difference but lacked resources. This challenge inspired the Tower Hamlets SME Energy Improvement Grant initiative.
As a borough, SMEs make up the vast majority of businesses in our area and industrial and commercial buildings generate two-thirds of our carbon emissions. Although supporting a single SME may have a small impact on carbon reduction, the collective impact of helping many businesses to improve energy efficiency is significant.
The programme was designed around three phases. In the first two phases, we offered SMEs a 50% contribution of up to £5000 towards any works that improved energy efficiency – this could be anything from fitting double glazing to upgrading decades-old refrigeration equipment. In the third phase of the program, we offered a 50% contribution of up to £10,000 for SMEs to install solar panels or electrify their heating. The response from business leaders has been overwhelmingly positive and we have supported 146 SMEs to date.
To drive interest and engagement inside the SME community, we worked closely with local businesses and support has snowballed as more and more companies experience the benefits the programme can bring. For many who have gone through significant challenges during the pandemic, this is a great way to invest in their business as they begin to watch it grow.
Tower Hamlets is committed to reaching net-zero across the borough by 2045 and initiatives like this one are crucial in helping us to achieve this ambitious goal.
Communicate effectively –
Good communication has been key to building up trust around this programme across the SME community. The idea that you are giving out ‘free money’ can cause some businesses to think twice, so it’s important to be transparent and straightforward.
Be efficient –
It was vital for the SMEs involved in the initiative (and for the reputation of the programme) that we not only provided support and funding, but that we provided it efficiently. This meant ensuring all invoices were paid promptly and ensuring no SME had to worry about covering costs due to delays.
Our Metrics –
• Reduction in carbon emissions.
• Reduction in energy bills.
Read more: www.towerhamlets.gov.uk