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Environment Agency - Energy Efficiency drive gives 21st century high street a new look

Government energy scheme could spell the end for all-night lights and dazzling window displays

Walk down your local high street this evening and you’d be forgiven for thinking that everything was still open. From shoe shops to supermarkets, the lights are on -  as are the flat screens and the illuminated signs - but no-one’s home. 

But this year that could change, thanks to a new government scheme which will require businesses to record their energy use and from 2011, pay by the tonne for the carbon that they emit.

Businesses using more than 6000MWh electricity per year, equivalent to about £500,000 worth, must register for the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme between April and September this year, rocketing energy efficiency to the top of the corporate agenda for some five thousand UK businesses. 

Household name supermarkets, clothing retailers and restaurant chains are among the top sectors affected by the CRC – and are likely to be challenging their staff to reduce energy use. The days of leaving doors open to encourage customers in and leaving lights on 24 hours a day will be left behind as high street retailers look for the quick wins in the race to cut carbon emissions.

Tony Grayling, Head of Climate Change and Sustainable Development at the Environment Agency said: 

“The CRC is an opportunity for large businesses and public sector organisations to play their part in reducing dangerous carbon emissions. But for businesses the main motivation to cut their energy use will be their bottom line. By cutting energy use businesses stand to benefit from lower energy bills, and could be financially rewarded through the CRC if they perform well in the energy efficiency stakes.”

In a new age of eco-conscious consumers, poor green performance could be damaging for a business’s reputation.  From 2011 the Environment Agency will publish an annual league table of the best and worst performers in the CRC – with the top performers getting financial rewards, and poor performers being penalised.

Tony Grayling, said:

“Carbon reduction needn’t be complicated or expensive, in most cases better management of heating, air conditioning and lighting will deliver immediate energy and cost savings.”

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What will CRC achieve and how?

CRC could deliver emissions savings of 11.6 million tonnes of CO2 a year by
2020. Analysis indicates that, by improving energy efficiency, CRC will achieve cost-effective emissions reductions, saving participants money, and enabling green growth – benefiting the economy by £1 billion by 2020.

After the three-year introductory phase, Government will limit the number of emissions allowances available in each phase, setting an absolute cap on the total emissions permitted for CRC organisations.

What is the Environment Agency role in CRC?

The EA is the lead UK Administrator for the scheme, responsible for running and
maintaining the CRC Registry, which will be used to administer the scheme. We will also audit and enforce the scheme in England and Wales.  The other regulators will be the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency. 

The Environment Agency will also participate in CRC as its electricity use exceeded the 2008 qualification threshold.

What is the Environment Agency doing to cut its emissions?

The EA will participate in the CRC and is committed to improving its environmental
performance to set an example to those who we work with, regulate and influence.
Our Internal Environmental Management Strategy sets a target of reducing our own
carbon emissions by 30% by 2012. We will also reduce our business mileage by 20%. 
In 2009, we won a Sunday Times Big Green Company award for our work.

Where can organisations get practical advice on how to cut energy use?

The Carbon Trust can help prepare for – and profit from – the business opportunities available. Its guide “Managing the Carbon Reduction Commitment as a Business Opportunity” is available at


CRC timeline

  • 2010 - Scheme begins with a three year introductory phase
    Organisations who qualify must register or make an information disclosure by 30 September 2010. A financial penalty will be imposed on organisations who fail to do this by the deadline.
  • 2011- Second compliance year
    First sale of allowances takes place in April. Participants can buy allowances at a fixed price of £12/tCO2. Participants will only have to purchase allowances to cover their forecast emissions for 2011/12. 
  • 2012- Third compliance year
  • 2013-First capped phase begins. Auctioning of carbon allowances begins.

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