Daniel Cope: Ambassador for the Environment
Environmentalist or economically shrewd; two characteristics which are closer to one another than you may think. As part of their green strategy, The British Red Cross reduced their energy use by £657,200, whilst saving the planet in the process. Understandably, smaller charities, not-for-profits and clubs won’t expect to see these levels of savings, but this does not mean the impact won’t be significant. For this blog, I thought it important to touch on a few areas the third sector can do, right now, to reduce their monthly energy bills…
Simple Quick Wins
- Carry out an informal energy audit. Walk around your premises, considering appliances in each room. Switch lights, monitors, printers, heating off when not in use. Many find it useful to make this an addition to their locking-up process at the end of the day, in case any have been missed.
- Many community halls and clubs operate within scheduled opening times during typical weeks, and could set up their heating systems to minimise wastage out-of-hours. Thermostats usually have timed controls which can be pre-set, or a rudimentary option would be to ensure users switch on/off when leaving. Even better, smart thermostats allow users to monitor and change the temperature from a phone, any time or place!
- Turning the heating off 30 minutes before close can result in substantial savings with no impact to comfort.
- Draught proofing can be extremely cheap to install, but costly if ignored. It may just be you need a draught excluder for the base of your door (and will costs less than £20).
Switching Energy Provider
It really can’t be understated that there are potentially huge savings to be had from simply changing energy providers. It does not have to be a daunting task, and comparison websites make this a lot easier. All you need to do is figure out your energy usage by adding up the kilowatt hours (kWh) for gas and electricity over the past 12 months.
This is also a brilliant opportunity to consider where your energy is coming from. Many energy providers now offer renewable tariffs, where electricity is sourced from zero-carbon technologies (solar, wind etc.). While it may not result in a cost saving, it may not be any more expensive and it’s a positive step supporting your green credentials!
VAT and Climate Change Levy (CCL)
Unbeknownst to many, registered charities are entitled to a 5% VAT rate (a 15% reduction!) on gas and electric energy use (stipulations apply). Unfortunately, they are often defaulted as a small business by energy providers and so pay the standard 20% VAT. If your charity does not carry out ‘business activity’ at the premises for more than 60% of your energy usage (e.g. selling donated goods, hiring of village halls etc.), then you will likely be eligible for this saving. More information can be found at charitytaxgroup.org.uk or directly from suppliers.
Beyond VAT, the eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed the Climate Change Levy (CCL) on energy bills (introduced by the government as an ‘environmental’ tax). The great news is that charities who are eligible for the reduced VAT rate are also exempt from the CCL.
Taking both the VAT and CCL off your bill could lead to savings of £250 a year or more, and overpayment claims can be backdated by up to 4 years!
Low Carbon Workspaces
As programme manager of Low Carbon Workspaces (LCW), I feel it apt to mention our grant offering enterprises in Buckinghamshire grants of between £1,000 and £5,000 to cover up to a third of the cost of making energy improvements. This could be anything from LEDs, insulation or even solar power. Whilst predominantly aimed at businesses, it’s also a great opportunity for charities, non-profits and social clubs to carry out those much-needed improvements, get some funding and lowering their energy costs. One big caveat here is that at least half of your income must come from trading/revenue activity (i.e. selling goods, room hire income etc).
Farnham Royal Village Hall used a grant of £3,500 to install two energy-efficient boilers and smart controls, resulting in savings of £650 per year. LEDs are also particularly popular amongst our third sector grant applicants, who recognise the strong return on investment they offer. If you want to check your eligibility for a LCW grant, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call on 01494 927131, and a member of the team will be happy to help.
Low Carbon Workspaces is funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) supporting businesses in Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Hertfordshire, Northamptonshire and Milton Keynes. The scheme is run by Ngage Solutions, a not-for-profit company that specialises in the design and delivery of grant schemes and business support programmes, and part of the Buckinghamshire Business First Group.