Independent retailers might think there is not much they can do to save on energy consumption in-store, but our experts say that even a few simple steps could help cut energy bills by 10% to 15%.

Dr Garry Felgate
Carbon Trust, Clement's Inn, London

Independent retailers don't need to invest in expensive new technologies to reduce their energy consumption and lower their bills. Implementing a few simple steps could cut energy bills by 10% without them having to pay a penny.

If they combined these with other changes requiring only minimum investment, they could cut their bills by at least a fifth. An important first step is to keep track of their bills. Unless they know what they're paying, they won't know the impact of energy-saving measures.

Heating accounts for 40% of energy use in a typical retail environment. In summer, retailers may not need boilers on all the time, for example. Even in colder months, customers will feel uncomfortable if stores are overheated. Another tip is to set air conditioning to 24°C or higher, which means it won't operate at the same time as the heating, so retailers won't be paying double.

Making the best of natural daylight can reduce lighting costs by 15%. Where daylight is insufficient for display purposes, retailers should switch lights on only at the start of trading hours. Display lighting generates excessive heat, putting a strain on air conditioning.

Retailers storing non-perishable goods, like carbonated drinks, in chillers, should turn them off after hours. Display cabinet lights should also be turned off.

The Carbon Trust produces fact sheets and guides on a range of topics and offers loans to help businesses replace or upgrade existing equipment with more energy-efficient versions.

Nigel Smith
Director of CSR policy, British Retail Consortium

Energy for heating and lighting is the third largest annual cost that any retailer will commonly face. The key to energy efficiency is appropriate management and encouraging greater awareness.

Motion detectors can be installed relatively cheaply and they can make a big difference in areas of shops such as storerooms, where lights tend to get left on.

By fitting timers to electrical equipment like immersion heaters and window display lighting, retailers can ensure that they are not wasting energy out of hours.

Where heating is concerned, most people are comfortable working at a temperature of 19 degrees C. By reducing the temperature in the workplace by 1 degree, retailers could easily cut their heating bills by as much as 10%.

Of course, a lot of retailers are aware that changing their energy supply could save them money. But there is a question about the rights that businesses have when they sign energy supply contracts.

There have been cases where retailers have been given misleading information about the cost savings they can make and where they have found they can't easily get out of agreements. So it is important not to buy into a package too quickly and to seek impartial advice.

The BRC would like to see retailers have the same rights as private individuals, such as cooling off periods after signing up with a supplier.

Ranjit Singh
Jenny Hall Convenience Store, Gateshead

The cost of everything is going up, and energy costs even more. My quarterly electricity bill is usually £1,300 to £1,400, but now it is increasing by over 20%.

Mind you, if the cost goes up even £100, that alone puts pressure on us because our margins are not getting any bigger. We are just barely making a small profit in the first place. We cannot pass these costs on to the customer either.

The supermarkets are selling everything really cheap, so it is hard to get any room there. On top of that, it seems that customers are changing their lifestyle, to the point that they want to go to the supermarket rather than the convenience store. So the last thing we can do is increase prices.

Luckily, it is summer right now, so we are not using heat. We have been turning out outside neon signs off to save a bit of money. But we still have the cooling costs for the products in the store.

The only thing we can do there is that we do turn the beer chiller cabinets down when it gets towards the late evening. That helps, but that is it. There is nothing else we can do to save on energy costs. We don't really have anyone to turn to for advice about how to save on energy. Occasionally people contact us about switching energy providers but they are just interested in their own profit.