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Suffolk: SABRE renewable energy project to help SMEs is hailed a success

PUBLISHED: 09:00 26 August 2014

From left, SABRE event speakers David Walton, Ben Coulter, Matt Hullis, Julian Colman and Becky Hopfensperger
 outside Seckford Hall.
Photograph James Fletcher

From left, SABRE event speakers David Walton, Ben Coulter, Matt Hullis, Julian Colman and Becky Hopfensperger outside Seckford Hall. Photograph James Fletcher

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A three-year project to help businesses in Suffolk make informed decisions on potential investment in “green” energy has been hailed as a success.

Support and Advice to Businesses around Renewable Energy (SABRE) involved a partnership between Groundwork Suffolk and Suffolk County council on behalf of the Suffolk Climate Change Partnership, and was part-financed by the European Regional Development Fund.

It offered small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and social enterprises in Suffolk independent and impartial support and advice on investment opportunities created by the Government’s Feed-in Tariff and Renewable Heat Incentive schemes.

A total of 120 businesses around the county have received advice, enabling many of them to invest with the confidence that their spend will bring long-term benefits to their bottom line as well as to the environment.

Welcoming representatives from many of the businesses involved to a celebration event marking the end of the project, Beccy Hopfensperger, county council cabinet member for localities and environment, said that economic growth was a key priority for the authority. Sustainable development was a important element within this and, with most businesses in the county being SMEs, it was important for support to be made available.

Matt Hullis, the council’s head of environment strategy, said that although the target of 120 firms represented only a small proportion of the 31,00 businesses in the county, the aim was to use their progress to promote the potential benefits more widely.Initiatives supported by the project were expected to result in combined cost savings of at least £17million over the next 15 to 20 years, and to reduce carbon emissions by around 4,000 tonnes, with further savings likely to arise during that time as conditions in the energy market changed.

“It makes Suffolk a more sustainable place to to business and protects us from some of the shocks we could feel as energy prices move up and down,” said Mr Hullis.

Among the Suffolk businesses involved in SABRE was Bury St Edmunds print and labelling company Denny Bros whose quality manager, Julian Colman, spoke about the financial benefits of the firm’s long-established drive to reduce its environmental impacts.

The project supported by SABRE led to the installation of a photovoltaic solar panel installation, completed in March this year, which has so far generated 30,000 kilowatt hours of electricity, about 11% of the company’s current needs, and was chosen as more cost-efficient than potential investment in wind power or biomass.

Other speakers at the breakfast-time event, held at Seckford Hall, near Woodbridge, included Ben Coulter, SABRE adviser from Groundwork Suffolk, who outlined the support provided to the participating businesses, and David Walton, programme manager for the Suffolk Climate Change Partnership, who highlighted the range of ongoing support still availble through other initiatives.

Mr Coulter said the approach had very much been one of “horses for courses”, with the potential benefit of the different technologies varying from one business to another.

Among the ongoing initiatives highlighted by Mr Walton were the Suffolk Carbon Charter accreditation scheme, the Creating the Greenest County Awards, and funding streams including Grants4Growth, the Low Carbon Innovation Fund, the West Suffolk Greener Business Grant scheme, the East Coast Carbon Efficiency (ECCE) project and Low Carbon KEEP.

Groundwork Suffolk’s own environmental business adviser service would also incorporate elements of the SABRE project going forward, he added.

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