Small Talk: Green energy clash is casting a shadow over small firms

SMEs that sprung up to install solar panels because of the financial incentives will close

No one said coalition government would be easy, but the tensions between the Conservatives and their Liberal Democrat partners over green energy policy are mounting by the day.

Former energy secretary Chris Huhne has already accused the Tories of trying to sabotage the Coalition's green policy initiatives, and now his successor, Ed Davey, is making speeches attacking the way the Chancellor describes environmental legislation as a burden on business. The practical effect of this infighting has been inconsistency on policy. And while this has been damaging for businesses of all shapes and sizes, it is small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that have really suffered.

It's not all bad news. Last week, Mr Davey unveiled the £35m Energy Entrepreneurs Fund, a new scheme aimed at SMEs with low-carbon products and technologies to develop.

The money will initially target projects focused on energy efficiency in buildings, with companies offered as much as £1m each to develop their ideas in the hope this will enable them to persuade private investors to invest too.

Similarly, Mr Davey's department appears to be working hard to ensure that SMEs feature among the suppliers that will begin delivering the Government's flagship Green Deal programme of energy efficiency improvements to households in October.

Yet there are regular disappointments. SMEs have been hit by the rising cost of energy, so the delay in introducing the Green Deal to businesses is a blow for many. And businesses active in the cleantech sector complain that private sector funding remains hard to come by.

Then there is the solar power feed-in tariff debacle. The Government's insistence on cutting back on this scheme, which saw it dragged through the courts as ministers sought to renege on previously made commitments, has seriously damaged SMEs in two ways. Many will now find taking advantage of the scheme does not stack up financially. And many of the SMEs that sprung up to install solar panels because of the financial incentives to do so will close.

It is also a question of tone. The small-scale scheme announced by Mr Davey last week is no match for the increasingly anti-green rhetoric coming from the Treasury and, to a lesser extent, the Department for Business.

The message from these departments has been that there is a choice to be made between greening energy policy and economic growth.

Utilitywise powers toward a listing

Aim flotations have been few and far between this year and most of the companies that have made it to a listing have been in the natural resources sector – often with assets in far-flung regions of the globe. However, Utilitywise, which will will unveil to float today, is a little different: it's based in South Shields, Tyne and Wear, is debt free and profitable.

The business, run by father and son Geoff and Adam Thompson, wants £10m from investors to fund expansion, which would value Utilitywise at around £50m. The Thompsons specialise in energy procurement and management for business customers with a 8,000 organisations already signed up. Profits last year were £3.5m on turnover of £11.7m.

Small Businessman of the Week: Matt Downes, Director and co-founder, Strategy To Revenue

We started in 2008. We saw an opportunity to drive a different approach to the way companies invested in their people.

In recent years, training and staff development have increasingly moved online, with webinars and e-learning, but we wanted to do something different – there is still a need for people to come together in a face-to-face environment, even if the organisation can't afford to take its sales teams off the road for a day or more to meet with a trainer.

We've developed 'power sessions', multi-media packages that a manager can run with his team – it is tailored to the company and we supply the materials to help him motivate, educate and mobilise the sales force. We turned over £850,000 in the first year, grew by 35 per cent in 2010 and doubled in 2011 – now the aim is to turn over £5m in 2012.

davidprosser1972@gmail.com

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Content Writer - Global Financial Services

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: From modest beginnings the comp...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - PHP

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: From modest beginnings the comp...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Consultant - Financial Services - OTE £65,000

£15000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Loan Underwriter

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory