Drafty British companies waste $5 billion: survey

File photo shows three buildings in the Canary Wharf financial district of London May 7, 2008. REUTERS/Kevin Coombs EDITORS NOTE: Small white marks in the sky are reflections. Picture shot through glass.

LONDON (Reuters) - British businesses are wasting 2.5 billion pounds ($4.99 billion) a year in energy bills swollen by inefficiencies such as drafty windows or leaving lights and computers on, the Carbon Trust said on Tuesday.

Racing oil prices have added to the cost of wasted energy but businesses are not responding far enough according to the private, government-funded agency whose mandate is to drive cuts in UK carbon emissions and so help fight climate change.

“We’re talking about money that could be saved by making quick and easy changes such as encouraging staff to turn off computers and lights, turning down the heating, or maintaining equipment properly,” said Hugh Jones, solutions director at the Carbon Trust.

Oil was trading at around $130 on Monday compared with $75 at the same time last year, a doubling in prices that has driven up linked gas and electricity prices.

Businesses were starting to conserve energy more, to help them weather a global economic slowdown.

A fifth of nearly 900 surveyed senior business managers had stepped up efforts to cut carbon emissions in the past six months compared with 9 percent who said this slipped down their priorities, the Carbon Trust report said.

“Our research shows that energy efficiency measures, not job cuts or salary freezes, are the cost-cutting steps businesses are considering first during this economically challenging time,” Jones said.

The Carbon Trust receives 100 million pounds in annual government funding to drive cuts in emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, leading to cuts of up to 2 million tonnes of CO2 in 2006-2007 described as “small” but “commendable” by government funding watchdog the National Audit Office.

Total UK greenhouse gas emissions were 656 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2006, down less than 0.5 percent on 2005 levels.