With thousands of companies likely to miss the deadline of 5 December, Darryl Mattocks, ESOS lead assessor and Managing Director of energy management consultancy, Enistic, is calling for the Environment Agency to be lenient on the thousands of companies likely to miss the deadline.

With less than three months left until we reach the ESOS compliance deadline, the latest figures from the Environment Agency indicate that a mere 2% of companies have achieved sign-off to date.  Leaving the vast majority of around 10,000* organisations covered by the scheme still working on their ESOS evidence packs as we hurtle relentlessly towards the deadline of 5 December.  Realistically, I feel that it is now clear that a high percentage of businesses will fail to obtain sign-off in time.

That is if they have actually started working on ESOS – or even know about it.  The most recent research published by the Environment Agency back in July indicated that 22% of organisations were still unaware of the scheme, of those that did only 56% had actually made a start. However, the Environment Agency is confident that “awareness is high;” and that a lot of people know about and are working on ESOS, a spokesman told us: “Our experience is that in the last few weeks 50% of total submissions are made in that space of time.”

We have been working with many companies on compliance since the initiative was first announced, and every day we receive calls from many more just embarking on the work and needing help.  We have expanded our team to cope with the demand, but for those yet to yet make a start (of which there’s a significant number) they are unlikely to meet the deadline.

Generally, the nature of the large businesses covered by the scheme means that, with so much to do, a huge amount of data to collate across complex operations and with layers of management approvals, they are rarely agile enough to spring into action with the necessary speed to meet ESOS obligations..

The Environment Agency has made it clear that “There can be no extension to the deadline” which is in the Regulations.  Quizzed on the number of companies likely to miss the deadline, the Agency told us that “It is too early to tell.  We can’t say numbers.  It is still difficult, even with 3 months to go.

This is all very well. But, arguably there was a miscalculation in the time it would take to get the message out and the job done effectively.

And what happens if – when – so many businesses do fail to comply by the 5 December? These companies could face heavy penalties including substantial fines of up to £90,000.

Either late this or early next month, the Environment Agency is due to publish its enforcement and sanctions guidance.  If stringently applied as they stand, the administrative nightmare of sending out penalty notices and collecting fines will cost a fortune and crush goodwill.

Much better for the Environment Agency to take the initiative with pragmatism and common sense.  Hold fire on heavy fines and allow those organisations which have demonstrably made progress on their audits and ESOS evidence pack time to finish the job and to do it well without major penalties

If we want to get business behind the scheme and take the potential energy savings opportunities seriously, it is important that they do more than simply go through the motions.  With time as the main driver, we are at risk of losing out on the main objective of the legislation as saving energy becomes a casualty of the last-minute scrabble to deadline and we get a ‘tick the box’ rather than a determined exercise.

I urge the Environment Agency to take care in how it sets out the penalties.

Darryl Mattocks is Managing Director of Enistic which is still able to take on new ESOS clients for the time being. Organisations needing a lead assessor or help in achieving compliance can contact the company by phone on 0844 875 1600 or email jonathan@enistic.com, see www.enistic.com for more details.

 

* The Environment Agency sent out 14,000 letters to ensure all large organisations and their subsidiaries were informed.  The estimated number of businesses which need comply with ESOS is 10,000.