A change in planning regulations has seen a growing number of businesses invest in renewable energy technology in order to help them become more energy efficient and reduce costs.

The change in regulations means that commercial Solar PV installations under 50kWp electricity no longer require planning permission. This paves the way for them to be treated in the same way as domestic properties which have no need to go through a formal planning process.

The change in planning regulations means that new projects can go ahead without the risk of delay, as can projects which might previously have been held back or cancelled due to lack of permissions.

Mark Buchanan, commercial director with leading renewable energy company Eco Environments, said, “We have already noticed a sharp rise in the number of enquiries from businesses since the planning changes came into effect at the start of April.

“A major focus for us is increasing the amount of work we do with commercial customers showing them how a holistic renewable energy strategy can really pay dividends in terms of energy efficiency and financial prudency.”

In addition to the relaxation of planning rules, companies using Carbon Trust approved installers such as Eco Environments are also able to take advantage of Carbon Trust loans which ensure no upfront capital costs as well as monthly energy savings which outweigh the monthly finance costs.

David Hunt, Eco Environments’ sales and marketing director, said, “While the FTSE companies and large PLCs all have sustainability policies in place, this is much less the case among the SME community.

“But more and more businesses are coming to understand how harnessing the right renewable energy solutions can help a business grow and prosper, particularly during these tough economic times and against a backdrop of ever rising energy costs.”

Hunt added, “Manufacturing businesses traditionally operate on very tight margins so the slightest spike in the cost of energy usage can wreak havoc on a company. The right renewable energy solution can help them start to take control of their energy costs rather than being vulnerable to fluctuations in the market.”

One example of this is Burnley-based Westbury Filtermation, which manufactures air filters, and uses large amounts of electricity during its production process.

Andrew Parker, managing director of Westbury Filtermation, brought in Eco Environments to help make the firm an industry leader in cutting carbon emissions.

Eco Environments installed a 50kW solar array, consisting of 204 Hyundai solar panels, after winning a competitive tender with several solar companies.

Parker said, “Eco Environments completed a detailed review and presented the substantial savings that could be achieved to electricity bills and CO2 emissions, as well as demonstrating the amount of income we could receive from the Feed-in-Tariff incentives.

“We were very impressed by the company’s extensive industry knowledge and customer recommendations as well as the added value it brought to the project.”

Westbury Filtermation will reduce its carbon emissions by 22.5 tonnes a year and save almost £3,500 a year on electricity bills. The company estimates it will see an average annual return on investment of 27%.

In addition to Solar PV, Eco Environments is also seeing increasing interest from companies in energy efficient lighting, air source heat pumps, solar thermal technology and wind turbines.

Following the installation of energy efficient lighting, one Eco Environments manufacturer customer has seen its annual lighting costs slashed by more than half from £48,000 to £21,000.