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How much can SMEs save by turning off computers? (Are E.ON telling the truth?)

Small businesses in the UK are wasting up to £30.8 million a day by not turning off computers overnight, according to new research from energy company, E.ON.

But can we believe them?

Apparently EON research indicates that UK small businesses are wasting £30,888,000 per night leaving computers on. A frightening statistic but are the figures right? Over-estimating may add to the impact but there is a risk that if the figure is too unbelievable it will be ignored as false propaganda.

We look at some of the evidence and conclude that the figure is not to be trusted.

Liverpool Chamber of Commerce for one quote the research on their website

According to the researchers it costs a business approximately one pence an hour to power a PC in standby mode. Based on this, they calculated that, with 4.8 million SMEs in the UK, employing an average of 110 people each, the total cost of leaving PCs on is greater than £30 million a day.

The figures were based on Government estimates that a single computer and monitor left on 24 hours a day will cost a business over £50 a year, and that switching a PC off out-of-hours, and enabling standby features, can reduce this cost to just £15 a year.

However, look for example at the 2009 small business statistics in the Department for Business Innovation and Skills Press Release. There were 4.8 million private sector employing 22.8 million people. That is 4.75 people per business, not the 110 quoted.

Let's assume that every one of those people has a computer but EON already state that only 2/3 leave them on. That means only 3.2 computers per business, or 15.3 million computers in total are being left on.

Carbon Trust advice as seen on the Business Link website is that…

A single computer and monitor left on 24 hours a day can cost over £50 a year. Switching it off out of hours and enabling standby features can reduce this to £15 a year.

So, each of those computers could potentially save £35 a year which is £535.5 million a year or £1.5 million a day.

Conclusion - the figure quoted of £30.8 million a day appears to be so unbelievably over the top that it is likely to be ignored. However, there does appear to in the region of £1.5 million a day that is being wasted by small business and that is still a lot of money that could be saved. It is also money that could be saved with only a small change in user practice and no capital investment.

It is clear that there is still a lot more that could be achieved for free before small businesses can rightly claim that they cannot afford the cost of energy saving measures. In the current financial climate can they really afford the cost of not taking these sorts of steps?

Small businesses, in fact all businesses, can and should do more to save money by turning off office equipment, but let’s be honest about how much it will save. For computers it appears to be approximately 10p a day or £35 a year per machine.

Ian Sturt,

(HI Devon & DCHI)

23 July 2011

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