SMALL businesses in East Lancashire are wasting millions of pounds a year through inefficient energy use.

According to figures released by British Gas, thousands of companies must have money to burn by ignoring simple steps to conserve fuel.

And with the introduction of the Climate Change Levy -- the Government's new 'green tax' on commercial energy use -- the costs will only rise unless firms take action.

The levy, on electricity, gas, coal and LPG, was introduced in April following the Kyoto Protocol and is designed to help the UK meet its targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The first bills which include the new charges will shortly be arriving at companies throughout the area.

British Gas has revealed research that shows East Lancashire companies are wasting more than £4.2 million a year on their fuel bills. In the North West, the figure is an alarming £51.8 million.

It says that individual companies are squandering thousands of pounds a year by failing to employ basic measures that are readily available for free or at very little cost.

"SMEs will bear the brunt of the Climate Change Levy unless they become more energy efficient," said British Gas business manager Mr Adam Taylor. "Our research has shown that SMEs do not intend to invest heavily in new, efficient technology. We have developed a good pracrice guide for customers detailing a range of simple energy management tips that require no cost and minimal time investment.

"I am confident that SMEs which follow these simple guidelines will find they benefit from lower costs."

The Government-funded Energy Efficiency Best Practice Programme estimates that the average SME can save as much as 20 per cent off their energy bills by the implementation of techniques at no or little cost.

A website has more information on the Climate Change Levy and energy efficiency.

Take a look at the site...