Page last updated at 10:14 GMT, Sunday, 31 January 2010

New energy rules may end 'on-all-night' shop displays

Shoppers outside lit window
Shop window displays left on at night can use a lot of energy

The era of the 'on-all-night' illuminated high street could end, the Environment Agency is predicting.

The agency says new rules will force businesses to switch off lights and displays at night to meet new limits.

The Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) scheme requires businesses to cut consumption or face stiff fines.

Meanwhile Energy Secretary Ed Miliband has warned that recent rows over scientific data must not damage efforts to control climate change.

From April, all businesses and public sector organisations that use more than a certain amount of energy must register for the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme and, from next year, pay for the carbon they emit.

Passing customers

Major supermarkets and high street chains are some of the biggest consumers of electricity who will be obliged to take part in the mandatory scheme.

As a result, the practice of leaving doors open to attract passing customers or maintaining bright illuminated signs and window displays through the night may end, the agency says.

The scheme is part of the government's attempts to improve energy efficiency to meet the target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 by at least 80% compared to the 1990 baseline.

Tony Grayling, head of climate change and sustainable development at the Environment Agency, said: "The CRC is an opportunity for large businesses and public sector organisations to play their part in reducing dangerous carbon emissions.

"But for businesses the main motivation to cut their energy use will be their bottom line. By cutting energy use businesses stand to benefit from lower energy bills, and could be financially rewarded through the CRC if they perform well in the energy efficiency stakes."

League table

Around 5,000 firms and public sector organisations which use more than 6,000 MWh of electricity - equivalent to an annual bill of around £500,000 - will take part.

After registration this year, they must record their consumption, and from next April, buy allowances for each tonne of carbon they emit.

The agency will also publish an annual league table of the best and worst performers. Those at the top of the league will receive financial rewards, those at the bottom will be fined.

In an interview with the Observer newspaper, Ed Miliband said that recent controversy over the science behind climate change should not undermine the case that the planet's climate is changing.

Earlier this month, the Information Commissioner's Officer ruled that a University of East Anglia unit involved in a row over stolen e-mails on climate research breached rules by withholding data.

In recent days, it also emerged that the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) may have exaggerated claims about the melting of the Himalayan glaciers.

"It's right that there's rigour applied to all reports about about climate change but I think it would be wrong that when a mistake is made it's somehow used to undermine the overwhelming picture that's there," Mr Miliband said.

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