Govt penalties mooted for carbon-heavy firms

Under the terms of new Government regulations the UK’s largest law firms could face costly civil and ­criminal proceedings if they fail to report their electricity ­consumption accurately for public scrutiny.

The Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC), which comes into effect from April 2010, will oblige all firms whose electricity consumption is above a certain threshold to report their usage in a bid to reduce the UK’s energy consumption.

Firms will have to ­forecast their consumption and buy allowances at £12 per tonne of carbon dioxide emitted. All businesses will then have their results ­published in a league table.

Nabarro energy partner Tom Bainbridge, who is advising his clients on the CRC, said: “The auditors, the Environment Agency, will do random checks on data and they have pretty wide-ranging powers. There are civil penalties of £40 per tonne of carbon incorrectly reported. If an organisation is fraudulent there will be criminal penalties.”

Firms occupying ­managed premises may try to avoid the potentially ­complex reporting process, but the costs could still be passed down to them by their landlords.

Herbert Smith, for ­example, consumes more than 6,000MW of half-hourly metered electricity, which is the cut-off point for inclusion within the scheme, but it occupies managed premises belonging to British Land.

The firm’s head of ­environment, health and safety Louise Moore said: “We have to ensure that the cost passed through to us is fair and proper and that we’re not wasteful with our energy consumption.”