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.”