Retailers should brace themselves for a substantial hike in fuel bills unless they become more energy efficient, the government's controversial Energy White Paper warned last week.
The UK's own natural energy resources were in decline, said trade and industry secretary Alistair Darling, and it would not be long before we became entirely dependent on imported fuels, an event which will cause the cost of energy to rocket.
"By 2020 about 80% of our fuels are likely to come from overseas. Businesses could face higher and more volatile energy prices because of higher demand and less efficient methods of production and transportation," he said.
The UK would also be more vulnerable to the impact of overseas disruptions to energy supplies caused by international disputes, accidents or
terrorism, as supply routes become longer and cross more borders, he added.
The White Paper sets out a number of new plans to help retailers become more energy aware, including the requirement for all small businesses to install Smart Meters, with real- time displays, within 10 years.
However, convenience stores and other small businesses will be exempt from a mandatory Carbon Reduction Commitment, set to come into force in early 2009.
All businesses with annual energy bills above £500,000 a year, including supermarkets and other large retailers, will be forced to reduce their carbon emissions.
Darling urged businesses to invest in more renewable forms of energy such as wind and solar power. It has set a target to triple the amount of electricity derived from renewable sources by 2015.