Occupiers face fines if they fail to register for the Government's new Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme by 30 September, according to Bill Chandler, legal director at Hill Dickinson Solicitors.
The emissions trading scheme was introduced in April to reduce the carbon footprint of UK businesses and other organisations.
Any businesses that got their electricity through a 'half-hourly meter' in 2008 need to take action by 30 September, although sole traders are exempt. If they cannot tell from their bills whether any particular meter is a half-hourly meter, their electricity supplier can confirm their position.
Chandler explained: "Businesses and groups of companies need to register as full scheme participants if they consumed 6,000 Megawatt Hours through such meters in 2008, but action is not only required from large businesses. Any business that had even a single half-hourly meter in 2008 must make an 'information disclosure' by 30 September; this will affect many small and medium-sized businesses."
Fines start at £5,000 for failure to register as a full participant, increasing by £500 every day, and £500 per meter for failing to make an information disclosure.
Chandler continued: "The Government initially estimated that 5,000 organisations would need to register as full participants, with a further 20,000 organisations making an information disclosure. Those estimates are now thought to be excessive however. With less than two weeks until the registration deadline the latest figures released by the Environment Agency revealed less than 2,000 full participants and just over 6,000 information disclosures."
Many of the region's biggest public sector organisations have already registered as full participants, including Liverpool City Council, Manchester City Council and Lancashire County Council, Merseyside Police, Greater Manchester Police Authority and Lancashire Constabulary, most of the major universities, NHS Trusts including Alder Hey, the Christie and the Countess of Chester and Merseytravel.
Chandler added: "Only a handful of businesses in the North West region are on the latest list however. Many businesses are either leaving it to the last minute or they will be facing potential penalties when 1 October arrives. Too many businesses still do not realise that the scheme affects them."