The Carbon Trust has seen a record uptake for its unsecured interest-free loans for energy-saving investments in the last three months, after funding from banks dried up and the Trust relaxed its lending criteria.

The Cavan Bakery in Hampton, Middlesex, managed to cut 75% from its energy bill after participating in the scheme, by replacing its 60-year-old ovens with an energy-efficient four-deck Bongard oven, following a £32,000 loan from the Trust.

"The economic downturn has made it more difficult for small businesses to invest in energy efficiency, so we have raised the maximum loan to £200,000 and slightly reduced the carbon threshold to borrow that money," explained Carbon Trust chief executive Tom Delay.

"Our options were to carry on as we were until our operating costs outstripped our income - obviously not an option - or replace the inefficient equipment and refurbish our bakeries," said Jeff Greenall, managing director of The Cavan Bakery. "The loan from the Carbon Trust has enabled us to counter the rising energy costs with efficiencies."

Also attending, Liberal Demo-crats treasury spokesman Vince Cable told BB: "There is a real problem of small companies not being able to access funding on reasonable terms. Arrangement fees, security demands and the costs of borrowing are going up - the Carbon Trust scheme should be applauded."