Large numbers of UK firms appear to be unaware that they might be liable for green tax payments due to come into effect next month.
The Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) means that firms of certain sizes must declare their energy use and face charges for every tonne of greenhouse gas they emit.
Under the scheme, businesses that consume more than 6,000 megawatt hours of energy each year, or the equivalent of a power bill of £500,000, must file their consumption by the end of September.
As from April 2011, the affected firms need to purchase a permit for every tonne of carbon dioxide they produce. Any firm consuming 6,000 megawatt hours of energy could be faced with a bill of £38,000.
The purpose of the CRC programme is to promote the reduction of energy use though financial incentives. Companies that register the largest reductions will enjoy bonuses; those that show the poorest records will be hit with penalties.
It is estimated that some 4,000 private businesses and public organisations are covered by the new taxes.
However, only 1,200 have so far signed up to the scheme.
Any qualifying business or organisation that does not meet the registration deadline of 30 September will be fined £5,000. After that, the penalties rise by £500 a day until they reach a ceiling of £45,000.
Smaller firms may also be affected. A further 15,000 organisations are obliged to join the CRC scheme in the event that they are required to buy permits at some stage in the future.
Missing the deadline means that they will be charged a fine of £500. Of these, a half , it is thought, could breach the registration date.
Business groups have criticised the scheme for the lack of publicity surrounding it, with many companies unaware that they need to join or face fines.
A recent survey suggested that as many as 53 per cent of the executives of affected firms had not even heard of the taxes.
Greg Barker, who is energy and climate change minister, conceded: “I understand the original complexity of the scheme may have deterred some organisations and I want to hear suggestions as to how we can make it simpler in the future.”