Small businesses give thumbs up to renewable energy, new report finds

A significant majority of small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) want their energy supplier to be more committed to renewable energy, according to a new report.

The report, commissioned by UK-based electricity company Haven Power – part of the Drax Group, revealed that while 72% say they would like energy suppliers to be more committed to renewables, only 11% would rate their current energy supplier as excellent when it comes to renewable energy support and options.

Much of the energy supply sector is failing to meet SMEs’ demand for more renewable energy and this comes against a general backdrop of high dissatisfaction with suppliers amongst SMEs:

  • As many as 73% of SMEs label value for money as a main priority (this increases to 94% for SMEs with between 5-25 employees), and yet just 23% believe they are receiving an excellent deal. Although, in theory, they can shop around to get better deals, the reality is that few actually switch to a new supplier.
  • Almost three quarters of SMEs (71%) agree that it should be simpler to switch supplier. But the scale of the difficulty in switching is clear to see and could be the reason that one in five (21%) of those who tried to switch didn’t end up with a new supplier.
  • The third factor that is likely to stimulate a switch (after price and service) is the offer of renewable electricity. In fact, more than one in five (22%) told researchers that they would stay late at work to switch suppliers if they could purchase a completely clean energy product. For the largest-sized SMEs (101-250 employees), this rises further to 28%.
  • In addition, over a quarter (26%) cite that support in being more energy efficient is something that they look for in an energy supplier.

Jonathan Kini, chief executive of Haven Power, said: “That so many SMEs are dissatisfied with their existing energy supplier is perhaps unsurprising, but the sheer scale of the discontent revealed in this report remains shocking.

“SMEs want more from their supplier and a commitment to renewable energy is one of the demands they are pushing for. This suggests there is some fundamental change happening, and we in the energy sector need to respond to it by not only helping SMEs reduce their energy usage but also being able to supply 100% renewable energy.

“The fact that only 21% of respondents believe their supplier is completely committed to renewable energy and almost a third saying their supplier is either not very committed or they are not sure they have a renewable option shows a huge gap in the market for those with a different offer.”

The report comes as Haven Power launches a new initiative in the Suffolk area, around its headquarters in Ipswich, to help SMEs switch to more renewable energy and become more sustainable. Haven Power’s view of sustainability is rational and practical, and includes not only how power is generated but also how it is used.

Suffolk has taken the lead in driving renewable energy usage following the formation of the Creating the Greenest County Partnership in 2007, according to Haven Power.

Cutting costs and being more resilient

Many businesses in the area have already chosen to take advantage of the 100% renewable electricity product from Haven Power, but it is still a small proportion of their total customer base. The new initiative, initially aimed exclusively at SMEs in the Suffolk region, will give businesses the chance to:

  • Take advantage of Haven Power’s 100% renewable electricity product
  • Receive an energy audit by a specialist, local third party organisation (Business Energy Efficiency Anglia), to identify ways to reduce energy usage and become more sustainable
  • Register with the Carbon charter (worth £550), free of charge
  • Access grant funding to make improvements identified in the energy audit

Councillor Matthew Hicks, Cabinet Member for Environment and Public Protection at Suffolk County Council, said: “Suffolk County Council are leading the three-year Business Energy Efficiency (BEE) Anglia project, because the support and guidance it provides is a real benefit to local businesses -helping them to cut costs and be more resilient to changing energy prices. 

“Across the county people are doing their bit to help Suffolk become the greenest area in the UK. Our partnership with Haven Power means that its customers will be fully empowered to go green, become more energy efficient and to save money by reducing their energy use.”

One of the reasons Ipswich was chosen as the first area of the UK to benefit from this new initiative is the high number of digital businesses in the area. Ipswich was a new entry in the 2016 Tech Nation report this year, showing that turnover of digital firms in and around the area grew by 24% between 2010 and 2014, with the sector now employing nearly 10,000 people.

The report shows that digital businesses are particularly eager to switch to a more renewable energy supply, with 80% agreeing or strongly agreeing that they would like their energy supplier to support renewable energy. And yet in this sector, not a single respondent said they received support from their supplier when it comes to using renewable energy.

Kini added: “This research is something of a wake-up call to many in the energy supply sector. It tells us what SMEs want in terms of renewable energy options, and what they expect from their supplier to help them achieve their goals of greener energy and lower usage. This is the Haven Power offer that we’re rolling out.”

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