UK firms missing out on renewables revolution
The business benefits of making the switch from fossil fuels to renewables have been made even clearer today (2 March) with a new report revealing that clean electricity adds less than 1% to power bills, drives employee engagement and wins new customers.
The Business and the Renewables Revolution report, from independent green energy supplier SmartestEnergy, combines the findings of numerous other recent reports and investigations into renewable energy usage within the private sector, concluding that “a rapid shift to low-carbon electricity is essential”.
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“Smart companies should rethink their energy supply and understand the benefits that switching to renewables can bring to their business, to the economy, and to tackling the global threat of climate change,” said SmartestEnergy chief executive Robert Groves.
As well as being “a big way for companies to make reductions in their carbon footprint”, the report highlights three other business benefits of making the switch to renewables. SmartestEnergy says the use of renewable energy can build investor confidence – citing the recent £352bn coalition of investors, including Aviva, that was established to encourage businesses to commit to 100% renewables.
The switch can also form the centrepiece of an energy-saving programme, with the researchers using data from the Carbon Trust to show that organisations can save up to 10% on energy costs by investing 1-2% of energy spend on an effective employee engagement campaign.
And the switch can help win customers – SmartestEnergy again cites a Carbon Trust report which found that almost four in five consumers are more likely to buy from a consumer brand with a positive approach to sustainability, while two thirds would recommend a brand because it either invested in its own renewable energy projects or bought most of its energy from renewable sources.
However, SmartestEnergy claims that too many companies have “still not woken up to the opportunities of renewable power”. While 74% of the UK’s 100 biggest companies have set carbon-cutting targets, the report cites separate data from consultancy Carbon Clear which found that just 38% of the FTSE 100 firms purchased renewable electricity last year.
“They risk damaging their brand at a time when there are increasing expectations that business should play an active role in finding solutions to climate change,” the report states. It cites a report from the Aldersgate Group which found that confusion over buying renewable electricity, due to a lack of clear labelling of the carbon content, “has held business back”.
Writing in the report’s foreword, EY’s executive director of energy optimisation Richard Tarboton – who was part of the team that produced the aforementioned Aldersgate Group report – said: “Companies want to do the right thing but need clear solutions. Energy labelling, coupled with a greater awareness of the low cost and business benefits of renewable power, are set to take it mainstream. And the greater the demand from business the more we will see investment flow from fossil fuel generators to low-carbon renewables.”
In response to this business demand, SmartestEnergy has developed a suite of 100% renewable products with the UK’s first energy labels clearly stating the source and carbon content of electricity.
The renewable energy revolution taking place within the private sector has been epitomised by The Climate Group’s RE100 programme, which showcases companies that have committed to using 100% renewables. Fifty four companies have now signed up to RE100 since it was launched in 2014.
The Climate Group has previously calculated that if the world’s top 1,000 companies all switched to 100% renewable electricity, global carbon emissions would fall by more than 3%. If the entire global private sector followed, emissions would drop by nearly 15%.