One in five businesses forced to de-prioritise net-zero delivery as energy price crisis bites, edie survey finds

New PwC survey underscores the tangible impact of escalating energy expenses on businesses.

The finding is a headline takeaway from edie’s latest Net-Zero Business Barometer, which was published late last week in partnership with Inspired Energy PLC. It summarises the results of an exclusive survey conducted online which ran through September and early October 2022.

Click here to download your copy of the Barometer report.

With wholesale energy prices still sky-high, several of the questions posed to survey respondents concerned how the current economic situation in the UK is impacting net-zero ambitions and practicalities in delivering key initiatives.

We found that the significant majority of respondents – 75% – believe that the energy price crisis has had at least a ‘moderate’ impact on their employer’s ability to develop and deliver strategies on reducing emissions. For some, the impact was that the price crisis is an accelerator, with organisations choosing to speed up efforts relating to efficiency and clean energy procurement. For others, the impact is that there simply is not enough cashflow or resource to deliver commitments.

One-fifth of respondents either agreed or strongly agreed that their organisation is being forced to de-prioritise work relating to the net-zero transition. Additionally, 11% said their organisation is more likely to miss its decarbonisation goals as a result of cost squeezes.

Yet 24% of respondents said their organisation is going further and faster to decarbonise due to the energy price crisis. Six in 10 said their organisation has “heightened” work on energy efficiency, while more than half (56%) said their employer is installing or exploring decentralized energy generation. Both of these steps can help reduce the amount of gas and gas-fired electricity that an organisation consumes, thus cutting costs and carbon.

The majority of respondents also said that their organisation is likely to invest in behaviour change for sustainability in the next 12 months. This can be a cost-effective step. 49% said this is either a ‘high’ priority or a ‘business-critical’ priority. Only 5% said it was not a priority at all.

Policy context

The Net-Zero Business Barometer also put questions to respondents to garner their opinion on the UK Government’s approach to the net-zero transition.

Concerningly, three-quarters of respondents do not believe that the legally binding 2050 net-zero carbon target will be met. The survey was conducted during Liz Truss’s premiership, and 96% of respondents said they were not confident that her plans would adequately respond to the energy crisis or accelerate progress towards net-zero.

We also asked respondents which green policy issues they would like the new Government to prioritise. The most popular answer was providing more support for renewable energy generation, which was ranked as a top-three priority by two-thirds of respondents.

Making the overarching Net-Zero Strategy ‘lawful’, after the High Court ruled this summer that it was not adequate, was chosen by 59%. Closely behind, chosen by 56% of respondents, was the need for more support for improving energy efficiency.

Inspired Energy Plc’s head of net-zero services Kristina Beadle commented: “Net-zero has quickly become the sustainability buzzword, howeverfor a phrase so well used it is often surprisingly misunderstood… This confusion is understandable when the UK Government itself has not published a clear definition of how to achieve their net-zero target.”

Click here to download your copy of the Barometer report.

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