UK energy survey shows businesses prioritise sustainability

A new national energy survey shows that more UK businesses are making sustainability a priority ahead of price.

The Smart Energy B2B survey, conducted by PwC for trade body Energy UK shows rapidly shifting attitudes in business compared to the last survey in 2017 with environmental sustainability a key factor influencing energy investment choices.

As companies widen their energy-strategy horizons, a third of commercial businesses cite sustainability as a top priority for smart energy strategy compared with just a fifth two years ago, beating energy prices that in 2017 were the main factor in 27% of companies polled.

These commercial businesses are driving the move to a wider social and environmentally responsible outlook in energy choices. Overall, just 21% of smart energy-investment decisions are made simply to reduce energy costs.

Businesses with an energy strategy are most concerned about environmental and sustainability issues (33%) than energy prices (27%), while 47% plan to invest in renewable generation, with 40% of these expecting to invest over £500k.

The big change in attitudes is underlined by the fact that in 2017 46% of companies ranked energy prices as the main focus and only 20% said the environment was a key concern.

Business change and trust

PwC surveyed more than 500 UK businesses, from the smallest energy consumers to the largest industrial manufacturers, asking questions on energy investment choices, investment intentions, relationships with energy suppliers, who businesses trust, and all the main factors driving decisions.

Other transformational highlights are:

  • 71% of businesses have an energy strategy in 2019, up from 65% in 2017
  • Just a third of industrial businesses expect to be fully reliant on the grid for all their supply within five years
  • 27% of companies switched energy supplier because they were offered an innovative product or hardware.


The survey advises :

“Across the country, [businesses] are becoming more sophisticated in respect to their energy choices and with more businesses than ever becoming engaged, a growing opportunity exists for companies aiming to supply, install, maintain or optimize the energy technologies that they are employing to execute their strategies.”


Industrial sector snapshots

It is in the industrial sector, though, that the poll finds a mix of attitudes with some still focusing on price while others look to environmental concerns. Even so, 46% of these businesses plan to invest in renewable generation.

As the heaviest energy users, it is not too surprising that they are the leading adopters of new technology with nearly half (48%) investing in monitoring hardware for energy consumption with 91% saying it has improved business operations.

Smaller companies more traditional

SMEs polled are more focused on energy price, expressing concerns about rising costs and the effect on the business, with 42% basing investment decisions on reducing energy costs.

But of those with a written energy strategy, 42% target renewable energy sources, which can feature higher prices.

The SMEs surveyed currently plan cost containment through investment in energy consumption monitoring, smart lighting and EV charging.

Local authority challenges

Local authorities polled were the most price-sensitive grouping in the survey, with 87% most worried about rising energy prices or rising energy taxes and levies over the next two years.

Among the larger authorities, 53% base their investment decisions on reducing energy costs, up from 43% in 2017.

At the same time, the need to act responsibly is driving adoption of energy-efficient and environmentally beneficial technology like electric vehicle, with  67% of large local authorities investing in EV charge points.

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