Small businesses will play a major role in decarbonising the economy. However, they have unique needs that must be considered. It cannot be assumed that their timelines, decision making processes, and pathways to reach this goal will be the same as households.
We commissioned two pieces of research to understand how best to communicate with small businesses about energy and support them on their journey to net zero.
1) SME Energy Consumer Information Research
We commissioned the Insight Centre to discover how best to communicate with small businesses regarding energy. We learnt that that many small business owners don’t have the basic information they need to manage their energy use.
Small businesses need further support to understand the ‘best bang for buck’ actions they can take to reduce their energy use and bring down their bills.
The absence of clear, trusted and practical advice is leaving SMEs lacking the confidence to act and without trust in the energy market. However, the good news is that if offered help, many small business owners would take actions.
There is an evident need for clear, relevant communications on the high impact steps small business owners can take to reduce their energy use and costs.
This report is based on the results of a national survey of 400 small business energy consumers and complements research that was conducted into communicating about energy with households. The findings reveal where SMEs are looking for information on energy, who they trust for information, and what barriers they face to action.
The following key findings emerged:
- 62% of SMEs are concerned with increasing energy costs for their business.
- Only half (53%) of small businesses have actively searched for information that may help them bring down their energy bills or reduce their energy use.
- The majority (69%) of SMEs didn’t recall hearing or seeing any media or communications on how to reduce their energy use in the past 12 months.
- Just 5% of small business energy consumers have undertaken an energy audit.
- 60% of SMEs said that government financial incentives would encourage them to reduce their energy use.
- Many SME consumers will need significant coordinated help to navigate the energy transition
- SME energy consumers have the intention to act, they just need assistance to turn that intention into action.
2) Power over their Power
Energy Consumers Australia commissioned Small Biz Matters to conduct research into how small business engages with the energy sector and how those who support SMEs (advisors, industry associations, peak bodies and business leaders) advocate for small business in the policy space.
After conducting 30 research interviews, four main barriers emerged that all small businesses share when it comes to decarbonising, engaging in and benefiting from government energy policies:
- CHOICE: Small businesses have less control over their energy choices than many households
- COST: The cost of doing business is tightening business profits
- TIME: Small businesses face time constraints when making significant changes
- ACCESS TO INFORMATION: There is a lack of suitable information for small businesses.
Put simply, small businesses need power over their power.
The report found three main actions to support small businesses better manage their energy:
- Businesses need the right information, at the right time, from trusted sources. Governments should develop clear advice and tailored, relatable communications that take account of the diversity within the small business community and are delivered through trusted pathways.
- Regulatory frameworks should consider the diversity of small businesses. Governments should develop fit for purpose regulation working with small business representative bodies, particularly in the areas of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) matters, embedded networks, and commercial leasing regulations.
- Governments should provide appropriate options of practical financial assistance for small businesses to transition their energy use which considers the different needs of the small business sector.