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Half of businesses yet to embrace renewables despite rising costs

Australian small businesses are grappling with rising energy costs and the transition to renewable energy, urging for clearer information and increased support to navigate these challenges.

Recent research by the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia (COSBOA) sheds light on the struggles and opportunities faced by small businesses as they adapt to a changing energy landscape. The “Small Steps. Bright Future” project surveyed over 400 business owners, revealing:

  • Energy Hardship: Small businesses are experiencing financial strain from energy bills at a rate exceeding the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic (34% vs 32%).
  • Financial Concerns: One in five businesses struggle to pay energy bills on time, and nearly half worry about future affordability.
  • Renewable Energy Adoption: Nearly half of businesses haven’t taken steps towards renewable energy or improved energy efficiency. However, those facing higher costs are more motivated to adopt solutions.
  • Transition Barriers: The cost of transitioning to renewable energy is a major hurdle, with 63% finding it financially challenging. Access to funding is also uneven, with only 20% reporting good access.
  • Information Clarity: There’s a demand for better support and information. While 32% found existing resources good, 41% considered them average, and 27% deemed them poor.

COSBOA’s research has identified three distinct segments within the small business community:

  • Fixed (19%) – Highly energy-dependent businesses facing financial strain but with limited resources to transition.
  • Swifts (38%) – Businesses prioritizing energy transition, taking action with access to support.
  • Agiles (43%) – Businesses with lower energy usage and less motivation to transition due to lower hardship.

Luke Achterstraat, CEO of COSBOA said: “Small business is the backbone of the Australian economy, so it’s vital they are given support to deal with energy hardship and the challenges associated with energy transition. This research gives us the chance to get this right.  If we can design the right support and services now, we can make a huge difference to how small business navigate this major change and challenge. Small business is getting smashed by rising energy costs, with financial strain higher now than during the COVID shutdowns. 

“Cost of living pressures and other compounding factors like high interest rates are causing huge financial stress to the small business sector. The time for action to help small business is now. This is a major piece of research – with over 400 small business owners and operators participating in the work. It gives us an incredibly informed body of evidence about the challenges of the energy transition and how best to help small business navigate it.  

“There is interest and appetite among small business to make the energy transition. We’ve already got innovation and adaptation underway, but a lot of small businesses are also constrained in their efforts to make the change. This research gives us the evidence we need to help.  Its clear that how information and support is provided to small businesses – but also the quality and credibility of that information and support – can be improved. Getting these elements and the right settings in place now sets us up for a bright future.”

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Yajush Gupta

Yajush Gupta

Yajush is a journalist at Dynamic Business. He previously worked with Reuters as a business correspondent and holds a postgrad degree in print journalism.

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