Why associations should help SMEs reduce energy use

All businesses have a part to play in decarbonising the economy and small businesses (SMEs) have a major role. However, SMEs have unique needs that must be considered and associations are extremely well-placed to help meet those needs. 

Associations are one of the main ways that SMEs receive and exchange information. It’s time for associations to step up and provide more help to members in their quest to better manage their energy use.

SME Energy Consumer Information Research

In 2023, Energy Consumers Australia commissioned research to understand how best to communicate with small businesses about energy and support them on their journey to net zero.

Research included how best to communicate with small businesses on energy. The report, SME Energy Consumer Information Research, revealed that many small business owners don’t have the basic information they need to manage their energy use. It concluded that SMEs need further support to understand the most effective actions they can take to reduce their energy use and bring down their bills.

The report is based on the results of a national survey of 400 small business energy consumers, across 16 sectors. It reveals where SMEs are looking for information on energy, who they trust for information, and what barriers they face to action. Key findings include:

  • 62% of SMEs are concerned with increasing energy costs for their business
  • Just 5% of small business energy consumers have undertaken an energy audit
  • SME energy consumers have the intention to act, they just need assistance to turn that intention into action
SME energy use
The report shows that absence of clear, trusted and practical advice is leaving SMEs lacking the confidence to act and without trust in the energy market. However, the report contains good news that if offered help, many small business owners would take actions.

How associations can help

The ClimateWise Associations program is designed to address the needs of SMEs as members of business associations. We believe associations can and should fulfil the role of trusted advisers on energy management, including decarbonisation. 

These graphs clearly show that associations are rated highly by SMEs as trusted information sources. But also that associations are not currently providing enough of that guidance.

SME energy use
SME energy advice

Associations’ advantage is having true knowledge of their sector and this understanding gives confidence to members, especially SMEs, that decisions are suited to their needs. This applies in energy consumption as much as any other area of business. Each of the 16 sectors surveyed for the report has one or more association that represents members’ interests and has established education programs. The survey shows the clear desire of SMEs to reduce energy consumption. Associations must take the opportunity to guide members in how to do so.

Further ECA research points to three main actions that would support small businesses better manage their energy.

Government assistance

60% of SMEs said that government financial incentives would encourage them to reduce their energy use. ClimateWise Associations’ proposal for government grants to be made to associations would be a cost-effective way to expedite action across sectors. 

Associations that are given financial assistance and incentives become true leaders to transform members’ ability to take real action. 

Read the full report which contains a wealth of practical data and conclusions to help guide action by all stakeholders.

ClimateWise Associations’ proposal

The ClimateWise Associations’ program is designed specifically to promote leadership by associations for members. And ClimateWise Associations’ proposal for government grants to be made to associations would be a cost-effective way to expedite action across sectors.

Read our proposal for more detail and help advocate for this valuable initiative.

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