Nearly one in three (29%) small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in the UK are concerned about energy prices rising, according to research for Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS).

Research by the charity of SMEs across the UK from YouGov found that just under a third (29%) of SME decision makers were worried about the possibility of their energy costs rising.This rose to more than half (58%) for hospitality and leisure businesses.The findings are published today in a new report from CAS, which warns that progress towards net zero might stall if small business are not given more support to improve their energy efficiency.The research found that almost half of SMEs in the UK had taken at least one step towards decarbonisation, and CAS said more work should be done by government and regulators to help business transition.The Scottish Government’s draft Heat in Building Strategy estimates that 50,000 non-domestic buildings will need to adopt low or zero carbon heating by 2030.Scottish SMEs, who will need to meet these ambitious targets, were slightly more likely than SMEs in other parts of the UK to indicate a need for advice and support to get started on decarbonisation.CAS is making a series of recommendations, including:

  • Regulators should conduct more research to interrogate low rates of switching
  • A targeted, collaborative campaign to help SMEs understand their contribution to meeting Scotland’s climate targets, and where to access advice, support, and funding could increase confidence and encourage early action on decarbonisation
  • Targeting advice and funding by business size, age, and turnover as well as sector to reach SMEs who need it most

CAS Senior Energy Policy Officer Emily Rice said:“Small businesses are the backbone of Scotland’s economy and they have shown a willingness to take the lead in the transition towards reducing emissions, with almost half taking at least one action.“However, after the impact of the Civid-19 pandemic, it’s understandable that small business is concerned about the affordability of further investment in energy efficient measures after such a tough year.“With one in three small business worried about rising energy prices, including more than half of SMEs in hospitality and leisure, we need to ensure business get the support they need to cut emissions and their bills at the same time.“Everyone has a role to play to getting towards net zero emissions – what is essential is that it’s done in a fair way that creates jobs and doesn’t increase costs for people who are struggling to pay.”Andrew McRae, Federation of Small Business Scotland Policy Chair, said:“Local and independent businesses in Scotland have taken on billions of pounds of debt during the Covid crisis. Many of these firms have only recently been permitted to re-open to customers, so it is little wonder that they’re worried about rising overheads including energy bills.“However, we also know that smaller firms want to play their part in tackling the climate crisis. That’s why we agree with CAS that extra help should be provided to help these businesses improve the energy efficiency of their premises. We must also ensure that local operators get a fair share of contracts associated with the transition to a low carbon economy.”

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