A majority of Australians say they would reward big businesses if they made the switch to renewable energy, according to new research by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).
Less than half (46 per cent) of the major Australian companies surveyed are actively procuring renewable energy, the report found, while four out of five Australians believe businesses should be using it.
The Business of Renewables report, launched this week by ARENA and the Clean Energy Council, was commissioned to understand why Australian businesses appear to be falling behind their global peers in making the switch to renewable energy, and to help business leaders to drive change.
More than 90 of Australia’s largest public and private companies were surveyed to find out whether Australia’s biggest businesses are embracing renewable energy, what’s holding them back or propelling them forward, and their plans for the future.
Just under half (46 per cent) of Australian companies are actively procuring renewable energy, but for most of these companies renewable energy accounts for 10 per cent or less of their energy use.
ARENA chief executive officer Ivor Frischknecht said Australian companies could benefit greatly from adopting renewable energy.
“The benefit for big business is substantial. Consumers are more likely to reward companies that take the plunge with greater loyalty and higher tolerance of price fluctuations that may come with renewable energy procurement,” Mr Frischknecht said.
“Using renewables helps create a positive impression of a business.
“If companies stand on the sidelines for too long, they risk falling behind their competitors in terms of saving on energy costs, reaching sustainability targets and meeting changing customer expectations.”
According to the study, Australian companies are falling behind their global peers with seven of the world’s largest companies planning to be 100 per cent powered by renewable energy in the long-term.
In the US, nearly two-thirds of Fortune 100 and nearly half of Fortune 500 companies have set ambitious renewable energy or sustainability targets.
A number of Australian companies are leading the way in renewable energy, including Telstra, which recently announced a deal to build a 70MW solar farm, and zinc refiner Sun Metals, which is building a 116MW solar farm in Queensland.
However, the report highlights a widening gap between those businesses that are going renewable, and those that aren’t.
While most companies not using renewables had no plans to, those that were already using renewables plan to use more.
Based on this data, it is estimated corporate investment in renewable energy could total $439,910 million in the next 18 months, with solar PV being the priority.
The findings also suggest there is confusion and misconceptions about the cost and benefits of renewable energy among Australia’s business leaders.
Many Australian businesses also appear to be out of step with the attitudes of consumers.
Most companies surveyed (57 per cent) believed their customers had no expectation around renewable energy.
However, an IPSOS poll of over 1000 Australians commissioned by ARENA found 80 per cent of Australians believe big business should be using renewable energy.
More than three quarters (76 per cent) of Australians would choose a product or service made with renewable energy over a comparable one that wasn’t.
Four of ten indicated they would be willing to pay a premium.
Clean Energy Council chief executive Kane Thornton said there was a strong business case for investing in renewable energy.
“With the cost of renewable energy falling so rapidly this decade and public support so strong, investing in clean energy is really a win-win for Australian businesses,” he said.
“The business sector is starting to switch on to the fact that the smart money is now in renewables as a way to address rising and volatile power prices.”