Time to start a clean energy movement in UK property, by Jon Fletcher, managing director at Big Clean Switch

by Johnny Clayton on Friday, 5 July 2019

This week has seen the first ever London Climate Action Week. It follows hot on the heels of the UK Parliament declaring a national climate emergency in May, and offers a chance to look at the role the property sector must play in slashing carbon emissions. Last week, we launched a new report that looked specifically at renewable energy use in UK property titled ‘Going 100%: How landlords hold the key to corporate renewable energy targets’.

Our research engaged sustainability, energy and environmental managers at major organisations including PwC, Nando’s and ITV. We discovered that 80% of those surveyed are being prevented from switching to clean energy due to a lack of engagement between landlords and tenants.

The Big Clean Switch report, created with edie, in association with the Climate Group’s RE100 initiative, surveyed 74 companies, almost half of which consume over 1GWh of electricity every year. Many have corporate commitments to moving to 100% renewable energy sources for their electricity, and three quarters rent some of their properties. 

Only 26% of businesses we spoke to source 100% of their electricity from renewables. Whether businesses are trying to switch to a renewable tariff, or install on-site generation, sub-metering or EV charging facilities, poor engagement between landlords and tenants is acting as a brake on progress. And, with over half of the UK’s commercial real estate made up of leased property, this lack of engagement has real potential to impact on the UK’s ability to meet its carbon targets.

Action is needed on both sides of the equation. Tenants must be much more proactive in communicating their needs to landlords. Indeed, 60% of the businesses we spoke to said they’d commit to being part of a movement to educate, encourage and inspire more landlords and managing agents to switch to renewable energy. Landlords and managing agents therefore need to put in place systems and processes to make it easy for occupiers to take action on energy. And finally, education is needed to overcome common misconceptions about cost and demand for clean energy. 

At Big Clean Switch, we help businesses to deliver on their renewable energy commitments, working with them to understand their energy use and make the switch to cleaner power. I see every day how the forward-thinking companies we work with are reaping the business benefits from climate action: reduced risk, affordable energy bills, and long-term competitiveness. 

We’re ready to help drive change, providing the advice and facilitation necessary to roll out clean energy across rented property in the UK.

Of course, making it happen will rely on support from the industry itself and we’re delighted that the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has pledged its support. Its members are the very people who cost, plan and manage the delivery of clean energy solutions, and indeed some play their hand in creating them too.

The younger generation will be instrumental too and so I’m delighted to have been asked to write a guest blog for YEP Global. In our experience, younger people are more vocal on climate change, the potential impact on their futures and the need for change. As young professionals and future leaders in the property industry, which accounts for 40% of the UK’s GHG emissions, YEP has the potential to spread the word and allow the voice of the next generation to be heard.

The case for action on climate change has never been clearer. If we are to keep to a world of no more than 1.5˚C warming, the question is not if, but how fast, we can slash greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). Now is the time for change. 

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