Renewable Energy Strategies for Retailers in the UK

Renewable energy is paramount to reducing the carbon footprint of our businesses. And retail is huge in the UK, with over 300,000 businesses, producing 4.9% of the UK’s total economic output in 2022. Renewable energy strategies for retailers in the UK include investing in on-site renewable energy capacity and making buildings energy efficient.

The British Retail Consortium is the trade association for UK retailers and over 200 major retailers are members. They proposed a Climate Action Roadmap in 2020, with a target date to deliver net zero by 2040. The roadmap included five pathways, the second of which was to make sites more energy efficient by using renewable energy. 

The BRC have made clear to the UK Government that solar, wind and water power should be the focus in reducing dependency on fossil fuels. This is rather than nuclear, hydrogen and biofuels. They’ve been lobbying on behalf of retailers for tax changes to increase the investment in low carbon energy solutions. 

“When it comes to reducing carbon emissions across the economy, switching to low carbon energy is one of the most important changes a business can make.”

Deloitte UK

Renewable energy is essential for us to meet the goals of the UK Renewable Energy Strategy. The primary goal is to achieve net zero by 2050. And the secondary goal is 100% zero-carbon generation by 2035 (National Grid). But only 36.1% of the UK’s energy requirements were met by wind, solar and hydroelectric in 2022. So there is some way to go. 

There are multiple ways that retailers can take up renewable energy to meet sustainability objectives. They can install their own on-site renewable energy like solar panels on roofing and wind turbines if space allows. They can purchase renewable energy from suppliers like Octopus Energy. Octopus Energy is certified by Ofgem-approved Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin (“REGO”) certificates and Power Purchase Agreements with green energy producers. 

The BRC pathway also highlights the importance of making sure that retail property is as energy efficient as possible. They recommend a retailer focus on whole-building energy efficiency. This includes monitoring operations and their emissions footprints, and using smart building control systems. If retailers are planning new buildings, they should conduct whole life carbon assessments and build using low carbon design practices. 

Deloitte UK also suggests that building stock is ‘a good place to start’ the switch to renewable energy. As well as using clean energy, buildings should be made airtight, equipped with smart systems to save energy on lighting and heating, and use carbon neutral building materials. 

In addition to meeting sustainability goals, investing in the fabric of the buildings and renewables is smart for business. Thrive Renewables recently upgraded their buildings from energy rating D to A, which will result in cost savings for them over time, particularly at a time when energy prices are high. Their aim is a net zero office. They welcome visits from businesses to see how it works and discuss their services. 

Renewable energy strategies like investing in on-site renewable energy and ensuring that buildings are as efficient as they can be will help retailers to reach their sustainable goals and contribute to the UK’s net zero goals. Blue Patch provides free net zero training for members of the directory.

Annette Clubley

Annette is a keen wildlife conservationist, mindful of sustainability and our impact on the environment. Outside of work, family is her focus and she loves teaching the next generation to enjoy the outdoors.