As part of NICRE’s submission to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Rural Business and the Rural Powerhouse’s Inquiry into the cost of living in rural areas, I interviewed 13 small rural businesses in England about how it and the cost of doing business were affecting them. Importantly, I found that small rural businesses see decarbonisation and cost of living not as separate, but as closely-related, challenges.
Many small rural firms I engaged with were taking energy cost-saving measures that were also decarbonisation measures. These included switching to LED light bulbs, installing timers for the lights, and fitting cavity wall insulation. Some spoke of how they would like to do more, but did not have the necessary resources, or did not have sufficient control over their premises (for example, due to being a tenant). As one interviewee in the skills and education sector, based in Yorkshire, put it: “In order to make big green savings, you have to be in control of your space.”
One business, a social enterprise in Yorkshire, moved to being home-based in order to save on energy costs, and this meant that they had more control over their premises. They told me how this allowed them to ‘not only deal with the cost-of-living crisis, but also to be greener than [we] were’. Therefore, they installed insulation and said they would fit solar panels if they could get a grant to do so. While increased domestic energy bills may encourage some back to the office, more home- or hybrid working means a reduction in transport costs and associated emissions.