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Clean energy efforts and climate action by residential consumers and businesses are poised to accelerate despite economic downturn, according to the results of a survey conducted by consulting firm Deloitte.

The study is based on survey data collected from 1,531 residential consumers and 602 business decision-makers.

Key findings in Deloitte’s 2020 Resources Study: Energy Management: Paused by Pandemic, but Poised to Prevail, include:

Nearly 6 in 10 businesses surveyed feel increased pressure to disclose climate risks. Nine in 10 of these businesses have reviewed or changed their disclosure procedures and developed plans to address those risks.

  • Consumer concern about climate change is rising, but looking to others to solve.

At the same, 53% of surveyed residential consumers feel it’s extremely or very important that part of their electricity supply comes from renewable energy.

Sixty-five percent of residential consumers surveyed saw greater renewable energy development boosting the national economy, the highest level since 2014.

Up to 68% of residential consumers surveyed said they were “extremely or very concerned” about climate change and their personal carbon footprint

While the benefits of clean energy are clear, most consumers (80%) surveyed expect others, such as the government and corporations, to address climate change issues. And about a third of respondents expect action from their employers.

  • Millennials are a driving force for corporate sustainability

More than a third of respondents who identified as full- or part-time employees, students, and/or job seekers said it’s extremely or very important to work for a company with sustainability and/or climate-risk goals, and this sentiment rose to nearly 50% among millennials.

Employees are becoming more vocal about climate change, and this may be due to the growing influence of millennials in the workplace.

  • Businesses are feeling increasing stakeholder pressure to address climate risk.

Nearly 60% of businesses surveyed feel increased pressure from stakeholders to develop and disclose plans to demonstrate how they’re addressing climate risk.

The stakeholders seen as most active are employees (49%), followed by board members (42%), customers (41%) and shareholders (37%).

Of those businesses feeling increased pressure, nearly 90% have reviewed or changed their climate-risk disclosure procedures and developed plans to address climate-related risks.

Businesses embarking on renewable energy and energy management programmes are increasing. Sixty-three percent of businesses surveyed have increased emission reduction goals whilst 75% of business respondents said customers are asking them to procure renewable energy.

More than half (51%) of businesses said they’re working to procure more electricity from renewables.

Of the 60% of businesses citing having onsite generation, the highest share of electricity supply was generated with cogeneration (15%) and renewables (13%).

Jim Thomson, vice chairman, US power, utilities and renewables leader, Deloitte Consulting LLP, said: “The preference for cleaner energy sources will likely continue, and given their increasing affordability, usage may continue to grow even during a recession. Sustained strong consumer sentiment and increasing pressure on businesses, coupled with accelerating capital markets’ reward for ESG-minded companies, are positively reinforcing the energy management value proposition for many businesses long term.”

Marlene Motyka, principal, US and global renewable energy leader, Deloitte Transactions and Business Analytics LLP, adds: “If there were any sort of ‘silver lining’ to the disruption created by COVID-19, it may be that it seems to have acted as a clean energy accelerator, which the current recession will likely not deter. Over the last 10 years we’ve seen a shift in energy attitudes, preferences and pressure gradually trend toward greater climate consciousness, but these past several months of isolation seem to have strengthened and propelled that momentum further.”

Read more about the report.