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One in three SMEs investing in EV infrastructure in the next year, says NatWest

A further 20% of SMEs planning to invest in EVs by 2023, bringing the total to 35%. Image: Getty.

A further 20% of SMEs planning to invest in EVs by 2023, bringing the total to 35%. Image: Getty.

New research from NatWest’s Sustainable Business Tracker has found that one in three small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are planning to invest in electric vehicles (EVs) or chargepoints in the next year.

Around 15% of those surveyed by the banking giant said that they had already invested in EV infrastructure, including electric car fleets or charging points. This number is expected to more than double in the next year, with a further 20% of SMEs planning to invest in this area by 2023.

Currently, just 7% of SMEs surveyed have invested in onsite generation however, although this figure is expected to more than double over the next year, with 20% of companies surveyed planning to invest by 2023.

As such, around one in six SMEs (17%) are planning to generate their own electricity onsite by next year. This will predominantly be from solar and storage, according to NatWest, as companies look to protect their businesses against energy price rises.

The figures come as strong recovery is being seen in business activity for SMEs, although there is concern around rising inflation rates and the challenges of absorbing the costs of sustainability improvements.

“It’s great news that SMEs have recognised that sustainability measures can boost their recovery, fuel their growth and future proof their business,” said Andrew Harrison, head of Business Banking at NatWest Group.

“Energy prices and global supply chain pressure are leading companies to look for ways to increase efficiency, lower energy bills and invest in employees with green knowledge.”

The NatWest Sustainable Business Tracker also found that currently only 13% of SMEs have secured a renewable energy supplier, but an additional 10% plan to do so over the next year.

Additional investment in sustainability over the next year by SMEs is dominated by training or hiring staff in the sector, with 21% saying they are targeting the area in comparison to 44% of larger firms.

“NatWest’s Springboard to Sustainability report, published in October 2021, found that 50% of the UK’s carbon reduction ambition can be delivered by the SME sector,” added Harrison.

“This could also unlock a £160 billion opportunity for them. Sustainability, recovery and growth go hand-in-hand and SMEs need to be supported to know how to make the most of the opportunities that lie ahead.”

NatWest itself has made a number of key investments in the green energy space in recent years, including partnering with Octopus Energy to offer EV charger financing to all of the latter’s personal, business and wealth customers and completing a financing deal with storage and flexible generation company Statera Energy to support eight new projects in the UK in 2021.

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