Illawarra businesses want the transition to net zero to progress, but are finding the cost of energy is the fastest growing impact on their operations.
Wollongong publican George Poulos said when he recently renewed the contract with his electricity provider, his rates tripled, but he avoided a much worse outcome.
"I had a phone call from my supplier and he said, you better lock in because the rates are going to go up more, they are going to go up like five times," the Dicey Riley's publican said.
"It was scary; you think 'I better jump on now.'"
Running a pub is an energy intensive business, with not only lighting throughout the venue, but fridges and cool rooms thirsty for power and heating in winter and air conditioning in summer adding to the power bill.
Mr Poulos said while he had considered installing solar, the age of the roof meant that a significant retrofit would be required, making the upgrade uneconomical.
For North Wollongong distillery Headlands Distilling, a 50 per cent jump in their power bills forced immediate action.
Director Jared Smith said the business was fortunate to own its own premises and able to install solar panels on the roof of their warehouse.
"It seemed like it was going to be a three year payback period," he said.
"That made absolute sense; to invest in solar and save money after three years
Fellow publican Ryan Aitchison of the Illawarra Hotel was able to take advantage of a power purchasing agreement arranged by the Australian Hotels Association on behalf of pubs across NSW and the ACT.
The power, sourced from the Silverleaf Solar Farm at Narrabri, has been able to keep the lights on for less at the Illawarra, but Mr Aitchison said he was aware that not all pubs were in the same position as him.
"The cost structures are really crippling the hospitality industry at the moment," he said.
Business Illawarra executive director Adam Zarth said there was widespread support for net zero, but additional energy costs would be a significant burden.
"The majority of businesses tell us that they want to transition to a net zero future, so we need to have a solid plan which considers all the options and actively accelerates delivery of reliable and affordable greener power," he said.
"Businesses want governments to find solutions to these challenges that do not entail adding extra costs to consumers' bills."
Mr Zarth said the NSW government needed to ensure that energy consumers don't foot the bill for the life extension of the Eraring power plant.
Across the Illawarra, businesses were more positive in the latest survey, with a peak in interest rates and a softening of inflation spurring confidence.
The Business confidence index rose to -67.3 from -78, with business leaders less pessimistic, with predictions of the score to rise to -46.9 in the next quarter. A score of 0 indicates respondents are neutral about the next three months. However, Mr Zarth said businesses were not out of the woods yet.
"While worries about interest rates are subsiding, consumers' reluctance to spend remains a key risk to the business outlook."
With electricity prices expected to stay at their current elevated levels until 2024 at the earliest, in lieu of direct price relief Mr Smith said governments could do more to ensure that those who are able to install solar to get more bang for their buck.
"They could mandate that the electricity companies pay us the rate they're charging us," he said.
Those with solar often get paid a much lower rate for electricity they put into the grid, than for when they take it out. In the case of Headlands, it's six times less.
"A policy where the feed in rate on your solar panels is equal to the rate they charge you would be pretty nice."
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.