The Co-operative Group, one of the 37 companies working with IGD to cut travel miles in the grocery industry, has written to energy minister Malcolm Wicks asking for the Energy Bill to be amended.

The letter, seen exclusively by The Grocer, reflects growing concern among retailers that it will take financial incentives and government support - not just collaboration - if the grocery trade is to tackle climate change.

Announcing that 16 million travel miles had been saved in the first year of IGD's groundbreaking collaboration initiative, which involves 37 leading multiple retailers and grocery manufacturers, an IGD poll revealed 38% of companies thought financial incentives should be offered to drive forward sustainable distribution and 17% thought the government should be the main driving force. Only 8% thought the government ought not to be involved.

In its letter the Co-operative Group asked for the Energy Bill to include a financial reward for generating renewable electricity, which could then to sold to the national grid.

"If we want businesses to tackle climate change by investing in clean technologies such as solar panels, then they must get a guaranteed premium payment for all the renewable energy they generate," said Colin Baines, ethics adviser at The Co-operative Group. "Feed-in tariffs have already proven successful in Germany, which has achieved solar power levels 200 times that of the UK."

The Co-operative Group, which was voted Green Retailer of the Year at The Grocer Gold Awards last week, recently completed the UK's largest-ever solar-panel installation utilising more than 7,000 panels on the 25-storey Co-operative Insurance tower in Manchester.

IGD aims to double the 16 million travel miles saved this year with a target of 48 million travel miles over a two-year period. This is equivalent to 23 million litres of diesel, £27m in fuel costs or removing 800 lorries from the roads, it was announced at the conference.

Jonathan Fenton-Jones of Gazeley, which builds distribution centres, said: "If we are really going to achieve optimal sustainability targets then the government has got to play a much more meaningful role in setting the agenda and allowing business to achieve it."

About a third of the total CO2 saving has been achieved by companies collaborating to carry cargo for each other when their lorries would otherwise be returning empty from drop-offs. One collaboration between Tesco and Unilever has saved 500,000 miles.

Other simple but effective schemes include buying more fuel-efficient vehicles, training drivers to use less fuel, fitting more goods on to lorries and planning routes more effectively.

"We have to find new solutions to the problem - it's not going to go away," said Gavin Chappell, supply chain director at Alliance Boots.

A Marks & Spencer spokesperson said its recycling rates were limited by local authorities' facilities, while Asda said a ban on night-time deliveries forced it to put trucks on the road at peak periods, lessening fuel efficiency and increasing congestion.