Gary Brandwood, director of energy saving experts Perfect Sense Energy, talks to us about the inspiration behind his business and how people’s approach to energy is changing.
Gary Brandwood started out business providing solar PV services when the UK solar market was still in its infancy. Now celebrating its 10-year anniversary, Perfect Sense Energy has grown into a thriving business with a broad range of services to help organisations buy better, use less and generate their own energy.
Gary was also one of the first members of GC Business Growth Hub’s Low Carbon Network. He is currently working with green tech advisor Daniel Dickinson to continue raising his profile in Greater Manchester’s green economy.
What inspired you to set up Perfect Sense Energy?
Before I formed Perfect Sense Energy in 2010 I’d worked in finance for 10 years. I was made redundant after the financial crash in 2009 and decided to try something new. I’d always been interested in green energy, and when the government launched its Feed in Tariff subsidy scheme to kickstart the UK solar market in 2010, there was nothing better at the time for someone to invest in. No one could offer the kind of return on investment that solar offered without huge risk, so I combined my financial brain with my environmental interests and started selling domestic solar PV systems. I’ve never looked back since!
What services do you offer?
We help businesses to buy better, use less and generate their own energy. The ‘use less’ side of our business involves a holistic, no-cost energy opportunities survey where we identify areas of energy wastage and spot ways for clients to reduce their demand through energy saving technologies like LED lighting. Once the ‘quick win’ efficiencies have been dealt with, we then look at ways customers can generate their own clean energy, primarily through solar PV.
We also help customers to ‘buy better’ by searching the electricity market for the best possible supply contracts. We launched this as an added value in-house service in 2019 after finding that a number of our customers were paying far too much for their energy.
What is the most common energy solution you recommend to clients?
Our primary recommendation for clients is usually LED lighting and intelligent lighting controls. It’s one of the most cost-effective ways to save energy, typically paying back within 18-36 months. Other energy solutions we recommend include far infrared heating, which warms people and objects rather than the air, and voltage optimisation or power factor correction to reduce voltage levels in buildings.
Commercial solar PV is also becoming increasingly popular. Even without the subsidies that were around when we first started out, solar still pays back in around 5 years on average, and you can now combine it with battery storage technology to soak up excess power during the day. However, we always try to steer customers to the ‘quick win’ efficiency gains first. Adding solar onto an inefficient building is a bit like pouring water into a leaky bucket!
How has people’s approach to energy changed over the last decade?
Being conscious of your personal and business impact on the environment has definitely become much more mainstream. In the past the main driver for adopting low energy technologies was to save money. Today, clients are increasingly doing it for ethical and environmental reasons rather than just financial reasons. People are asking less about the financial reward and are doing it because it’s the right thing to do.
Our message, though, is that doing the right thing doesn’t actually have to cost you any money in the first place. Everything we recommend has a direct saving on energy bills and we can utilise that differential to make projects self-funding. For example, we can offer finance packages on solar PV so that repayments are equal to, or even less than, the energy bill savings. In other words, the financial benefits will kick in once the finance is repaid, but the environmental benefits and feel-good factor are there from day one without having to pay a penny.
Has the Coronavirus lockdown had any impact on your business?
It hasn’t had as big an impact on our business as I thought it would. We’ve obviously had to make adjustments and some projects have had to be postponed, but in many ways we’re just as busy as ever. We’ve actually had an influx of enquiries for our energy contract procurement services because falling energy demand during lockdown has temporarily driven down energy prices, making it a perfect time to secure a new contract. We’ve also found that business owners are starting to look at their energy bill more closely now that they’ve had a bit of time out from the firefighting of everyday business, so more people are enquiring about how to use less energy.
How are you celebrating your 10-year anniversary?
We’ve recently finished upgrading our new office in Leigh into a showroom for all the technologies we recommend. We have solar PV on the roof, a battery storage unit to store excess solar power, LED lighting with occupancy and daylight controls, voltage optimisation to make everything in the building run more efficiently, far infrared electrical heating, and a smart charging unit for our two electric vehicles. We’ve also collaborated with the local Manchester Extinction Rebellion group to turn one of our external walls into an art piece about renewable energy.
Now that all the work is complete, we were planning to hold an open day event for everyone who has supported us over the last 10 years, but understandably we’ve had to postpone until later in the year. Watch this space!