Solec Energy Solutions Ltd

Renewable energy specialists Solec have ensured a sunny outlook for their business by staying one step ahead of the game.

Solec started installing heat pumps three years ago as a way of surviving the solar crash.

Surviving not one, but two cuts in solar power subsidies by the Government, Solec now has doubled the size of their order book. They have also given something back to the community by installing a new 10kw Solar Array on a new sports pavilion – for free.

Solec were recently crowned Renewable Heat Incentive installer of the year in the Regional Energy Efficiency Awards and also commended as Solar PV Installer of Year.

A remarkable turnaround, achieved in part following an injection of finance secured using Pension-led funding which “took our business to the next level”, said Gaye Wilmot, who runs Solec with her husband Robert, in Horsforth, Leeds.

“The renewables award was so exciting for us. It was such a positive thing after a time of such uncertainty, it put us out there as renewable experts.”

Solec has come a long way from the electrical contractors who spotted the commercial opportunity of installing Solar PV Arrays which were backed by generous coalition Government grants.

That was until the Government decided to slash the subsidies in half within a month back in 2012 and when the axe fell again in 2015 it had a massive impact on the renewables industry.

“Solar PVs fell off a cliff in 2015,” said Gaye. “We went back to being electrical contractors.”

From a peak of more than 5000 Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) accredited Solar installers in the UK this plummeted to 2,500 within a year of the 2016 Government cuts and now there are only 1,850.

With cash flow reaching “crisis point”, Gaye and Robert feared Solec wouldn’t survive.

Gaye said: “The kit is very expensive. Heat pumps, solar panels, converters, they are pricey – 70% of what we charge.

“We had run out of our own resources without putting the house on the line. Although the bank was incredibly supportive, they couldn’t actually loan us anything because our turnover had dropped considerably.

“We knew it was alternative finance we had to look at. Pension-led funding made perfect sense to me. My accountant told me why I shouldn’t be doing it.

“We spoke to a couple of Pension-led funding customers and they said: ‘Absolutely brilliant, the best thing we have done’,” Gaye said.

With the help of Pension-led funding, Robert and Gaye gave their business a vital £30,000 injection of pension cash.

Their existing pension pots were transferred into two Self-Invested Personal Pensions (SIPP) set up by us and used to purchase preference shares in Solec Energy Solutions Limited.

The shares will be redeemable over a five-year term with a 12% coupon being paid back into Robert and Gaye’s pension schemes.

Robert and Gaye are big believers in the renewables and highlight the potential of heat pumps to provide an efficient alternative to oil heating in areas where there is no mains gas supply.

“A lot of builders are now putting renewables into their builds, they have finally realised the potential.”

The possibility to give something sustainable back to the community proved irresistible during the construction of Horsforth Sports Club. “Robert said ‘why not put solar on it? And we’ll do it for nothing’. The club gets free daytime electricity and we get the feed in tariffs,” Gaye said.

“The system is generating way in excess of what we hoped, it contributed over 10,000 kw hours towards their bill last year.

“We generated £800 from the FIT scheme (Feed-in Tariffs) in the first year and should recoup our costs in 6-7 years. After that it is an asset.”

Oceans ESU

Oceans ESU initially turned to pension-led funding to develop a new sales and marketing strategy to grow its business. Now, with the flexibility this funding offers, the company has taken a second round of finance that has allowed it to go after new contracts around the world and start recruitment of new employees.

Oceans was established in 1992 by Lucian Gill, a leading expert on reed beds and, in particular, the use of reeds to clean polluted water caused by chemical contamination. The reed beds are also good for wildlife and often significantly easier to operate and maintain – and thus cheaper – than equivalent mechanical systems. Clients include major oil companies, such as Shell and BP, with projects around the world.

Business flourished until 2012, when the war between North and South Sudan saw Oceans lose its entire North Sudan operation and remove its team from the country because of safety concerns.

Until that point Oceans had been banking with a major high street bank, but the combination of the political situation and a new bank manager meant development funding became extremely difficult.

Company Director, Michelle Gill explains: “We moved banks and although they were extremely supportive, we had no history with the new bank. We needed to fund the development of the business to be able to take on new projects both in the UK and overseas. We wanted to provide stability for the future development of the company and to rely on our own funds rather than relying on the banks.”

Contact from pensionledfunding.com – part of Clifton Asset Management – came at just the right time. “We were intrigued,” says Michelle. “Pension-led funding seemed to be a much better type of finance for businesses generally and especially those that banks struggle to understand. It clearly gives a business greater security.

“Certainly we expect co-operation from our bank and if you have a good relationship that’s fine, but you can’t expect the bank to be there to cover every gap. We had to take responsibility ourselves.”

Working closely with Oceans’ bank, pensionledfunding.com established a pension scheme for Oceans’ directors that allowed them to put funding into the business. They then used the Intellectual Property (IP) held within the organisation to arrange a second batch of funding from the pension scheme.The money has been put to good use, with development of a new sales and marketing strategy that has allowed the team to go after new contracts around the world.

Within five years, Oceans ESU aims to significantly increase the number of working reed beds in the UK, as well as looking further afield at the global oil industry.

“We have been able to use our African experience to move operations into South Sudan and business is looking good there. Last year was definitely a testing year for us, but now I’m confident that we can look forward and really grow the business,” says Michelle.

Business

Oceans was established in 1992 by Lucian Gill, a leading expert on using reed beds to clean polluted water caused by chemical contamination.

Funding needs

Business was doing well until 2012 when war in Sudan caused Oceans to pull out of its contracts there. The company was looking to develop but banks were unable to help.

Result

Directors’ pensions were used to provide initial funding and the company’s intellectual property was used to arrange a second lot of funding from the pension scheme.

Going Forward

The money has been used to develop a new sales and marketing strategy. Within five years Oceans ESU aims to significantly increase the number of working reed beds in the UK and is looking further afield at the global oil industry.

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