Interviewer: David, the first question’s just if you can you tell us who you are and what you do?
David: My name’s David Hunt and we run a company called Eco Environments, and we’re MCS accredited installers of renewable technology, such as wind power, solar power, heat pumps and rainwater harvesting, and integrating those systems for domestic, personal use and for businesses and for the property construction market.
Interviewer: Just tell us the journey you made to this point. I mean you’re running a business with eco in the title right at the beginning of it in capital letters.
Interviewer: Can you just expand on how you found yourself working in this niche?
David: Okay, I mean for twelve years I was a head hunter, working internationally and doing a lot within the construction market, and spent time staying in the hotels, and my business partner’s an electrical engineer, and two or three years ago we got talking about opportunities and how the markets were developing. I had a personal interest in the environment. I’m studying for a degree with the OU at the moment in Environmental Science. And so we evolved and looked at what the opportunities were, what was happening in Europe, particularly around solar PV and wind turbines, and we evolved the business from that.
Interviewer: Can you tell us a bit more about where the business is at, at the moment? Where’s most of the work? Where you are physically located?
David: We’re based in Liverpool and we operate throughout the North West and beyond. We’re rolling out nationally. At the moment, most of the work is in solar PV, solar photovoltaic which generates electricity. The Government recently announced feed in tariffs. So there’s a huge benefit now in both householders and business installing PV and getting paid for everything they’re generating. So that’s one of the main areas at the moment in terms of keeping us busy, and also heat pumps, which is a very sort of innovative way of heating premises, very energy efficiently. So those are the two sort of sector areas that are keeping us most busy. Wind turbines are the most challenging with regard to planning permission and other issues.
Interviewer: Can you say a bit about current policy and politics and how that shapes the business that you’re working in?
Interviewer: Local, national, European?
David: Yeah very much. I mean the Government have made some private headlining acts and things like the feed in tariffs have actually, you know, been an exceptionally good, a market leading bit of legislation that’s going to be of great benefit for the renewable sector. On the other hand, there’s a lot of stuff that is rhetoric and doesn’t really follow through. Planning laws in particular are very much inhibitive to helping companies and businesses and domestic people to sort of make installations. So there’s not really a lot of joined up thinking on a national level. Locally, there are regional development agencies that do offer some grant assistance to businesses that want to improve their resource efficiency, and some of that would be encompassing renewable energies. So there, it’s very much a patchy framework. Regionally, there are differences. Nationally, there are some very good things happening, but a lot of non-joined up thinking and a lot of things that are still inhibiting the market and obviously inhibiting us as a company in growing.
Interviewer: So looking at the policy world, looking one year, five years and ten years out, what do you anticipate happening around these issues relevant to your business?
David: Yeah, there’s a lot of talk about the planning laws being refined and improved. I mean we don’t think that wind turbines should be stuck up willy nilly but in certain applications, in certain areas, industrial areas, for example, there’s still laborious planning to go through and there’s no need really. I mean there’s no negative environmental impact but only a positive one in terms of, you know, renewable energy being generated. So planning laws are a big issue that need to be addressed and I can see them happening; there is talk of things changing. The feed in tariffs for the PV market next year will be followed up with a renewable heat incentive for the generation of heat from renewable sources, and that again is very, very positive and that’s going to drive, you know, the opportunities for our business and others like ours.
Interviewer: Thinking about your own business now, one year, five years and ten years out, can you anticipate how you’re going to grow, where you’re going to grow?
David: Yeah absolutely. We’re looking to become a national player. We’re already well established in the north, a very good brand and a very good name. Everything, we install it ourselves. We’re already one of the highest accredited companies in the UK for the installation of renewable technologies. So geographically we’re now moving into Cumbria into the North East of England and obviously we’ll roll into other areas, but we’ll do it organically, and we’ll do it with our own people.
Interviewer: Now if I can add a question that’s more about you personally, your own journey with the issue, can you anticipate where that’s going to take you in the next one, five and ten years? Is that all going to be thrown into this professional world or are there other aspects to it for you?
David: Well there’s always a personal element. I’ve got a couple of young children, I care for them, you know, I live in a place called Thornby in the North West of England where there’s a significant amount of coastal erosion, up to four metres a year. So there’s a real bright impact for climate change on our doorsteps that I think people don’t always realise or appreciate. So that’s of course a concern as a parent and as a person. So the journey has been a personal one. A desire to learn, the Open University course is something that’s of great interest personally to me and that’s to some extent that stimulated the business rather than the other way around.
Interviewer: Well obviously we’re delighted to hear that. My last question is deceptively simple. Do you consider yourself more optimist or pessimist looking ten years out?
David: Absolutely an optimist. There are obviously challenges ahead. But challenges are opportunities. Climate change as a whole is something which does, it’s easy to become negative about and pessimistic about because there are huge challenges in governments, globally, us and Copenhagen aren’t rising to meet that challenge, so. But it’s easy to be negative. But you look around at today’s show at Eco Build and the number of technologies and the number of companies that are involved in the sector then it has to give you hope.