Redundancy triggers green light for renewable energy business

Amelie Hawkins

Green issues often come high on the Government’s agenda, with political parties using their time in office committing the country to ever more ambitious targets on CO2 emissions and the environment.

And as the various initiatives continue to wean the country off its dependence on fossil fuels, there is one Tunbridge Wells company that’s playing its part in encouraging people to help the environment and, save money.

Green Square, a business that specialises in the provision of renewable energy, was set up by Paul Smith two years ago. He describes the business as his ‘pride and joy’.

But, with the exception of a brief attempt to launch a green business with some university friends, Mr Smith has spent most of his career outside of the sector.

He said: “I was always interested in environmentalism, but when I finished my Masters in the late 90s there were few opportunities in the sector unless you started right at the bottom.

“And if you did, the pay was minuscule and I was already in my 30s by this point.”

Instead, he decided to pursue his career in the only marginally better paid field of journalism, before accepting a role in communications for East Sussex County Council.

However, with councils across the country being forced to make savings, Mr Smith found his job was in line for the axe and he decided to use that as the impetus to launch his own business.

“I had some savings plus the redundancy, so decided to go for it and start a company that could make a difference and benefit society.”

While he was well-grounded in the theoretical side of climate change, Mr Smith admits it was a ‘steep learning curve’ discovering how to run a company offering practical solutions.

Green Square installs heating systems that use renewable energy to help homeowners and small businesses reduce their carbon footprint.

The technologies used to provide heating and hot water include biomass boilers, wood-pellet stoves, heat pumps, solar thermal, solar PV and the most advanced thermal stores.

And despite a projected tripling of the company’s profits this year, compared to last, Mr Smith said the industry is facing headwinds.

He explained: “Since the Government came in, support for renewables has not been as strong as it could be.”

Mr Smith added this was manifesting itself in lower tariffs for people selling their own solar power back to the national grid coupled with lower oil prices. The financial incentives had been diminished.

“There are still many people who are so concerned with the environment that they just want to go green, but at the moment some of the technologies required are still quite expensive. “This means it is often a market for the more affluent as you have to pay up front, although within seven years the subsidies and lower bills effectively mean you get a new heating system for free.”

However, he is optimistic that the pace of change will see prices fall rapidly enough for most products to be more widely affordable in the not too distant future.

“I think the company will start to benefit more as environmental products become mainstream.”

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