The Big Interview: Greener Energy Group MD Peter Chalmers

Peter Chalmers is the managing director of Greener Energy Group, which says it is one of the UK's leading providers of domestic green energy.

The Paisley-headquartered group, which has satellite offices in Aberdeen and Inverness, explains that it delivers bespoke offerings for every home, and can advise homeowners on government subsidies helping to reduce the cost of switching to electricity from gas.

The firm, which was founded in 2014 and combines Greener Energy Savings and Greener Energy Utilities, also states that it is harnessing more than 30 years’ collective experience of providing energy-saving options to customers.

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Since 2018, the group has installed nearly 800 air source heat pumps in Scottish homes, saving 5,029,000 kilograms of carbon dioxide, which the group says is equivalent to 55,877 hours of flying on a Boeing 737 – or more than 55,000 flights from Glasgow to London – at an average speed of 780 kilometres an hour.

Mr Chalmers says the pandemic gave the firm time to reflect on its priorities. Picture: John Devlin.

Here, Mr Chalmers discusses the group’s ambitions – and how his career has been fuelled by his experience of fuel poverty as a child.

Can you explain what Greener Energy Group does and what its aims are, particularly in light of the UK’s mission to go net-zero carbon by 2050, and Scotland by 2045?

Greener Energy Group specialises in renewable heating and energy saving solutions for the home. We install solar panels, air source heat pumps, German electric heating, and energy-efficient boilers over the whole of mainland Scotland. The range of products we offer allows us to advise a bespoke heating system that not only suits the client’s financial situation but also helps reduce carbon emissions.

Our main product is air source heating, which is an all-electric heating system. The air source heat pump allows homeowners to replace old, expensive, and environmentally damaging heating systems powered by fossil fuels. We therefore can provide clients with a highly efficient, eco-friendly system that will not only save them money, but massively reduce their homes’ carbon emissions.

The energy boss says that growing up in a poorly insulated and cold home made him determined to tackle fuel poverty. Picture: John Devlin.

Provided the client is using an energy supplier that generates electricity from renewable sources, then effectively the heating system will be as close to net zero as possible. We aim to inform and educate homeowners of the benefits of these systems and help them do their bit to reduce their carbon footprint and contribute to the UK mission to meet net-zero carbon.

How does your own role specifically help drive forward the company’s ambitions?

My main role is to develop the business. The key management team and I are all responsible for driving the business forward; however my role specifically is to bring all these individuals together and take all feedback and ideas along with my own and implement changes that help the business learn and develop.

I have brought on like-minded staff, who share my vision and values, and my role is to ensure that carries all the way through to the client.

Greener Energy Group has said that during the pandemic, it had time to “reflect and work on mapping out [its] vision, mission, and values”. Can you explain more about this?

During the pandemic when restrictions were put in place, we were unable to operate in our normal capacity, therefore it reduces the everyday duties that we can all get bogged down with. This allowed some time to reflect on all aspects of the business and industry. We looked at customer experience, industry fails, product development, and our own business structures to deal with the lack of income.

At this time the huge target of net zero for 2045 had been announced and we wanted to come up with a solution of how we are going to tackle the 81 per cent of homes in Scotland that have mains gas, which is the cheapest form of heating at present. When comparing running costs of an air source heat pump against gas, it can – depending on the age of the boiler – be more expensive to use a heat pump, therefore financially it’s not always attractive for a client to switch.

We came up with a new solution – the hybrid air source heat pump – which allows the client to reduce the bills in the home by combining a gas boiler working alongside an air source heat pump. The gas boiler is also hydrogen compatible so when Scotland is ready to switch to hydrogen these boilers can also switch and easily become net-zero heating.

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This decision was made based on our core values. I grew up on the small Scottish island of Millport where we had no access to cheap heating fuels such as gas, and my family along with many others experienced what is known nowadays as fuel poverty. Our home was poorly insulated and cold, with a heating system that comprised two open coal fireplaces; one located in the main living room and the other in an upstairs bedroom.

My parents could only afford to use the main living room fireplace and, like many other families at the time, we used to have ice on the inside of our windows in the upstairs bedrooms. This experience has made me aspire to eradicate fuel poverty as much as I possibly could.

Whilst the climate is in a state of emergency, so is fuel poverty, and as a priority we must endeavour to tackle both. A low-carbon heating system that’s affordable and cheaper to run in every household is the vision and the mission.

In terms of values, we had time to reflect on what is important to us and at the heart of Greener Energy Group and so decided to introduce a campaign – #MakingScotlandGreener. This was created to bring focus to not only eco-friendly heating systems, but other aspects we can add to the business to benefit the environment.

We will now plant a tree for every customer who receives a home assessment and quote from us to play a bigger role in cutting carbon emissions in Scotland. We hope to continue this, and to build on similar projects to have a bigger impact and spread awareness.

How can Greener Energy Group compete with incumbent energy giants who have been making major in-roads into boosting their eco credentials?

The key to climate change is making all the adjustments we can – big or small. Yes, the larger scale commercial projects will have larger effects on global energy saving and carbon levels. However, to fight climate change, we must rely on individuals also making adjustments in their lives.

Greener Energy Group gives homeowners the chance to create their own energy-efficient lives, incentivised by saving money as well as playing their part, and as a result we can push for greater change domestically.

COP26 is taking place in Glasgow in November. To what extent can this help accelerate action to tackle climate change, and put Scotland on the map in this regard?

Something as publicised as the COP will create a significant talking point around the country and can bring ideas from other countries to inspire and accelerate Scotland’s action. This will come both from government bodies, but also the predicted marches, stunts and protests will involve the public and get more people thinking about how they can play their part.

Renewables is one of the fastest-growing industries at the moment and I anticipate this will only continue. One of the COP26 goals is to encourage further investments in renewables to transition into net zero. Emphasising the importance of renewables for net zero in a Glasgow venue should put Scotland on the map, since already in 2020 Scotland met 97.4 per cent of its electricity consumption from renewables.

Who do you admire in business?

Tony Robbins – the American author, coach, speaker, and philanthropist – has been a big influence in my career, business, and personal development. He has built companies with an estimated $5 billion (£3.6bn) turnover and the main focus of these is helping others succeed.

His books and audio recordings have managed to keep me focused on the most important things in both my business and personal life. I was also fortunate enough to go to one of his four-day seminars in Los Angeles, which was a great inspiration for me and the business.

What would you like Greener Energy Group to look like in 2024, the year of its tenth anniversary?

We are planning for further growth in the business and looking to employ further local trades people throughout Scotland. We want to grow our brand further, so the customers we haven’t seen yet know they will receive good honest advice backed up with a good installation and customer experience.

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