Demand soars as firm helps to keep the nation’s lights shining

Flooded farmland surrounding Burrowbridge in Somerset.
Flooded farmland surrounding Burrowbridge in Somerset.
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GENERATOR Power is helping to keep the lights on in people’s homes and businesses in parts of the country where severe storms have brought down power lines.

The company, which is headquartered in Normanton, Wakefield, specialises in offering generator hire, particularly to the major utility companies including Northern Powergrid, Scottish Power, SSE and Electricity North West.

Through its eight UK depots, Generator Power provides 24/7 emergency response support to utility companies when their overhead power lines are blown down by strong winds.

Stephen Cardwell, managing director of Generator Power, said: “Incidents of extreme weather certainly seem to be on the increase and have created an unprecedented demand for our services.”

Key geographical markets for Generator Power are Scotland and the North of England, but it is also growing its business in the South of England.

“Some of the storm work we’ve been doing in recent weeks has been on the south coast,” added Mr Cardwell.

Generator Power has a fleet of 1,250 generators for hire and has ordered £3m worth of new generators for delivery in the first half of this year, equating to another 150 to 200 generators of varying sizes.

“It used to be, if you go back a few years, every now and again, maybe once a year, there would be an extreme weather event and it would be all hands to the pump while we sorted out generators for the utility companies to keep things running.

“In recent months, this seems to be happening on a very regular basis.

“There certainly seems to be more extreme events,” said Mr Cardwell.

Last week, Generator Power’s services were in demand in North Wales and the North West of England following severe weather. Over the Christmas period, Generator Power carried out a lot of work in the south of England.

“It tends to be the wind rather than the wet that provides our activity”, said Mr Cardwell.

“It’s the overhead lines. When these get blown over or trees blow over and land on the lines we get called out.

“There’s a power cut... if there’s lots of lines down and they (the utility companies) can’t do the repairs quickly enough they call on Generator Power to deliver generators.”

Generator Power saw its turnover rise to £18.4m in the year to the end of October 31 2013, up from £15m the year before.

This year, the firm is expecting to turn over £22m.

Mr Cardwell said that the firm is “reasonably profitable”, but added: “Like all businesses, margins are tighter than we’d want them to be.”

He said he could not disclose the firm’s latest profit figures as they are currently being audit- ed.

The company employs 110 people, up from around 70 two years ago.

It is recruiting currently and hopes to take on another 10 to 12 people in the next six to eight weeks, spread across the country.

Mr Cardwell said: “I think part of it is that the utility companies are under increasing pressure from the regulators to keep people’s lights on and in order to achieve that they are turning to Generator Power to supply generators to power properties when they can’t get the mains restored in time.”

The focus for the business this year is to expand its southern operations and ensure it has the resources in place to meet customer demand.

“Instead of dealing with the occasional out-of-hours job, we are doing several out-of-hours jobs every day”, said Mr Cardwell.

“We are doing more reactive out-of-hours emergency work and less planned work.”

Emergency work is a key growth area for the business, but when the storms die down the business has to be able to adapt.

“We have to have a business model that allows it to trundle along happily between the storm events.”

Generator Power also offers its generators for hire for non-emergency purposes, such as when utility companies have work to sub-stations scheduled, and for construction companies to use on construction sites.

Speaking about Generator Power’s offering, Mr Cardwell said: “It’s a bit more a service than just renting a piece of kit.

“If you rent a car, you walk into a showroom, get the keys and drive off with it.

“But with a generator there’s a lot of service provision wrapped up with the delivery of the generator in terms of delivering it, helping to connect it, making sure it’s full of fuel and doesn’t run out of fuel.

“We are working around the clock not just delivering generators but keeping them runn- ing.”