Boss of Stelrad radiator company who is putting the green into steel

At a time when our gas boilers emit twice as much CO2 as all of our gas-fired power stations, urgent climate action needs to be taken on how we heat our homes. City editor Ros Snowdon meets the CEO of Stelrad, Europe’s leading manufacturer of steel panel radiators, about the key role that radiators will play in the decarbonisation of our homes.

Trevor Harvey is the CEO of Stelrad

Trevor Harvey is a busy man. He's about to float his company and the IPO is expected to value the business at around £350m.

It's great news for the 300 workers at the firm's main UK site in Mexborough and will put the manufacturing facility near Doncaster on the map.

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Harvey says that decarbonisation of our homes is essential if the UK is to be taken as a serious player ahead of COP26 next month.

The flotation is good news for the 300 Stelrad employees in Mexborough

"I think all EU countries have an obligation to push the decarbonisation agenda more firmly than they have to date," he says.

"I'm hopeful that at COP26 we'll see more weight put behind the decarbonisation agenda.

"When it comes to domestic central heating, the UK has a long history with gas boilers which clearly are a bit of a problem when it comes to decarbonisation."

Going forward, Harvey expects that heat sourced technology will change dramatically.

"We're expecting a significant shift away from gas boilers to lower temperature heat sources," he says.

"This would typically be a heat pump either air sourced or ground sourced. Heat pumps fuelled by renewable electricity would be a perfect solution to decarbonise home heating.

"When it comes to distributing heat around the dwelling, it is well established that hydronic systems dominate the market. Steel panel radiators have been shown to be the most cost effective way to distribute heat around a domestic and commercial dwelling."

Harvey expects to see a gradual shift away from current gas based heat sources into more environmentally friendly, low temperature systems with heat pumps playing a major role in that.

"I'd expect us to be using renewable electricity. The UK Government's main plan is offshore wind," he says.

"There have been some issues with the generation of offshore wind, but there is an ongoing investment programme in wind power.

"In addition to that, the Government is also investing significant sums bolstering and renewing its nuclear electricity capability."

Harvey says that a lot of Stelrad's success is down to its top flight workforce in Mexborough.

"The Mexborough facility goes back to the mid 60s. It's an excellent location for many, many different reasons," he says.

"It's in a good geographical location. We supply the UK nationally and Mexborough is well located in terms of servicing our markets and we have good access to a high quality labour pool. People are very hard working and very committed."

Harvey lives just outside Newcastle and is keen for the end of the pandemic so he can return to visiting the firm's Yorkshire workforce.

"I haven't spent a lot of time in Yorkshire over the last 18 months because of the UK lockdown, but I would normally be in Mexborough twice a month," he says.

At a time when household gas prices are set to soar, clobbering people during what is already tipped to be a very harsh winter for UK households, Harvey is keen for people to do everything they can to reduce their gas bills.

"In terms of gas price rises, fuel efficiency is critical in terms of any energy policy going forward," he says.

"There have been a whole range of Government funded and supported initiatives to help all householders become more fuel efficient. There are a whole range of schemes and initiatives supported by the Government to help homeowners improve the fabric of their buildings, improving insulation in lofts, in walls all around the house including glazing."

Stelrad is the UK’s leading manufacturer and distributor of household and commercial radiators.

"I see great opportunities for this business to grow its turnover and its profitability to secure the position of the Mexborough business and all of its employees," says Harvey.

"We've seen a significant increase in consumer interest particularly in the last 12 to 18 months and we've seen significant interest in some of our more premium products, which are aesthetically more pleasing, and design products.

"There is a general trend across most European markets, but it's very evident in the UK marketplace, we're seeing more consumers demonstrating a desire and an interest to improve the environment within which they live.

"We're seeing quite a significant increase in demand for more premium, higher design led products, particularly vertical radiators which have been around for a long time, but have only recently started to gain traction with UK consumers."

In addition to its green credentials, Stelrad prides itself on being fashion forward.

Not many of us are aware that there are radiator fashions, but Harvey puts me right on this.

"As people become more comfortable with design led products, we're seeing consumers also move to coloured radiators," he says.

"We have a vast range of colours available in most of our products. We have many, many different product ranges, most of which come in a range of 36 standard colours, but we also offer a bespoke service.

"The most popular colours in the UK would be anthracite, or greys and grey metallics. Other European markets would tend to have different colours. When you go to Germany you tend to have more autumnal colours, the browns, those sort of tones."

Apparently these days people want stylish radiators in their homes and in hotels, restaurants and bars.

Harvey says the commercial market for steel panel radiators is a relatively small sector and there are only about 150,000 commercial steel panel radiators in the UK.

"We see in the commercial sector some very high end products being installed," he says.

"There are two types of commercial sector. There is the health and education side, where we see demand for safety related products.

"When it comes to hotels and hospitality, we are seeing significant demand for very high end design products."

Aside from fashion, when it comes to "green steel", Stelrad wants to be at the forefront on tackling climate change.

"Clearly we are a business that the core of our product range is coiled steel which is infinitely recyclable and when coiled steel is manufactured using an electric arc furnace that is fuelled by renewable electricity, that is a very green process," says Harvey.

"Steel currently manufactured from iron ore and coke is not particularly green, but the steel industry is investing many billions, supported by Government initiatives not just across Europe, but across the world generally, so that we're producing green steel going forward."

Over the last six years, Stelrad has invested considerably in its asset base across all three of its manufacturing facilities

"Our UK facility is in Yorkshire, we have a manufacturing location in Holland and a further one in Turkey and we employ 1,325 people, manufacturing about six million radiators a year," says Harvey.

"At our UK facility in Mexborough, we have refreshed and renewed our plant and equipment.

"We have spent considerable sums in Mexborough. We have a state-of-the-art facility based in Mexborough and I can see some significant growth opportunities for Mexborough both organically through growing market share which we've done very successfully in the last 10 years, but also by introducing increased quantities of design products.

"We've just completed quite a significant extension to our logistics facility adjacent to the site. The site is a combined logistics centre and manufacturing plant.

"Mexborough is the largest facility of its type in Europe."

Place of birth - Gateshead

Date of birth - 19 November 1956

School - Dunston Hill Secondary Modern

University/further education – University of Newcastle Upon Tyne

First job – Graduate Trainee at Thorn EMI"Whilst at University I was on the Thorn graduate trainee programme. After graduating I became a full time Business Analysis supporting the board of Thorn Heating focusing on M & A. Post the acquisition of Carron of Falkirk’s radiator business, I became Plant Manager then Manufacturing Director and was appointed Managing Director of the business in 1988, aged 32."

Favourite film – Any film with Jason Bourne

Favourite type of music/ band/singer - Jack Johnson

Favourite holiday destination - Barbados

Last book you read - “A Promised Land” by Barack Obama

What are you most proud of? “I’m most proud of the way the team came together last year in the face of the Covid crisis. There were plenty of challenges but we overcame them all and actually delivered a performance that exceeded our pre-Covid-19 budget.”