Green Building Renewables's boss on new finance offer, his own heat pump and 'the supermarket test' for success

York’s Green Building Renewables has launched a finance option to help more home-owners to install heat pumps and solar panels. MD Chris Delaney speaks to Chris Burn.

Business success is typically measured in pounds and pence but Green Building Renewables’s managing director Chris Delaney says his business partner John Gilham has another vital metric – the supermarket test.

Mr Delaney explains: “John always says that if he is in Tesco and sees a customer and they come over and talk to him that is success. If a customer comes over and says, ‘Hi, I just want to say I was really glad I did it, it has saved me a fortune on my energy bills’ that is the test.

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"We don’t get everything right first-time, we aren’t perfect but we do stand by our work and we sort stuff out and put it right if it needs it. The success is if two years later, they come back for another technology.”

Green Building Renewables’s managing director Chris Delaney.Green Building Renewables’s managing director Chris Delaney.
Green Building Renewables’s managing director Chris Delaney.

The pair started the York-based renewable product installation business back in 2016 when it was originally called GoEco with a small team.

Mr Delaney and Mr Gilham, who is the firm’s group technical director, had worked together for a York company called Solarwall but after that went into administration, decided to set up their own business.

“There were four or five customers we had been dealing with and after Solarwall went we asked if they would like us to do their jobs. I still remember the customers’ names who said ‘Yes’. That was huge for us, got us going and we went from there.”

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After private equity investor Ansor acquired the business in November 2020, it has since been renamed Green Building Renewables and been involved in a series of acquisitions that has resulted in it having offices around the country and a staff of more than 160 people.

The firm, which recently won a Yorkshire Post Excellence in Business award in the Medium-Sized Business of the Year category, is now taking the next step in widening its customer base.

It has recently launched a consumer finance offer to allow clients to pay off products like heat pumps and solar panels in stages rather than a one-off cost.

Mr Delaney says: “It is something we have been working on for a while.

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"Our vision is to help every customer lead a more sustainable life. It has been quite apparent over the time we have been doing this that the people who can afford it tend to have savings in the bank and a million-pound house. It is great they can spend £20,000 on renewables but we are not just here to help them, we are here to help everybody transition to low-carbon technology.

"You can get consumer finance for a car or a kitchen. With renewables, we now have an offering that can be spread over three, five or 10 years. With interest rates going up, the interest rate is higher than we want it to be but I do believe it will come down as interest rates come down.

"At the moment, it is 12.9 per cent APR and is flexible to pay chunks of it off. People are really embracing renewable technology but cost has been a big barrier.”

The Government has recently raised the grant to consumers buying one from £5,000 to £7,500. An average air source heat pump installation can cost between £10,000 and £13,000.

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Mr Delaney says the increase in the Government grant has brought the consumer cost of getting a heat pump to around the same level as a new gas boiler – making the former option a “no brainer” for many.

"Bringing in the finance means people can think, having a heat pump is going to save me £10 a week in bills versus gas and it is only going to cost £5 a week in my repayments.”

With the Government aiming to increase heat pump uptake to 600,000 installations a year by 2028, there is a major business opportunity for companies working in the renewable energy world.

Mr Delaney says the business has major ambitions for the future and is aiming to gets its annual revenues close to £100m by the end of 2025 from its current position of close to £40m.

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“We recognise we are never going to be able to compete with the likes of British Gas and Octopus, but we want to be the best of the rest.

"What makes us special is all our engineers are in-house. We invest in our people, we treat them well and want them to stay.

"Our model is very much around national coverage but local delivery – we want people from Yorkshire buying from people from Yorkshire, people from Norwich buying from people from Norwich.”

Heat pumps maintain a constant ambient temperature in a property rather than providing a rapid burst of heat like a boiler.

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Mr Delaney recently had a heat pump installed in his own house and admits the change has taken some getting used to for his family, while potential customers can often be sceptical about them.

"I always say a heat pump will work as long as it is designed right, installed right and used right. You are not going to whack it on and an hour later it will be up to temperature. If it is -3C outside and you want the house to be warm at 7am when you get up, it needs to be set to come on at 4am.

"At home, I love having a heat pump and we have got solar and electric cars.

"When we are talking to customers they want to have confidence in what we are doing and the best way to instill that is to say ‘I have got it in my own house’.”

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The company is preparing to open a training centre in Daventry for installers early next year.

He said consumer demand for different renewable technologies has been shifting during 2023.

"This time last year our mix was probably 80 per cent solar, 20 per cent heat pumps. Now it is probably more 50-50. It is directly related to the grant going up and also energy prices stabilising a bit.

"The ideal customer journey for us is we might do a heat pump now and then a year later want solar panels or an EV charger. With my house, I have done it over a series of years. We want to build a relationship with customers where they might not want or be able to do it all in one go but step by step can move in the right direction."

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