Keepmoat boss says electric car plans underway

Social housing business Keepmoat Regeneration is planning to make serious in-roads into the clean energy market with projects including electric car infrastructure and new transport hubs following its £330m takeover by ENGIE.

The Doncaster-based regeneration business, which specialises in design, build and refurbishment of social housing, has branched out into what it calls “clean living” under the ENGIE brand.

Although it will continue to grow Keepmoat Regeneration’s core business, energy and services giant ENGIE is keen to help councils and communities improve their energy efficiency and cut emissions.

This includes looking at ways to install more charging points for electric cars, particularly in challenging places such as city centres and streets with terraced houses.

It also wants to create new transport and energy hubs at park and ride sites to support the drive towards clean air.

Keepmoat is being absorbed into a new ENGIE division called Places and Communities, which its chief executive, Dave Sheridan, will lead.

He said: “City living is becoming a key challenge. Some of the work we’re doing is a slight departure from our traditional call work (repairs) but it actually fits with the client base and skill set that we’ve got. It’s quite exciting.”

In addition, ENGIE is starting to build housing for over 55s and connected homes - kitted out with smart technology - as well as installing district heating plants, building schools and doctors’ surgeries.

All 2,500 employees in Keepmoat’s regeneration business joined Engie after the takeover in April this year, bringing the acquiring company’s total staff numbers in the UK towards 20,000.

Keepmoat had a turnover of £802.7m and an order book of just over £1bn for the year to March 31, 2016. It remains committed to growing its core repairs business through private landlords and partnerships with local authorities. It also plans to build 1,500 affordable homes next year, up from 1,000 last year.

Mr Sheridan said: “What ENGIE has that Keepmoat didn’t have is a really strong balance sheet with the ability to leverage finance. We are looking at creating opportunities by bringing finance to local authorities, investing in long term deals and taking the rewards over a long period.”

The devastating fire at Grenfell Towers in London led to criticism and a major review of the way Keepmoat Regeneration and other providers carry out their repairs on tower blocks.

Although Keepmoat was not involved with the Grenfell building repairs, it had contracts for ‘repair services’ with more than 170 local authorities. Its work on other tower blocks is currently being investigated.

“It’s certainly brought into focus how we review our designs and the products we use,” said Mr Sheridan. “It’s brought a pause in our approach to things.”

He added: “I don’t think we did anything wrong. We worked within what our understanding of what the guidelines were. Genuinely I don’t think people understood and still don’t understand the compliance issues that we need to adopt. Hindsight is a fantastic thing but there is still a lot of knee-jerk reaction and we need to get to the facts.”