£1m investments in recycling. New technology to help with energy management. Eco-friendly printing. A new sustainability support network. For our sustainability special Jill Theobald caught up with a whole host of businesses to find out how they do their part to combat climate change, make their operations more sustainable, and leading the way to ensure the issue remains at the heart of the agenda for the Sheffield City Region.

Utility Alliance

“Our approach to energy management is quite simple really – we often say, ‘in an ever-increasing energy market, the true way to save money is to use less’.”

So says Utility Alliance MD Daniel Potter – who took control of the Sheffield arm of the Hartlepool-based national business in 2017.

And the simple approach is, literally, paying off – for the business and their customers.

From a business start-up with four employees to more than 400 – Utility Alliance has, as Daniel says, witnessed ‘quite remarkable growth in our first four complete years in business’.

The business energy experts trade, monitor and use the latest technologies to save business time and money across four key areas – reducing water costs, reducing energy costs, utilising new technology and electric vehicle charging.

But it’s not just about saving money.

Says Daniel: “It’s also about helping businesses become more energy efficient overall and reducing their carbon footprint. We care about the environment, community and educating all about the importance of how to use energy responsibly. We work with businesses of all sizes, from local shops to hospitals, hotels to schools and factories nationally.

“We have seen far more businesses in the last 18 months express interest in asking for help to reduce usage. Many are now placing targets on themselves to reduce energy, reduce waste, carbon footprint. But the challenge many face is how to do that?”

Which is where Utility Alliance step up – and the usage and costs go down.

“We have developed a range of technologies designed to help track and monitor customer usage on varying scales of detail,” says Daniel. “We have an entry level platform designed for those making their first steps into tracking usage to any level of detail the customer may require.

“We get great satisfaction from providing a customer the training they need to use their software and then receiving that first call or email saying: ‘It’s working, usage is going down’.”

And with a customer base that is nationwide, how proactive is Sheffield City Region (SCR) in terms of businesses exploring alternative or sustainable energy services?

“When we have been out and about at networking events in the SCR, one topic that does tend to come up more and more is how can I control my spend and reduce environmental impact? That is in stark contrast to where this industry was a few years ago,” explains Daniel.

“One SCR business we worked with is a manufacturer of coat hangers and a supplier to major retailers. Being in that big supply chain can sometimes mean that in order to continue working with them, they need to demonstrate a decrease in energy usage.

“We worked with them on a lighting project designed around replacing old, inefficient lighting with modern low-usage technology. What started off as a trial to understand the difference in usage, finished up being a whole factory kit-out. The best part for the client was there was no capital expenditure, because we rolled the cost into their procurement contract, spreading it over a couple of years.”

How would Dan convince businesses that are reluctant or sceptical about the need to address their carbon footprint?

“We do come across this opinion from time to time – sometimes you can’t change that view. But having said that, we did have a similar situation a couple of months ago and when we demonstrated the cost reduction of using less energy, it soon changed their mind!”

And that ‘remarkable growth’ looks set to continue for Utility Alliance.

“We plan to continue to grow our business in the next 12-18 months,” adds Daniel. “In Sheffield alone we are recruiting for 96 new positions across many disciplines in 2020.

“Our industry is fast-paced and ever changing, but one area we have seen an increased demand for is electric vehicle charging points. We have developed a number of products, some of which even provide an additional revenue stream to customers themselves. We expect the continued take-up of this offering to soar going into 2020.”