From car salesman to sustainable energy - Business Works
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From car salesman to sustainable energy

Doug Stewart, CEO, Green Energy UK Being eco-friendly and running a car dealership wouldnt normally go hand in hand but a chance meeting at the first birthday party of a friends child led Doug Stewart, who formerly ran an Audi and VW franchise dealership, to an entirely different career path. Inspired by a conversation about alternative energy sources, he started a business that more than ten years on is going from strength-to-strength with values becoming ever more relevant in the current climate. Here, he talks to Business Works about how the business started, how the growth of technology has enabled it to flourish and where he sees the future of green energy.

Wed just entered into a new millennium and threats about the millennium bug were behind us. I had decisions to make, having just sold my franchise car dealership business I was ready for a new challenge. I didnt expect any inspiration at a childrens birthday party, unless I had plans of becoming a clown, but thats exactly where I stumbled across a topic I found fascinating. A chance conversation with someone who was studying for a physics PhD turned to solar power and its potential and it was something that intrigued me. My research into this told me that the time just wasnt right to capitalise on this commercially, as solar power wasnt viable for mainstream use with the high costs involved. But I did like this idea and area as a direction for a new business venture.

This got me thinking about alternative energy in general and looking into the provision of green energy. If the likes of Virgin Energy were offering power under another energy companys licence, then why couldnt I? I needed no further goading after being warned by several business associates that this was an industry for the 'big boys'. In fact, this was like a red rag to a bull as far as I was concerned! I had an attic and lashings of determination surely that was enough? Clearing the dust from my attic I decided to start the business there. The next office move was to the basement, but thankfully, the one after that was to office space to house the company and we moved again last year into our own building this time with space to grow further.

The business wasnt without challenges. It was just ten years ago but people thought that 'being green' was really alternative for tree-huggers and the like and thats not what were about. Were not idealists with our heads in the clouds, but we do care about the environment and strongly believe that being green isnt alternative and doesnt involve a huge commitment. Over the years peoples thinking has changed and being eco-aware and reducing carbon footprints has become more of a real consideration for both consumers and businesses.

We find that green energy and its sources are now more of a talking point; whilst wind and solar power are widely understood, lesser known technologies are still interesting as they come to the fore. Technology and methods of generating energy from waste have really developed, giving a double environmental benefit of low carbon generation and the fact that waste is being recycled.

Whod have envisaged that pig poo could be powering their PC? Yet some of the power we provide is generated through the process of anaerobic digestion. In this process, microorganisms break down organic material without any oxygen, producing a methane and carbon dioxide-rich bio-gas. This can be burnt to produce energy, with none of the harmful effects of methane going into the atmosphere. Even better, the nutrient-rich solids left after digestion can be used as a fertiliser. We also source energy from tomatoes and skip waste!

These methods are tremendous technologies that turn waste into power. They are environmentally-friendly. They are a talking point. They offer the potential for companies to utilise them as part of their CSR policy and provide a feel-good factor - why wouldnt you make the switch to greener energy?

Another major contributor to our success has been putting the customer at the centre of our business. Were a small company and its something were really proud of as it means were small enough to care about our customers and give them a great service. The friendly, personable 'corner shop' culture is growing and were glad to be part of it. And our customer share scheme allows customers to have a say in how the business is run. They feel good about the fact theyre having a say.

Its the ethos on which I started the company over a decade ago and one which has underpinned our success.

What do I think the future of green energy is? I believe the technologies will continue to grow along with peoples desire to make a difference and reduce their carbon footprints. I believe that will be as much the case in the domestic as the business arena. One thing is for certain, fossil fuel supplies are finite. Whether youre in the camp that says it will happen in this century or in the one that says its centuries away, the supplies will at some point deplete. If there are ways to delay this then we should do everything in our power to do just that.

Doug Stewart is the Chief Executive of Green Energy UK. For further information about the company and to find hints and tips on how to reduce your carbon footprint, visit

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