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Managing energy use makes good sense

Ian O’Driscoll set up Energy Sense Ireland in 2008. The company sells products and services that help organisations to cut their energy bills. It employs five people in Cork and Dublin to work with customers, including Debenhams, Cadburys and Jurys Hotel.

Energy Sense Ireland is now on the cusp of major growth, with plans to expand nation- wide through a wide-reaching franchise network.

‘‘From August, we are dividing Ireland into 14 areas and franchising it out with a ready- made business, including marketing material, demokits and office back up,’’ said O’Driscoll. ‘‘Each franchise holder will get a share of the revenue from their business. Through our affiliates in Britain and Benelux, we are hoping to franchise in those areas next year using the same model we have used in Ireland.’’

The company also plans to launch Energywatch, a product developed in conjunction with Enterprise Ireland and UCC, later in the year.

Green IT management tool

‘‘Energywatch IT is a green IT management tool for Windows, and targets organisations with 50 or more PCs,’’ said O’Driscoll. ‘‘It can manage energy use on each machine, automatically shut down if required and report on how much energy has been saved. We have put it through trials in Novartis, Galway VEC and RTE.’’

Investment in the company to date has come from a number of different sources.

‘‘The business was started using personal money and a small start-up business loan from Ulster Bank,’’ said O’Driscoll. ‘‘In January 2009, former Selatra chief executive Sean Cronin came on board as a shareholder and director. Last October, Jim Mulcahy of Impact Marketing joined the company as a shareholder and director. Both bring a wealth of experience.’’

O’Driscoll advised start-ups with restricted cashflow to plan carefully and manage their time wisely.

Cashflow vital

‘‘Cashflow is vital and needs to be monitored very closely during the early-stage period,’’ he said. ‘‘It is important to set out your stall on credit terms from day one or all your cash can be quickly swallowed up.
‘‘Your time is the most valuable asset and therefore needs to be spent wisely. Our website outlines our services, products and benefits, so when a client calls us or accepts our call they already know what we have to offer them.’’ O’Driscoll believes easier access to funding and grant capital would stimulate growth in Ireland’s green sector.

‘‘Irish companies are all trying to reduce their energy bill, but they have problems in financing projects,’’ he said. ‘‘We can do a lighting audit and reveal clearly the potential savings and return on investment. All clients we have quoted have the same reaction that it is a non brainer. But, alas, this is often followed up with a message of ‘no budget’.’’

O’Driscoll said more government support and bank finance was needed to help companies make strategic green investments.

Grants and capitol allowances

‘‘The grants and capital allowances available from Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) such as off setting the cost of an investment against corporation tax are not really enough,’’ he said.

‘‘The banks are not giving out loans for new investments. The British government has introduced zero per cent carbon trust loans and we really need something similar here.’’

Energy Sense Ireland is offering a public sector payment scheme for the retro fitting of lighting systems using its ‘Save It Easy’ e-Ballast products.

‘‘We take a deposit of the project value, about 25 per cent in most cases,’’ said O’Driscoll, ‘‘They pay the rest back over 30 months, out of the savings in their electricity bills. This is available for schools, hospitals and colleges.’’

O’Driscoll sees red tape as another barrier to growth in the green sector. ‘‘It can take six months to get products approved, even though they meet all necessary criteria. There is a lot of paper chasing with the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland.’’

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