Reasons to be cheerful

Bright future: Ian Draisey of Dulas looks beyond recent uncertainty in FiT
The recent Feed-in Tariff announcement has left many in the industry feeling disheartened and uncertain as to the future of the PV sector over the coming months. Whilst recognising the upset the cuts have created, Ian Draisey, of Dulas MHH, is finding positivity in the situation.

Dulas began its life as a commercial subsidiary of the Centre for Alternative Energy in 1982. Over the years the company has carried out some interesting projects including developing wind data logging equipment, numerous solar fridge installations for blood and vaccine storage across sub-sharan Africa, supplying 50W wind turbines and battery chargers for Mongolian Nomads and installing the onshore wind industry’s first 10m wind monitoring masts at Cernmaes in Wales.

Last year saw the company opening a Scottish office in Stirling, carry out the first installation of an Endurance 55kW wind turbine outside of North America as well as install solar and biomass at the UK’s fist zero carbon church in the UK. All this as well as scooping an array of industry awards over recent years. Last year also saw the acquisition of Dulas’ PV wholesale department by the German distributor MHH Solartechnik, one of the biggest global solar PV specialists.

With such a strong renewables heritage behind it, and the experience of working through decades of uncertainty and bust or boom policy edicts the recent FiTs changes will not hinder Dulas MHH’s  progress and Ian Draisey (Managing Director), highlights some areas he feels will affect the industry going forward, one being quality.

He states: “With Feed-in Tariffs (FiTs) being halved, there is an undoubted impact on the rate of return of a system. With this in mind both the consumer and the installer should be mindful of the quality of a system. Both need to be certain that the system will run for at least the payback years, and then well beyond to guarantee the initial investment. From our own point of view, the Dulas brand has always been associated with the highest quality products, and the MHH dynamic has only reinforced this position.”

Draisey sees rationalisation happening in the market over the coming year. “I feel that some installers will find it hard to sustain the business they had before and some may diversify,” he says.

Despite the changes Draisey sees ahead for the sector, he is adamant that positivity needs to reign and that customer requirements must come to the fore. He insists that “PV is a technology for the future, despite the government’s relegation of the technology in meeting 2020 targets, those within the energy industry know that it is both popular with the consumer, and behaviour changer – therefore essential in tackling the domestic energy haemorrhage that the UK experiences”. Distributors more than ever need to understand the customer, and support the installer – to know what value they add that gives them the edge.

“This is the angle that we at Dulas MHH will adopt when approaching the new emerging market in the New Year,” says Draisey. “We are investing in our website and additional business tools where we can, to give the installer the means to help them communicate to the customer. Now is the time to look at the ways we can grow the business and in doing so help our installers grow theirs.”

Draisey also advocates looking at the bigger energy picture (and indeed getting this message out to the general public) rather than just focussing on the cost of a system, its installation and the changes to the FiTs system. “The rise in electricity prices isn’t going to slow down,” he says, “that alone is reason enough to consider investing in a solar PV system.”

Clearly, there are business opportunities to be had despite the changes to FiTs. Draisey highlights the commercial Feed-in Tariff. “I see a pick up in bigger ground mount and commercial rooftop systems. Commercial tariffs reductions were less than domestic in percentage terms, and look possible with the right investor, married to the right technology and site. Other drivers ignored during the FiT frenzy will re-emerge and grow in significance, such as the Climate Change Levy, and planning requirements which should help the market move along,” he says.

Looking head to 2012, Dulas MHH has initiatives planned to help it continue with its growth and maintain the reputation it has created over the last 30 years. These include supplying a broader, but still quality-focussed portfolio; to present products with a ‘balance sheet’ credible warranty; to give customers a full B2B e-commerce online solution with a new client-centric website with installer support materials. Dulas MHH will also be bringing competitive pricing to reflect the return on investment required by both commercial and domestic end users.