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Energy Mutual

Discover how technology is helping one Highland business owner increase the profitability of small scale renewables projects for his clients, helping Scotland meet its net zero targets.

Kyle - Energy Mutual

Taking the pain out of managing small scale renewable energy projects

Kyle Smith originally set up Energy Mutual as a consultancy in 2013 while studying his PhD in Electrical Engineering, working as an independent consultant for small scale community energy projects. Fast forward to 2019, and Kyle decided he wanted to take the next step of creating a fully-fledged business, particularly due to the increased interest in renewable energy.  

Kyle saw an opportunity to turn his expertise into a commercial venture. As Kyle explains, “Over the past ten years, the government has been promoting small scale renewable energy generation at the community level - on farms, factories and other similar sites. I noticed that, after about two years of operation, these systems start to need more attention to ensure they’re generating to their potential, and that the asset owners usually don’t have the capacity or knowledge to do that themselves.”

In the beginning, the main bulk of Energy Mutual’s work included face to face meetings and site visits to small hydro systems or small wind turbines. Kyle’s expertise allowed him to help the owners of such systems maximise their generation by resolving any problems or faults that arose, as well as identifying new opportunities. He was providing hands-on management, but Kyle’s overall aim was to find a way to automate the processes required, making it more efficient and affordable in the long run.  

Because the revenue for small-scale renewable assets can be quite low compared to the larger, utility-scale wind farms and hydro schemes, it’s relatively expensive for their owners to use a hands-on manager. Kyle saw an opportunity to develop a platform that would collect performance data from these systems and automate the management process. For that, however, a new approach and business tools were needed.

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One of the benefits of being part of the Pathfinder programme is that it started to open up all the other doors that you didn’t realise were out there in terms of support for small businesses in the Highlands.
Kyle Smith, Founder, Energy Mutual

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Learning, discussing and making connections that will last

Like many others, Energy Mutual found themselves having to think of new ways to expand their business when COVID-19 hit, which was especially daunting only one year into the new business model. As a result, Kyle decided to focus on his strategy and gain the knowledge and tools he needed to take his business to the next level. He spotted information on the Pathfinder Accelerator programme in an HIE email newsletter and thought it sounded like a good fit. He applied and was accepted.  

The Pathfinder Accelerator programme takes place over six months, led by experienced coaches who work with business owners to help accelerate business growth through a mix of masterclasses, 1-2-1 remote support and workshops, combined with both peer and self-directed learning.

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Why join Pathfinder?

By joining Pathfinder, Kyle was able to dedicate time to consider his next steps, meet and discuss with other business owners and professionals and undertake workshops and activities to make a plan. “My background and expertise are in engineering”, says Kyle. “Pathfinder helped me learn how to build a business and I was able to do it all from my base in Fort William.

“It came at the perfect time. It’s a great community to share your thoughts with, and I’d do the workshop or call and come away feeling more energised. It was always a very upbeat environment.”  

Taking part in Pathfinder encouraged Kyle and his fellow business owners to dedicate time each week to consider their approach, what they wanted their futures to look like and how they could benefit from the challenges they were facing. Kyle adds:  

“One of the benefits of being part of the Pathfinder programme is that it started to open up all the other doors that you didn’t realise were out there in terms of support for small businesses in the Highlands. Having that initial contact has been really helpful.” 

Kyle also felt the benefit of the one-to-one support offered by the Pathfinder coaches, finding that they had either been on a similar journey themselves or had supported another company through the same process. “Their insight was really helpful and valuable”, says Kyle.   

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Levelling up and creating a team

Since participating in Pathfinder, Energy Mutual has begun to expand and has moved its focus from providing a face-to-face service to an online-based approach. During the programme, Kyle was introduced to a European fund called Co-Innovate. His HIE mentors helped him to work through the application process, and he was awarded a grant. This has lead to a 12-month innovation programme and partnership with an academic institution as well as Energy Mutual’s first hire, Sam – an experienced software engineer who will allow the business to continue to increase its offering and further innovate.   

In addition to this, Kyle has sought further support, securing a place on the Royal Bank of Scotland Accelerator which is giving him a further boost thanks to the financial, legal and tech support provided. For Energy Mutual, this is just the start. They aim to continue to build their team; Kyle is grateful that remote working is becoming the norm as he believes this will make growth easier. He is hopeful that he can work with the best talent, wherever those people happen to be based, and plans to start with two offices, one in the Highlands and one in Edinburgh, before marketing Energy Mutual to the rest of the UK and internationally.   

Protecting the company culture as the company grows is a priority. “Sam and I value work that is fulfilling and that provides a modern work-lifestyle balance”, Kyle explains. “Our company strategy meetings have so far taken place in a variety of campsites across Scotland!”

 

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Plans for the future

The roles being created in Energy Mutual are skilled, long-term jobs within the growing net-zero sector - an attractive proposition for many candidates. In the near term, Kyle is focused on employing asset managers (people with a mixed commercial and technical background) to manage a portfolio of small-scale renewable energy projects. Longer-term, he wants to grow the technical team with additional software engineers and data scientists. He’s keen to develop new talent, too, and says that he’s interested in hearing from students or graduates that have an interest in learning more about renewable energy and a technical background in software, electrical or mechanical engineering. 

“I’m really looking forward to seeing Energy Mutual grow and taking the opportunities I’ve got through the programme to help us create a better, stronger business”, says Kyle

For more information about Energy Mutual, visit their website

Or stay on our website to find out more about the Pathfinder Accelerator programme, including information on how to apply. 

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What is Pathfinder Accelerator?

Pathfinder Accelerator is a programme delivered by the Northern Innovation Hub. This is part of the Inverness and Highland City-Region Deal - a joint initiative supported by £315m investment from the UK and Scottish governments, The Highland Council, HIE and University of the Highlands and Islands. This programme also receives financial support from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the Innovation strategic intervention.

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