Paul R. Brooks Snr, boss of a major renewable energy business, has called on our services to chase up late payers – an increasing problem in his sector, as elsewhere.

Renewable energy has been one of the growth industries of the last decade, flourishing at a time when many traditional ones have struggled to cope with rapidly changing economic conditions.

Renewables now account for more 20 per cent of the UK’s electricity with households, businesses and utilities all contributing to the nation’s energy generation, thanks to solar panels and other technologies.

But although the sector is healthy, at Philip Elliott Associates we have a rise in the number of clients who specialise in renewable energy coming to us for help with unpaid invoices and related problems. Often, they have supplied equipment in good faith to installers who have then failed to pay or gone out of business.

Government tariff scheme

Paul R. Brooks Snr has been in the renewable tech business since 2006 and in the electronics field for more than 20 years. His companies, CCL Components and The PowerStore Inc, have bases in Glasgow in the UK and Dallas, Texas and they operate worldwide, from the Caribbean to eastern Europe.

While the sector is thriving, Paul says that one of the challenges it faces is the tendency of some companies to see renewable installations and support as a way to make a fast buck. Some of them were attracted in particular by the government tariff scheme, which means individuals, companies and utilities can all be paid for the solar or other energy they generate and feed back into the National Grid.

Lack of technical expertise

It brought people into the field who were attracted by the profits to be made from installations but lacked the deeper technical expertise necessary to build the business and support customers effectively.

“We are facing issues in our industry though I don’t necessarily think they are different from those facing any others,” Paul says. “Because there are government subsidies available for companies focused on renewables, it has attracted people into the industry for a short space of time who then decide to walk away, leaving a trail of disaster in the shape of unpaid bills. There are actually many, many excellent installers who we work with but it is just a handful who have caused us problems.”

Chasing unpaid invoices

We have helped Paul’s companies with a number of such cases, relieving his staff of the time-consuming task of chasing unpaid invoices.

Paul says: “We find Philip Elliott Associates to be a proactive company. Robyn is the woman who never gives up. She just keeps pushing away and trying to get your money out of these clients. We found them to be very good, very diligent, and they get their work done. The fees are reasonable and we are more than happy to pay because they are successful.”

Scrutiny of directors

Generally, Paul would like to see government do more to tighten the rules on who can and can’t set up a business of any kind, so debt problems arise much less.

And there should, he says, be more scrutiny of directors who want to open a business and of what they are prepared to put into the business.

“I think there needs to be more value put on the opening of a company and who is allowed to do it,” he adds. “You shouldn’t be allowed to open a business for a pound, as you can now, unless you are prepared to offer proper security or commit to a guarantee to honour payments to creditors.”