Improving energy efficiency is key in solving climate change

I have had a wonderful call with Tracey O’Rourke, the type of conversation that stays with you for quite a while. Our discussion focused on how Vivid Edge helps companies achieve their energy efficiency goals. Her incredible personality and strong ambition have undoubtedly helped Vivid Edge to get to where it is now.

Please tell me a bit about your journey to becoming an entrepreneur.

It was a big leap. My peer group was all professionals working for large multinationals who did not understand why someone would leave a large MNC to join a startup. Nor did my family or friends. But the drive to do this was more significant than my fears.

I was very successful on paper at these multinationals, but I was feeling a little unfulfilled or dissatisfied. I really wanted to do something worthwhile, and I felt the world’s biggest issue today is climate change. I realized two things were very important to me: innovation and purpose. I felt that maybe I could tap into those two things much better if I set up my own startup.

How did you come up with the idea of Vivid Edge?

I wanted to do something purposeful and innovative, and I believe the climate is the world’s greatest challenge today.

I had worked in leasing and believed that model could be tailored to encourage greater investment in energy efficiency, the first essential step on a net zero journey. Too many people skip this step and jump straight to renewables. Efficiency reduces the size of the problem, and renewables help do what is left in a greener way.

What is the basic idea or so-called vision behind the company?

To make it easier for large energy users – the greatest contributors of carbon – to reduce carbon footprint, thereby helping those who least contribute and are most impacted by climate change, the developing world.

Using our capital, we take on the risk and hassle of net zero projects like new lighting, rooftop solar, or waste heat recovery projects. Customers pay a simple monthly service fee, and the energy savings often cover that fee.

Our customers save energy and cut costs while helping the planet.

How did you start Vivid Edge, and who are the team members?

I started in 2015 with a year of research immersing myself in a new sector I knew nothing about. During this time, I met co-founders Eimear Cahalin and Paul Boylan, our CFO and Technical Director.

We have exactly the same team with us as when we started. Nobody has left, despite the many challenges we had.

Could you tell me a bit more about the other co-founders?

Paul is an engineer and our technical director, and he is a six-foot, really tall guy passionate about energy efficiency.

Eimear also has a background in finance and banking.

What solutions were you planning to offer when you started? How has this evolved over the years of your operation?

Our offering has evolved as we have engaged with different market players, but the core principles have never changed.

How does Vivid Edge provide solutions for energy efficiency?

The first step is to identify where the opportunities are, then do a high-level business case – in terms of finance and energy.

What is your business model?

We support an extensive range of measures and technologies. We are able to do this by staying independent of manufacturers and outsourcing delivery to them. This also helps us scale and deliver across multiple markets.

Big corporations don’t necessarily have energy efficiency expertise. So we bring the expertise to help them work out the right thing to do to help them with the business case, and then we actually implement it. So they let us take care of their net zero journeys.

Since we are independent of all the different equipment suppliers, we will find them the best one, suited for their needs. They don’t owe us any money until everything is completely installed and the energy savings have started. Then they pay us a monthly fee.

energy efficiency
Photo by Riccardo Annandale on Unsplash

Have you been working in the office or at home since Covid-19?

We used to work in the office, but we’ve largely worked remotely since Covid, and we haven’t really got back into the office full-time.

We go back in from time to time, but we have got used to working from home. However, we find it essential to meet people in person as well.

What services do you provide to energy users, engineering firms, energy consultants, and equipment suppliers?

Energy users are our customers. We deliver energy efficiency upgrades as a service to them. Engineering firms, consultants, and suppliers are our suppliers. We help make projects happen that may not otherwise occur for them.

What are the main challenges of today’s world, and why is corporate social responsibility key to solving them?

Climate is by far the most significant challenge today, and each person and company has a role to play.

Unilever pioneered the concept of being a responsible corporate citizen, going back to the core purpose of each of its projects in its sales and marketing.

As the strategy evolved, their CEO Paul Polman realized that businesses have a role to play that is more important than profits.

Companies at large are releasing this, and young people realize this. They don’t want to buy from or work for a company that is not responsible.

How are you trying to combat greenwashing?

We’re not about waffles or promises. We’re about tangible project implementation. We have a carbon tracker and measure each project’s carbon and energy benefit.

Being authentic is a significant core value. We will only do a project that makes sense for the environment and our customers. For instance, we once said no to a solar project as there was no point when the building envelope was not well insulated. It’s like filling a bucket of water with holes in it.

What are your ambitions for the future?

We are building a substantial international business here in Europe and the Middle East. Can you tell me more about these projects?

What are you most proud of?

We have a highly talented, committed team. We can move mountains with that, and we intend to.

And, of course, we are proud of the decision to found Vivid Edge in the first place! Working in an impact business makes the working day worthwhile.

Andrea Nyilas is a Life Cycle Assessment and Sustainability Consultant and a Sustainability and Environmental journalist. She holds a Master of Science degree in Environmental Sciences and Policy from Central European University, in addition to a Master of Arts degree in Economics from the Corvinus University of Budapest. She is particularly interested in circular economy, natural resource management, and waste reduction.