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PureNERGY's Makell strives to be leader in alternative energy market

Kevon Makell, general manager of PureNERGY Renewables.

Bermuda’s alternative energy industry has really taken off over the past year with a big rise in the number of companies entering the market.But the one constant has been PureNERGY Renewables, the sister company of Belco, which was formed two years ago and is headed by general manager Kevon Makell.Mr Makell is as passionate about his job as he is about renewable energy and while he welcomes the increased competition is also keen to ensure that his company remains No.1.The company endured a tough start in the midst of a recession, incurring a loss of $485,285 during the first half of 2009, but bounced back well to reduce its losses to $239,535 for the same period this year.Despite seeing growth in both solar domestic hot water and photovoltaic residential sales over that time, that was offset by decreased photovoltaic commercial sales, however PureNERGY also realised significant cost savings through improvements in its operating and administrative processes.Mr Makell said he was encouraged by the results and believed that the company was well-placed to take advantage of several projects in the future as Government’s rebates, including those for homeowners interested in installing a solar water heater and concessions of up to $5,000 for solar photovoltaic systems, and Belco’s Interconnection Policy announced last month which allows homeowners with alternative energy systems of up to 15 kilowatts (kW) to sell excess power back to the utility provider began to pique people’s interest.But he added that some energy users were still wary of the regulatory environment in light of the recent change in administration and the Government’s release of the White Paper on energy and were tightening their belts as a result of the economic conditions..“What was important for us was to just forge ahead,” he said. “It is all about being the best we can in selling small, medium and large scale renewable projects.”Mr Makell said that many of those who have done their research have started to realise the benefits of solar electric (photovoltaic) systems to generate power and solar water heaters (thermal) to reduce their electricity bill in the long-term.However, equally he appreciates the cost of the technology and striking a balance between making it affordable and covering the company’s own expenses through being creative in its implementation.Among PureNERGY’s product range are everything from lighting products and DC pool pumps and solar thermal water heaters, all of which are designed to be fitted into new buildings or retrofits.And Mr Makell is bullish that despite heightened competition in an ever challenging economic climate that business will pick up for his company going into next year.“I believe that we will see continued movement,” he said. “There has been some competitor penetration and some have made strides in getting medium sized projects Inc-ed.“It was not unexpected in terms of our forecast and with the formation of alternative energy companies in Bermuda we are going to win some and lose some, but PureNERGY is here and we are here to stay.“The key consideration is that the market and policy for the industry is still developing.”He said that PureNERGY had managed to weather the storm well through stepping up its energy audits to detect and eliminate energy vampires and phantom loads, as well as helping customers to better understand their energy consumption and come up with a solution to meet their needs.“The fact is that we are doing everything we possibly can to advise every single customer in the country what is the best benefit to them in terms of renewable energy,” he said.“The main benefit of PureNERGY is that we have a energy background and that value add enables us to be qualified energy advisors to the people of Bermuda.”Questions have been raised over the credibility of a number of the new energy efficiency companies which have joined the fray over the past 12 months, with some making unsubstantiated claims about the costs savings they can bring the end user, and Mr Makell believes that customers should choose their supplier carefully based on track record, reliability and the security it offers.As an advocate of test driving his own products, Mr. Makell, who lives in a ‘house of the future’ in Warwick that incorporates all three of PureNERGY’s technologies - solar electric, solar water heating, and micro-wind turbine - and can be monitored via the Internet anywhere in the world, said that PureNERGY prides itself on being one of the few companies that can continuously check up on the performance of its devices and provide clients with hard data in real time.“It is all part of an effort to do the analysis to ascertain what your system is doing for you, to troubleshoot and to come up with a serviceable plan that suits your needs, which allows us to be much more effective in supporting our customers,” he said.Mr Makell, who is a veteran of more than 30 years in the energy sector, has been keen to get the message out about the advantages of alternative energy and has already given several hundred people a tour of his ‘green’ house, including Government leaders, to show them what he has been able to achieve, as well as speaking at several public forum’s including Business Bermuda and Bermuda Small Business Development Corporation (BSBDC) seminars.He will also be exhibiting at the Coldwell Banker Home Show in February 2011, as well as being a regular fixture at the Age Concern Expo and Greenrock’s Living Green Expo.PureNERGY’s success is borne out by its growth to a staff base of seven to eight, including one student who was taken on full-time at the end of his internship, and having developed its own apprenticeship and training programme for young Bermudians and working with graduates of the BSBDC’s initiatives to has been seeking to empower entrepreneurs, with the hope of creating new jobs as the market expands.“I am very passionate about what I do,” he said.“And I believe that this is a market that is still developing and really hasn’t seen or come close to any level of maturity yet, but as the policy and regulatory framework becomes into line and the economic conditions improve I think there is going to be a plethora of activity and as a company we need to find ways to continue to be competitive.”