Finding purpose in energy
Adrian Merrick dreaded the daily grind. He wanted to add purpose to what he was doing and give back to the community.
After working in the energy sector for 15 years, Merrick found the answer in creating social enterprise Energy Locals. Third Sector spoke to Merrick to find out more about his start up, the work he is doing with the energy sector and his charity partners.
What is Energy Locals and how does it work?
Energy Locals is a social enterprise that aims to clean up energy literally and figuratively. We know that customers are getting quite a rough deal and we know that there are a number of organisations that would like to help their supporters, members, customers, and followers. But getting involved in cleaning up energy is quite a complicated business.
Over half the profit we make will be put into communities and new, local renewable energy. Customers win from our unique guarantee that we will never raise prices for profit. Every customer receives carbon-neutral, cheap power and nonsense-free service rates.
Our interests are completely aligned with customers; we don’t earn money through energy. We don’t have that moral hazard that a lot of energy companies have. We are setting ourselves up from day one to not benefit from the usage of energy but to provide a service to our partners and customers that helps [them] move to a cleaner form of generation.
Why did you choose the social enterprise model?
I chose this because it is a for purpose organisation. Social enterprise tends to be the best match for that. I thought about weather this should be some sort of crowd-funded model and I discounted that for [a few] reasons. It did not feel right to ask a large group of people who don’t understand energy markets to fund a business in a market that is full of risk.
It is a for purpose and for profit organisation but just over half the profit goes to partners we support. Life Saving NSW just joined us. We are supporting a number of charities which was never our original plan but a few of them came along and said ‘we are always looking for new ways to raise money, can we get involved’ and we said sure. We are supporting a number of charities like the Starlight Foundation and R U OK?.
Tell us about your past experience that lead to the launch of Energy Locals.
I have been in big energy companies for about 15 years in Australia, UK and abroad. Those businesses really do earn a huge amount of money from customers who are just not engaged. That is the power of default. There are very large price increases. I just don’t want to spend my day doing that. I want to be able to say that we are trying to do the right thing by people and the right thing by energy.
What impact have you seen so far?
My communication style is what I am pushing hard across the business. We tell it as it is. There is no nonsense and it is honest and transparent. So far customers have been responding incredibly well and thanking us for our transparency. People are not used to transparency, as it is rare in energy.
Where do you hope to be in a year?
I hope that within a year’s time we have continued to get some fantastic partners on board.
I think about Energy Locals when I go to sleep and when I wake up in the morning. There are lots of exciting things ahead!