Urban Volt loses €450,000, but says company positioned for significant growth

2020 proved ‘model is scalable’ as revenues grow and business expands into solar power

UrbanVolt chief executive Kevin Maughan: he  predicted the company could invest €300m to €400m in solar equipment over the next three to four years, both here and abroad. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

UrbanVolt chief executive Kevin Maughan: he predicted the company could invest €300m to €400m in solar equipment over the next three to four years, both here and abroad. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

Energy supplier Urban Volt lost €450,000 last year as revenues grew and the business expanded into solar power.

Urban Volt, which recruited the State and property magnate Stephen Vernon as backers last year, said revenues rose 25 per cent to €2.2 million in 2020.

The company lost €450,000, but cashflows were positive, with earnings before interest, tax and write-offs reaching €650,000.

Urban Volt supplies energy-saving lighting and solar power to industries under long-term deals.

Chief executive Kevin Maughan explained that the company books recurring revenues as it earns them each month, rather than accounting for a contract’s entire value as it signs up customers.

He pointed out that the business had signed €10 million worth of contracts in recent months, but noted that did not flow direct to the profit and loss account.

Instead it adds €1 million a-year in contracted revenues over the agreements’ lives.

Mr Maughan said that the last year had proved that “our model is scalable” and positioned it for significant growth.

Urban Volt last year raised €7 million from backers including the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund and former Green Reit co-founder Mr Vernon, who became company chairman.

Accounts just filed with the Companies’ Registrar show shareholders’ funds were €7.3 million on December 31st, 2020, from €591,000 a year earlier, reflecting the funds raised. It had €4.8 million in cash.

Mr Maughan confirmed that the company was eyeing opportunities to raise more funds as it prepares to expand its recently launched solar business.

UrbanVolt began in 2015, supplying energy-saving lighting to businesses. Instead of charging upfront for the equipment, the company takes a share of the cash that its customers save on their electricity bills as payment over time.

More recently it entered the solar power business, supplying and fitting panels to industrial buildings.

The company keeps ownership of the panels, remaining responsible for their upkeep. It charges customers 15 cent to 20 cent a kilowatt hour for electricity, a saving of around 25 per cent on the going rate.

Equipment

Mr Maughan said the approach saved customers spending large sums on buying the equipment while giving them a guaranteed price for the power supplied.

He predicted that UrbanVolt could invest €300 million to €400 million in solar equipment over the next three to four years, both here and abroad.

“In the Irish market we will invest €100 million over the next 30 months based on our pipeline,” Mr Maughan said.

The company would prefer to raise the cash needed by borrowing it rather than through giving away further equity in the business, according to its chief executive.

He added that there were a number of banks and private equity firms interested in the investment.

Increased demand pushed up solar panel prices in 2020, but five factories making the equipment are due to begin production in China this year. That is likely to cut costs again.

Urban Volt originally targeted smaller and medium-sized businesses trading in the Republic, but deals with multinationals paved the way to expansion into other markets in the US and Europe.

Customers include Dutch brewer Heineken, pharmaceutical giant and Covid vaccine-maker Pfizer, medical device manufacturer Zimmer Biomet, and transport and logistics business Syncreon.