Meet Sam Miles, Head of Home Services at HomeHero. Sam has 10 years of experience in the energy industry and is leading the innovation efforts for our energy offering. Here Sam demystifies the energy industry and shares some “Ah, that’s how it works” gems. 

So, what’s “greenwashing”?

A lot of suppliers who offer “green tariffs” aren’t what we’d typically consider green and much of the time can be really misleading to consumers. When people switch to green energy tariffs, some people assume that there’s a magical switch from brown pipes to green pipes and you’re tapping into a whole new energy source. 

Many suppliers are taking advantage of loopholes that mean they’re able to sell “100% renewable electricity”, despite not buying any power from renewable generators themselves or buying any directly. They do this by purchasing Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin (REGO) certificates from Ofgem to replace the energy they used from the grid (which will be a standard fuel mix) with energy sourced from renewables. But you’ll still be using a standard fuel mix from the grid.

Of course the more you do this helps the UK energy system transition into a greener one; by ensuring that renewable energy keeps getting put into the National Grid, but ultimately you’ll still have the same old supply mix going into your home and your “green” energy is actually from the same grid as your non-green neighbour. There are 2 or 3 energy suppliers in the UK that have the greenest tariffs on offer and source their electricity directly from certified renewable sources like solar, wind biofuel and hydro, but no one is really fully “green” in the way most consumers assume.

What’s the deal with solar panels?

Now that’s greener, but it can be expensive. With solar you have both an import meter and an export meter installed. The import meter is the traditional meter you have now, supplying any excess energy needed to your home. The export meter is used for any excess energy generated by your solar panels, and funnels it back into the grid. Typically people prioritise using the energy generated from their own panels for their home. Some just export it fully to the grid. 

Nowadays you can also get storage batteries for your home and self store your power. It’s fairly new technology and pretty awesome. I worked with a company that partnered with Duracell to create what was essentially a domestic, giant, in-home Duracell battery. You put it in your home, plug it into your panels, and any excess energy you keep (instead of pushing into the grid).  The potential for this is exciting. Domestic customers could even self-trade with their technology, and eventually have community-based energy where neighbors could trade among themselves based on who generated more! I think this is definitely something to watch – I wouldn’t be surprised if this sort of set-up comes as standard for future new-build homes.

You mentioned solar panel cowboys. What’s that?

A warning to those thinking about solar panels! There are legitimate people out there selling panels but there are a few dodgy types who go door-to-door selling high-cost solar panels with a pitch around “the panel will pay for themselves” in 1-2 years. However, if you’re not generating much power and you’ve paid over the odds for them, you’ll get the payback more like in 10-15 years, particularly now the government’s Feed In Tariff scheme has been scrapped. Essentially it’s salesmen hustling to close deals and, in some cases, the properties aren’t properly inspected, and considerations like the angle of your roof aren’t looked at, which is important. If it isn’t south facing for example, you’d typically generate less power, or if you have interruptions – shade, or chimneys, vents, skylights…that may limit the solar-suitable space

Is Wind Energy The Future?

Well, we do have more wind than we do sun in the UK so we’re in a great place for it. One great company to look at is Ripple. Regionally, wind generation really works. However, I don’t think domestically it will take off well – Londoners having turbines in their gardens for example – but in regions like Cornwall or Wales you can actually see homes that own small turbines in their gardens. The options are there, but I do think that for domestic homes, solar is probably a more viable option for most – depending on where you live of course! 

Is it mostly men in the industry?

Lots, yes. However, there’s a lot going on, not just for women, but across all diversity initiatives. A saw a post from a female CEO of an energy company recently about a board role in a business where not one female had applied and she was rallying all women to apply to level the field. As a youngish woman in the industry – in stark contrast to a lot of white middle-aged men – you do still have occasional moments of self-doubt. However, there are great networks out there. I sit on the board for The Future Leaders Mentoring Network, a mentoring scheme in the energy sector, and the board is incredibly diverse, actually mostly women, which is fantastic. There’s also a well-known recruitment company in the sector who set-up a women’s networking forum, and they hold many events for women, which I know work well as a support for many colleagues in the industry.

Are There Any problems you’re itching to solve in this industry?

There’s not a lot out there to educate consumers about energy and it’s a lot of work for suppliers to inform their customers and field FAQS on top of actually supplying them. One idea I had last year was around offering a general go-to for consumers via a switchboard and website etc to help them with queries around energy. If you spoke to suppliers around the UK about taking some of those queries off their hands, there’s a problem you could be solving right there. Essentially, it would take some of the burden off their call centres and resources and everyone has the opportunity to have a trusted source for information that’s consistent.

How did you get into Energy?

So there are many graduate schemes out there, and that’s how some people enter into the industry, but I left school at 16 and went straight to work. My background was in collections and when I relocated from the South East of England to the South West, I actually just needed a job once I’d moved. I ended up being interviewed in an energy company to work in their collections team and got an offer two hours later. I had very little knowledge about energy, switching suppliers, meters, any of it. Ten years later I’m still in it and love it. It feels like a lot of people get into the industry accidentally – I don’t think many people wake up one day saying “I want to work in energy!”. Like many, I went in on the front line and moved up fairly quickly over the years.

What keeps you in?

There’s so much to learn in this industry. Anyone you speak to who is passionate about it will tell you it’s so quickly evolving and there’s just so much to know. As little as 10 years ago there were around 15 suppliers in the UK – now, there are 65-70. There are more conversations going on about energy too: people wanting to be greener, to self-supply, all the net-zero conversations, just a lot of exciting change. 

HomeHero offered me a role that exposes me to energy but also a diverse new set of services under the operations arm. I knew that I could deliver the energy side of the HomeHero service, but equally, as a startup with a broad scope in-home services, there’s a massive opportunity to work on other elements that make us front runners in terms of energy, internet, and so much more. Smart meters and green energy is one thing, but what we’re going to be doing with the data from smart meters is going to be the really exciting bit that will offer adaptability and personalisation to our users’ energy experience, so watch this space!

Finally, can you suggest ONE good read that’s either helped or inspired you in your energy career?

A book that was recommended to me recently was by our CEO, Kenny Alegbe, called Exponential Organisations. It’s not energy-specific, but a good and helpful read about growth, innovation, and leadership.

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