Award winning energy company moves to employee ownership status 

Award-winning renewable energy contractor Solarsense has announced it has created an employee ownership trust giving its staff a stake in the company’s future.

Solarsense – nearly 30 years old and based in a new head office and warehouse in Clevedon – has delivered over 15,000 installations in homes and businesses across the UK.

It has also picked up some 20 awards including last year’s Renewable Energy Contractor of the Year 2022. At the same year it saw a staggering 234 per cent increase in sales enquiries and a surge of orders.

Managing director Stephen Barrett says the move is smart succession planning for a business that puts community and nature at the heart of what it does.

“This effectively delivers benefits for all the team instead of them being accrued by shareholders,” he said.

“We know we could have sold the company to a bigger business before we retired and we know some people might ask us why we didn’t at this point in our careers,” said Barrett who made the decision with his recently retired business partner and company director Richard Simon.

“The company might have ended up as the Bristol branch of a big corporate with a culture alien to the one we’ve created.

“A buyer could have taken us down the road of being a depot supplying small scale domestic buildings, which was never our vision.

“They could just use our buildings and staff to do something else, changing the business completely. As soon as you relinquish control you risk losing everything you’ve worked to build.”

Barrett and Simon opted for a hybrid structure of employee ownership which sees a controlling interest in the company transferred to an all-employee trust which is then held for the benefit of the team, while Barrett and Simon retain shares with 12.5 per cent ownership each.

It’s recognised in EOT structures that this leaves the business more heavily reliant on the founders than the employees, who in turn know the founders retain a targeted incentive to grow the business and make it a success.

“We sense a strong ambition that our employees see the opportunity we saw when we started to grow Solarsense – a company that can be a force for good while creating a sustainable, strong livelihood, instead of a company just after the endless pursuit of high profit and a quick sell on,” said Barrett.

“Most people join Solarsense for more than putting food on the table,” he adds. “When CVs arrive there is a clear ambition to work in renewables. These applicants, mostly under 40, are the generation who’ve bought into the idea of clean energy and the urgency of mitigating climate change.

“We think every company would benefit from having nature and community as their key priorities.”

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