When Senior Manager Gary Mawer was made redundant from South Wales Electricity (SWALEC) at the age of 51 in 1996, he did not want to take "an early, easy retirement". With a former colleague, Rhys Wynne, he used his redundancy package to set up an energy brokerage business from home. Later the same year, Gary was approached by mobile Operator One2One (now T-Mobile) to supply and install power to their mobile phone masts that are often erected in remote locations and subsequently powered by generators. From this, UPL has established a niche market within the utility sector as a result of the deregulation of the marketplace in the 90’s. Unfortunately, this did not automatically give rise to a competitive environment in which to flourish. The RECs (Regional Electricity Companies), who had held a monopoly on energy services, did not often respond well to being ‘managed’ by a third party and the standard of service was frequently poor. This problem continues now and undoubtedly as the firm looks toward the future, but as an entirely independent company, UPL will endeavour to bring about improved levels of customer care on the part of these organisations and will continue to campaign against anti-competitive behaviour.

Success Factor

The deregulation of the Utility Market, which continues today, provided an ideal opportunity for UPL to establish an increasingly widening customer base. At a time when the choice of gas, water and electricity suppliers underwent rapid expansion, UPL were best placed to offer advice and procure best value service from distributors. In addition to the opening of the above market, the Regulator has introduced competition in the provision of new infrastructure utility connections and metering. This has provided UPL with the opportunity to use to its advantage the inability of the incumbent suppliers to meet customer expectations. Perhaps the biggest challenge for UPL from the start has been managing the tremendous growth of the company. With workloads and staff numbers rising at a rapid rate, it has always been essential to structure the business effectively in order to provide a quality service to its customers. More recently, the firm has achieved ISO 9001 Accreditation and introduced a strong senior management team that plan to take the company on to its next stage of its development.

The Future

UPL plans to continue its national growth and develop its current relationships with its customers. With the marketplace evolving at such a rapid pace, the firm aims to offer existing clients a wider scope of added value services as well as source new customers that can benefit from its extensive energy solutions. Since strengthening the senior management team, the firm has put in place a five-year development plan for the business that incorporates these ideas. UPL is also looking into exporting its services to the EU and beyond, particularly its LPU (multi user meter cabinet) which has generated interest in areas that include South Africa and India.