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Proud parents' celebrate 25th birthday of breakthrough technology

10 Sep 2009

Sustainable power company ENER-G (www.energ.co.uk) is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its global combined heat and power (CHP) business, launched in 1984 following pioneering research and development work by University of Manchester academics.

Alan Barlow, ENER-G, and Clive Rowland, UMIP
Alan Barlow, ENER-G, and Clive Rowland, UMIP

Founded as Manchester’s first spin-out business, Combined Power Systems (CPS) has since become part of Salford-based ENER-G, which turns over £90 million and employs more than 700 staff worldwide.

The groundbreaking R&D work was carried out by a team at UMIST - now The University of Manchester – who developed remote monitoring and control systems that made low carbon CHP technology viable on a global industrial scale.

Since then, ENER-G has sold some 1,200 CHP units, reducing its customers’ carbon emissions by more than one million tonnes, and is a major player in the UK and European CHP market. Its Salford-designed and manufactured systems are used in hospitals, hotels, leisure centres, supermarkets and factories worldwide, and among its high-profile customers is the British Royal family at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle.

To mark the anniversary, ENER-G hosted  a special reception for original spin-out team member Clive Rowland, now head of The University of Manchester Intellectual Property (UMIP).

Alan Barlow, managing director of ENER-G Combined Power, commented: “Today’s CHP industry is one of the most important sustainable technologies in a rapidly expanding sector and it’s very much the result of innovative work carried out by the university and ENER-G – two of Greater Manchester’s leading technology organisations.

“It wouldn’t be an overstatement to compare the growth of the CHP industry with tiny acorns and mighty oaks and we were delighted to show Clive first hand what we are now achieving in terms of product development, energy efficiency and global expansion.”

ENER-G recently opened a third factory in Salford, enabling the company to increase production of its CHP and biogas generator units by 50% to meet orders from across the globe.

ENER-G’s CHP systems create electricity and heat simultaneously and reduce carbon emissions by around 20% while cutting electricity costs by approximately one third. Its biogas generation units convert methane, which is 21 times more damaging to the environment than carbon dioxide, into green energy – harnessing harmful gases from coal mines, landfill sites, waste water and other organic waste.

Clive commented: “The evolution of the original spin-out business into the successful technology company is tremendously satisfying personally and demonstrates the university’s contribution to business and the environment.

“The development of remote monitoring and control for CHP was a crucial commercial breakthrough because it meant you could anticipate and resolve issues before they became problems. This meant lower operating costs and greater efficiency.”

Today, this means that ENER-G can provide 24/7 monitoring of its installed systems across the world, ensuring that they operate at peak performance.

CPS was born from a market opportunity developed by entrepreneurial investors on the back of R&D work by academic staff at UMIST into a remote monitoring and control system for an efficient combined heat and power unit. CPS was owned by a number of utility companies following the spin-out and was acquired by ENER-G in 1997.

Clive continued: “We had to get by from hand to mouth for many years to keep the dream alive. This was in the days before there was much interest by UK venture capitalists in university spin-outs. So developing these enterprise activities was very hard work – like climbing a new mountain for each new opportunity.

“We were among the first universities to explore the commercial potential of research and have also grown enormously since those early times. For example, the £32 million UMIP Premier Fund, set up in 2008, is the largest single university venture fund of its type in Europe – and a long way from the days when we were knocking on hundreds of doors to get investors interested,” added Clive.

Notes for editors

Media information: Janet Kilpatrick, jk@janetkilpatrick.co.uk, phone: 0161 487 3830, mobile: 07794 192 677.                              

ENER-G (www.energ.co.uk) develops, finances and delivers renewable and energy efficient power generation and management schemes – applying advanced technology to cost and greenhouse gas reduction.

ENER-G’s solid financial status and independence provides the freedom to finance capital projects to offer zero cost purchase options to customers with revenue generated via long-term energy purchase contracts.

The group provides a complete end-to-end solution for all commercial and industrial energy requirements. Its engineering and service solutions include every aspect of energy management, including procurement; metering; control; lighting and building management systems; combined heat & power (CHP) manufacture and operation (ENER-G has more installed CHP systems across the UK and Europe than any other supplier); geothermal technology; energy from digester gas; and new generation energy from waste.