In May 2019, Horizon Systems Ltd celebrated 10 years in business. The supplier and installer of solar and electric vehicle charging technologies was founded by the company’s Director, Andrew Currie, as a one-man operation in Essex in 2009. It now has four full-time employees, and is thriving on the back of the electric vehicle boom.
“Horizon Systems was born from disaster,” recalls Andrew Currie. “I had invested money in a solar water heating venture that I came up with the name for, called Solar Home (UK) Ltd. It sadly failed to take off, and I lost it all. However, I was determined to make something of it.”
Currie rediscovered a logo he had created several years before, for a concept company called Horizon Systems. Realising that the name and logo were perfect for the solar technology company he envisioned, he began trading as Horizon Systems. Currie founded the business with no capital, working from home.
“At the beginning, it was about walking the streets, knocking on doors and being persistent,” he says. “I got in touch with old contacts at a tubular skylight company, and began selling and installing their products.”
Currie’s previous experience in B2B sales in the drainage industry was invaluable, and the orders started coming in. In May 2009, he registered Horizon Systems Ltd as a limited company and began to create the company’s online presence.
“I went to PC World, and got a website kit for £25,” he remembers. “I set up the website myself, registered the domain name, and began to play around with SEO and Google AdWords. Gradually, we started to get more and more installations.”
Following a fortuitous meeting at a trade fair, Currie realised that it was a good time to get into the world of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels. The feed-in tariff for domestic solar PV had just been introduced, and the young industry was taking off. In 2010, feed-in tariffs were set at a generous £0.45 per kWh generated, and retail price index-linked for the next 25 years. Currie became an accredited installer under the microgeneration certification scheme (MCS), and completed his first installation.
“It was the right opportunity at the right time,” he recalls. “When the feed-in tariff was introduced, many of the early adopters of domestic solar PV panels were people approaching retirement. They realised that they could get a better return on their investments if they took money out of the bank and put it on the roof.”
For the next few years, Horizon Systems concentrated on solar PV installations. The industry soared with proactive support from Chris Huhne, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change from 2010 to 2012.
However, with a new minister in charge from 2012 and a change in government in 2015, the industry went through a rocky time. When major energy companies in the UK pushed back against feed-in tariffs, the tariffs were sharply reduced. The tariff stood at a paltry £0.04 per kWh in 2018, and was phased out entirely in 2019.
Like everyone in the industry, Horizon Systems felt the effects. While the company still had a few high-profile commercial installations, the bottom dropped out of the market for domestic solar PV. It was time for a new direction.
Once again, Horizon Systems happened to be in the right place at the right time. In 2014, browsing at an electrical wholesalers, Currie noticed a leaflet on installing electric vehicle (EV) charging points. He acted immediately, and Horizon Systems became accredited under the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) government grant scheme for EV charging points.
“At that time, the government grant was £1000,” he explains. “We partnered with a company called Rolec who produce charging points, and began installing them. Business was crazy, because people could essentially get them installed for free under the grant scheme. Then the grant was cut to £300-500, and the work stabilised.”
From 2014 to 2016, Horizon Systems focused on domestic EV charging point installations and also carried out some tubular skylight work, including a landmark project at army bases in Somerset.
The work gradually moved from domestic to commercial, and in 2017 Horizon Systems became involved with Chargemaster, one of the biggest car charging infrastructure manufacturers and installers in the UK.
“We came to Chargemaster’s attention when we won a tender for Stoke-on-Trent city council,” explains Currie. “They had bid for the same tender, and they realised we had the capabilities to complete commercial installations. They got in touch, and we began to take on installation work on their behalf.”
In 2018, Chargemaster was bought by the energy giant BP and rebranded BP Chargemaster. Today, Horizon Systems is mainly focused on B2B work, installing EV charging points for BP Chargemaster. The company also completes domestic EV charger installations under the Home Charge grant scheme, as well as solar PV and Solarspot® tubular skylight installations.
Horizon Systems also recently became an installation partner for energy storage solutions company Eaton, and won their ‘Face of the Installer’ competition.
The company now operates from an office in Gravesend, Kent. Currie happily notes that Horizon Systems now employs a full-time electrician, sales manager, and apprentice, as well as himself, and works with a number of contractors.
“Our electrician, Jim, has 30 years of experience in the industry, so he has decades of knowledge. This comes in handy when we encounter older equipment to connect into,” he says. “It’s important that we also bring in new blood, so we’ve recently taken on a young apprentice”.
“Our sales guy, Ronan, is busy chasing up leads, which frees me up to focus on the numbers and big picture questions. We were able to take on an invoice factoring facility in 2017, which is great news for cashflow in the business, and I spend a lot of time handling that.”
Describing what it’s like to work in Horizon Systems, Currie says, “We invest a lot in training. It’s important to keep up to date with new technologies, take on more difficult work, and evolve. We work hard, but we’re a chilled and open-minded company. We spend a lot of time on the road together. Everyone in the business has passion for what they do.”
“There are lots of interesting opportunities in EV charging,” says Currie. “At the moment, we’re looking into companies that produce on-street chargers that can be installed in lampposts. We’re also getting into the area of installing fast chargers in service stations and car parks.”
Currie is excited about the opportunity to grow the business in another direction, and develop a general electrical contracting service for commercial fit-outs alongside the environmental arm of Horizon Systems. He also sees the potential for expansion into Ireland, where the government is considering the introduction of solar feed-in tariffs.
“On the solar side, the future is definitely in energy storage,” he continues. “And even though the feed-in tariff is gone, we’ve done a lot of solar work recently. We’ve been working with Solarcentury to fit solar panels for IKEA.”
“We’re delighted to be celebrating ten years in business, and we’d like to thank all of our customers and partners for their support,” says Currie. “It’s a big thing for a small company to be in business for ten years. We’ve been lucky to carry out installations in places I never thought I’d get to see inside, and we’re always learning to do new things. I’m confident that Horizon Systems has a bright future ahead.”
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