Community Q&A with Pure Planet CEO and co-founder Andrew Ralston - 2020 edition


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 Hi everyone

This month we’re running a Pure Planet Community Q&A with our co-founder and CEO Andrew Ralston.

This is the third Q&A that Andrew’s taken part in. Looks like it’s becoming an annual event!

You can ask Andrew pretty much anything you want about Pure Planet, about renewable energy, the energy business, what he likes to do when he’s not at work, even about his dubious taste in music.

As long as it doesn’t reveal anything of a confidential nature, Andrew will give it his best shot!

Check out the 2019 community Q&A with Andrew, and also our 2018 edition here.

We’ve done the same with Pure Planet’s other co-founders. In January this year Steven Day took questions about smart meters, carbon-offsetting and more. And in February 2019 Chis Alliot carried out a community Q&A about how we buy your energy.

The way that the Pure Planet Community Q&As work is that we open the conversation for questions, close it after a week or two, and then publish all the replies.

So over to you! Post your questions in the replies to this thread and Andrew will answer them in the next fortnight or so. 

BTW it’s okay to ask more than one question! :grin: 


This topic has been closed for comments

15 replies

Userlevel 7
Badge +9

Hello Andrew. 

Well first has to be what does your lockdown haircut look like?

A bit more serious, during the lockdown how have you altered your way of working as a company and do you see some of the changes forced upon you staying as permanent working practice.

 

Userlevel 7
Badge +10

Hi Andrew and thanks for taking the time for questions.

I’m guessing the latest Ofgem  proposals (see BBC post HERE) are a causing all sorts of conflicting issues for energy companies. What are your thoughts about these proposals and Pure Planet longer term?

Hi Andrew,

Regulars here see a lot of malcontent posts and try to help out as much as possible. Nevertheless it can become frustrating, especially when new tariffs seem to penalise early tariff adopters.

What do you see as your key customer service challenges and how do you think you might best maintain the continued efforts of your gamified 1st line support community?

Obviously other than posting an amusing moptop big hair selfie!

Hi Andrew

I opted to have a Smart Meter fitted to hopefully take advantage of some innovative tariffs and in turn reduce my bills. What are your plans around this? Also any plans to sell additional products such home battery storage solutions?

Sorry two questions there.

Thanks.

Okay, I feel someone has to do it.


Hi Andrew,

How ‘dubious’ is your taste in music, and is Marc in any position to judge?

Thanks 

Mark​​​​​​​

Okay, I feel someone has to do it.


Hi Andrew,

How ‘dubious’ is your taste in music, and is Marc in any position to judge?

Thanks 

Mark

A real bonus of working from home is no longer having the shared office speaker… :grin:  

Not long to go now before we close this thread so Andrew can get to work on the replies.

So if you’ve got a question, don’t be shy!

Over on our Pure Planet Instagram page, we have a question from someone called ‘onlyoneworld19’ who wants to know what are Andrew’s favourite podcasts. :thumbsup:

Userlevel 7
Badge +9

Hi Andrew,

Just like to say how positive this community is and especially during these strange times.

Are there any projects on the horizon that you are willing to share that perhaps have not already been advertised?

When fully introduced will non EV owners subsidise EV tariffs to some degree?

Now that fixed tariffs have been sold, are you seeing the benefits?

I’m not encouraged by smart meters, am I wrong?

Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Userlevel 7
Badge +9

Hello Andrew.

What energy and waste saving tips and renewable generation do you deploy at home that you can share with the community. 

Userlevel 7
Badge +8

Hi Andrew, 

Now that Boris has given the responsibility to employers to decide the best and safest option for their employees to work going forward, are you keen to get everybody back into PP Towers, or are you keen on the WFH and video calls etc?

I'd like to ask if there are any plans to expand the £25 referral scheme. Myself and many more ethical minded friends are trying to not use Amazon anymore plus we try not to buy many new clothes as the fast fashion industry is so damaging to the planet. Could there be some 'greener' choices on the £25 reward scheme to reflect the green ethos of your company. Thank you. 

 

Badge +1

Hi Andrew,

What has been your best / worst lockdown tv viewing.

 

 

Thanks everyone for all these great questions!  :pray:

This thread is now closed, while Andrew works on this replies, which will be posted soon! 

Hi everyone

Thanks for posting some fantastic questions. Here are all the replies from Andrew. 

(I hope the formatting works OK. This is our first Q&A in the new community!)


Question 1 from @Jon1 

Hello Andrew. Well first has to be what does your lockdown haircut look like? A bit more serious, during the lockdown how have you altered your way of working as a company and do you see some of the changes forced upon you staying as permanent working practice.

Hi @Jon1 great to ‘see’ you again and thanks for the question.

Firstly, the haircut. We were in lockdown for just three days when a set of clippers mysteriously arrived in the post! They were ordered by my wife, but luckily she’s gone very easy on me.

Like everyone, we’ve gone through some radical changes over the past few months. We’re lucky at Pure Planet in that we already did a fair bit of remote working, and as you know our emphasis has always been on digital working, and digital support for our Members. We’re cloud-based, and everyone is equipped to work anywhere, so the transition to home working was straightforward for us in many ways.

The first task was to make sure the whole team was OK. And that’s still our number one priority. But looking back over these past few months, despite all the challenges enforced on us by Covid-19, we’re managed to do a lot: an EVs pilot, the launch of a new fixed tariff, a summer special promotion, lots of great updates to our app, and much more coming soon which I can’t just talk about yet.

Personally, I miss being with the team, working alongside each other, and I hope it doesn’t stay like this permanently. We’d like to get back into our Bath office - and we’ve reopened it for those who have struggled to work from home - but our safety’s the most important thing. So, for most, if we have to keep working from home for longer, that’s what we’ll do. We’ve made the best of this situation so far, no reason why we can’t continue to flourish. My feeling is that in the future we will see more people choosing to work from home more often. And of course Pure Planet will support that.


Question2 from @woz 

Hi Andrew and thanks for taking the time for questions.I’m guessing the latest Ofgem proposals [to cut bills by £20 a year] (see BBC post HERE) are causing all sorts of conflicting issues for energy companies. What are your thoughts about these proposals and Pure Planet longer term?

Hey @woz  Great question!

Ofgem is exploring different ways to protect consumers from paying unnecessarily high energy bills, and we support that.

The news you’re referring to affects the transmission networks - the network firms which run the pipes and the wires. Ofgem believes their profit margins are too high. 

It’s part of everyone’s bill - which is regulated, we have no control over these costs - they go to fund the networks. It’s this portion of the bill that Ofgem wants to cut. 

The network companies, which are regional monopolies, have argued that any loss of income will reduce their ability to invest in greener, more modern networks. 

The debate isn’t settled yet and is in consultation now. It’s called RIIO-2. You can read more about it here.


Question 3 from @25 quid 

Hi Andrew, Regulars here see a lot of malcontent posts and try to help out as much as possible. Nevertheless it can become frustrating, especially when new tariffs seem to penalise early tariff adopters. What do you see as your key customer service challenges and how do you think you might best maintain the continued efforts of your gamified 1st line support community? Obviously other than posting an amusing moptop big hair selfie!

Hi @25 quid  Thanks for taking the time to ask a question.

We introduced a fixed tariff based on feedback from our Members. Our pass-through variable rate is some Members’ preference, but it’s not for everybody.

You mention the community, which we love, and is a huge success. It’s great to see Members supporting one another in the community, but we also get some really helpful and honest feedback from it.

An example - you may not remember, but we used to be app only. All Members had to download the app, on iPhone or Android. We did this when we launched and for the first two years of Pure Planet, so that we could really focus on delivering a great digital Member experience and getting people to join up. And we saw a lot of success and some early growth, but one thing which kept being brought up by community members was the lack of web access.

So we took the decision to launch Pure Planet on the web too. It means we’re able to support many more people.

I used to read every community post back in the early days! Of course, we have so many thousands of community Members now, that’s no longer possible. But our community managers Marc and Nataly are good at making sure that everyone at Pure Planet knows what our Members are talking about, and I know there are numerous times when we’re building new products and services hand-in-hand with the community.


Question 4 from @ChrisH 

Hi Andrew, I opted to have a Smart Meter fitted to hopefully take advantage of some innovative tariffs and in turn reduce my bills. What are your plans around this? Also any plans to sell additional products such home battery storage solutions? Sorry two questions there.

Hi @ChrisH 

Great questions.

Battery home storage is an area I’m really excited about. Earlier this year we started our Pure Planet EV pilot, which has been a fantastic way for us to talk directly to our Members about the kinds of services we can offer soon.

I see battery storage as a natural extension of this conversation, along with solar panels, and smarter homes.

For now while it’s too early to talk in detail, I can say yes, we have got very exciting plans for future energy products and services. This includes new partnerships around EVs and home battery storage which will be able to make much more use of your smart meter. 


Question 5 from @Gwyndy 

Hi Andrew, How ‘dubious’ is your taste in music, and is Marc in any position to judge? Thanks, Mark

Haha thanks @Gwyndy wyndy.

Well, I’m sure one thing that the Pure Planet team don’t miss about the office would be the occasional times when I’d be left in charge of the music! Let’s just say my taste is…. Unfashionable :slight_smile:


Question 6 from @Strutt G 

Hi Andrew, Just like to say how positive this community is and especially during these strange times. Are there any projects on the horizon that you are willing to share that perhaps have not already been advertised? When fully introduced will non EV owners subsidise EV tariffs to some degree? Now that fixed tariffs have been sold, are you seeing the benefits? I’m not encouraged by smart meters, am I wrong? Cheers!

Thank you @Strutt G  for the positive words. 

I suppose my answer to @ChrisH above hints at some of the things we’ve got coming down the line. The future is definitely all about smart homes, battery storage, EVs and more electrification.

The take-up of EVs is, of course, something we support wholeheartedly as Pure Planet’s mission is to see the whole of Britain powered by renewable energy. But we appreciate, too, that some changes will be more gradual.

We’re looking at tariffs for EV drivers at the moment. It’s interesting that most EV tariffs encourage night charging so that it’s done off peak. But if we all switched to an EV and charged at the same time, it would have the opposite effect. I think the EV tariffs we see on the market today will look quite different in two to three years from now.

Will non EV drivers be penalised?

Not by us, no.
Interestingly, you might argue that non EV drivers are already being disadvantaged in other ways: they have to pay vehicle tax, congestion charges, parking charges, and are banned from certain lanes while EV drivers are not. Or you might say this is an incentive (as I see it) to ditch your internal combustion engine and cut your CO2 emissions at the same time.

Now that fixed tariffs have been sold, are you seeing the benefits?

Yes, our fixed tariff is proving popular with new Members, and some existing Members have switched to our fixed rate since it was introduced. This choice of tariff has widened our market appeal and has meant stronger growth at Pure Planet, which is good to see. 

I’m not encouraged by smart meters, am I wrong?

Put simply - Yes, I think you are! 

Smart meters are necessary to modernise our national infrastructure. Smart meters are precise which means accurate billing for householders, no more meter readings or estimates - and they can help people save money. Ultimately smart metering means an accurate understanding of how much energy really needs to be produced and put onto the grid (today, it’s estimated, believe it or not - reasonably accurately most of the time, to be fair - but often their is needless over production, which is a waste of energy is it is ‘returned to earth’ as electricity and a waste of money.  So smart meters mean efficiency, which in turn means fewer emissions, and a greener grid.

Smart meters also mean, in the future, we householders will be able to sell excess energy back to the grid - either from our EVs or our solar panels or batteries.

I suspect you’re discouraged by some of the technical challenges we, and all suppliers, have had in getting the SMETS2 network up and running.

In hindsight, I would say that the Government may have underestimated the complexity of modernising the network and chosen to structure the rollout in a highly inefficient way and definitely underestimated how long it would take.

We know it’s frustrating for our Members when the technology doesn’t operate as intended. It’s frustrating for us, too. We know there are too many installations happening where the new smart meters are not working effectively the first time round.

That said, well over nine in ten installations are now working fine and things are getting better all the time. And we think it will be well worth it in the end. 

Smart meters are crucial for the country to hit its legally-binding climate target.


Question 7 from @Jon1 

Hello Andrew. What energy and waste saving tips and renewable generation do you deploy at home that you can share with the community?

Hi again @Jon1 

Excellent question! 

We don’t have gas in our village so our heating is from an oil fired boiler which I simply hate - I’d love to find an affordable, efficient alternative, and that’s a big ambition for me.

As a family we’ve made a concerted effort to reduce our plastic waste. WE’ve recently put our Amazon voucher earned by referring friends to join Pure Planet, to good use and have bought a Sodastream, as have our kids for their respective homes, so our use of plastic water bottles has plummeted.

I’ve recently found a dog food provider who’s packaging is entirely compostable, so that’s helped too.

Just last week I took out a second mortgage to buy some beeswax wraps, and during lockdown we’ve moved back to using a bar of soap which has put an end to bottles of hand soap.

But the most exciting action I’ve taken is to place an order for my first electric vehicle - I’m still waiting for delivery  because of the delays brought about by COVID, but as a bit of a car enthusiast, I’m really looking forward to it’s arrival - I must admit I’m feeling a little apprehensive as well. 

My aim is to install solar panels and a battery solution at home in due course.


Question 8 from @Bev 

Hi Andrew, now that Boris has given the responsibility to employers to decide the best and safest option for their employees to work going forward, are you keen to get everybody back into PP Towers, or are you keen on the WFH and video calls etc?

Hello @Bev That’s a really topical question.

Like I mentioned to @Jon1 , we’ve been working from home since March without any interruption to our service. In fact, service levels improved. 

Although, we’ve reopened our office for those who would genuinely benefit from a change of scene, we’ve chosen to put in place lots of restrictions in the interests of safety. For now, for example, only a maximum of 10 people are allowed in at any one time. 

Also, we’ve asked that only team members with private transport like EVs or bicycles, or who can walk to work, go in, as we don’t want to encourage use of public transport yet.

So the big majority of us are still working from home.  We’re going to monitor that for a couple of months. Of course, things may change and the government may say otherwise, I think this is how it’ll be for some time yet.

The most important thing in all this is the safety of the Pure Planet team, of course.


Question 9 from @SharonP 

I'd like to ask if there are any plans to expand the £25 referral scheme. Myself and many more ethical minded friends are trying to not use Amazon anymore plus we try not to buy many new clothes as the fast fashion industry is so damaging to the planet. Could there be some 'greener' choices on the £25 reward scheme to reflect the green ethos of your company. Thank you. 

Hi @SharonP Really good question. 

Our refer friends and family scheme is a great way of saying thanks to those who recommend us.

When we launched it way back in 2017 we only had the option of Amazon vouchers. We know that Amazon’s not for everyone, so now we extended the options to Asos (which my kids know more about than I do :wink:and For Good Causes, an organisation which supports tens of thousands of UK charities. Having a charitable option was a request from our community Members! There are plenty of environmental charities supported by the For Good Causes voucher option, so that’s something to consider. 

So, it’s always useful to get ongoing feedback.

Greener consumer choices is a good idea, too. We’ve started some work on creating new partnership deals so, yes, we're looking into this, thank you. 


Question 10 from @NannyOgg 

Hi Andrew, What has been your best / worst lockdown tv viewing

Hi @NannyOgg , that’s a tricky one for me, as I honestly don’t watch very much TV, other than the news which I’ve lost interest in recently and a bit of sport which clearly hasn’t been happening.
The one programme my wife started to watch and I was enthralled by was Normal People - the series set in Ireland which followed the lives of two young students - I thought it was fantastic.

Oops, missed the question from asked on Instagram about Andrew’s fav podcasts. :open_mouth:

Andrew’s reply:

eek - embarrassed to say Desert Island discs is one of my favourite - just listened to Helen McCrory’s edition and also a great series from BBC World Service called “50 things that made the modern economy” - great listening