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Episode 5 – Sustainable Power in the Hire Industry


In this episode, Kevin and Tim dive into sustainable power for the UK Hire industry with Alan Guthrie, founder of the Alan Guthrie On Hire Blog. He shares stories of hire company selflessness during the pandemic, explores the changes in sustainability and battery energy, and discusses the future of these technologies in the hire industry. He also addresses opportunities for different hire companies when adopting new technologies. Finally, we discuss the role of telematics and data in promoting sustainable equipment. The conversation concludes with a discussion on the future of sustainability and the hire industry, as well as Alan’s plans.


  • Achieving sustainability goals requires a partnership approach between manufacturers, hire companies, and customers – considering factors such as location and specific tasks.
  • Larger hire companies are positioned to provide sustainable solutions, while alleviating the cost of entry barrier for new technology
  • The future of sustainable hire will involve a range of options including diesel, solar, hydrogen, and other emerging technologies
  • Opportunities exist for smaller independent hire companies to offer battery storage systems that cater to their customer base.
  • Achieving net zero requires a pragmatic approach, phasing out fossil fuels and phasing in alternatives over time.
  • Telematics and data provide valuable insights, setting a benchmark for tracking and reducing carbon emissions in the hire industry.
  • The future of sustainability will be shaped by ongoing innovation, collaboration, and the commitment to meeting environmental obligations.


Alan Guthrie
Founder, Alan Guthrie On Hire Blog


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Any statements or views expressed by the hosts or guests on Leading the Charge are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or positions of POWR2, their partners or affiliates.



Kevin Sturmer 0:00
Coming up on Leading the Charge.

Alan Guthrie 0:02
You will never in hire, you will never replace the personal contact or the personal element because so much of hire is not about the equipment. It’s about the service. And it’s about a customer who says, basically, they’re saying, I don’t know what I want, but I want you to supply the answer. And this is where companies like POWR2 come in. Because you have people wanting to go green, they want to go sustain, they want to be sustainable, but they don’t really know how to do it. And it’s the advice and the information and the dialogue that is necessary.

Kevin Sturmer 0:38
This is Leading the Charge where we talk innovation and insights in the industry of sustainable energy. Leading the charge is brought to you by POWR2 a global provider of energy storage solutions. Let’s simplify sustainability. And now from the POWR2 studio, and broadcasting everywhere from leadingthecharge.io. Here are your hosts, Tim Doling, and Kevin Sturmer.

Welcome to Leading the Charge where we talk battery energy storage, insights, innovation and the industry of sustainable energy. My name is Kevin, and I work in the marketing department of a company called POWR2 with us is the incredible Tim Doling. He’s the Director of Innovation here at POWR2, Tim, how are you doing today?

Tim Doling 1:22
Doing welcome and excited to be here again.

Kevin Sturmer 1:25
Wonderful. It is great to have you here. And we recently talked about how conversations regarding better battery energy storage systems and sustainability – they vary from country to country, and how specifically in the UK, those conversations have been happening, maybe for a longer time than other countries. And they’re a little more in depth than other countries. And today we are lucky enough to have Alan Guthrie on the podcast. He is the founder of the Alan Guthrie On Hire blog. You can find that at alanguthrieonhire.com. He has been covering the UK hire industry for over two decades. So Alan, it’s so great to have you here. How are you doing?

Alan Guthrie 2:05
I’m doing great. Thanks, Kevin. And thank you ever so much for having me on your show. I’ve been looking forward to it immensely. And I’m sure we’ll have a very stimulating conversation.

Kevin Sturmer 2:17
Wonderful, wonderful. Let’s let’s get right to it. So I’m really curious. So let’s go back a little bit. What drives your passion for covering the hire industry? And what was it about your experience that led you to start the On Hire blog?

Alan Guthrie 2:32
Well, I’ve been covering as I started covering the hire industry 20, well, it’ll be 25 years ago, this November. And it struck I’d had journalistic jobs before then. And the opportunity came up to edit a magazine called Executive Hire News, which is still thriving. And it just struck me as a fascinating industry full of interesting products, and a lot of entrepreneurial characters. And I’d been working on EHN for 20 years, I decided it was time to step back. My wife and I had other things we needed to do that had been put on hold, the usual retirement scenario. So the plan was to take early retirement in 2020. I should have thought things would not go to plan because my last working day was Friday the 13th. What could go wrong Friday, the 13th of March 2020. I closed the laptop down, shut the phone down on a Friday evening. 10 days later, we were locked down because of COVID. An unprecedented situation. And the world changed very quickly after that I saw the hire companies rallying round and particularly although I rarely highlight individual companies, I have to mention Sunbelt Rentals, who in the UK worked heroically, and that is the word heroically, to put in place, the COVID vaccination, the COVID testing centers excuse me, all around the country, they work around the clock. Other hirers participated to hirers of all sizes, for example, strip their shelves of all the PPE and protective clothing they had in the shop, put them on a truck and donated them to their local hospital to help with the COVID effort. We were witnessing history on a scale that I’d never envisaged before. So after a couple of conversations at, random conversations with people, I said somebody needs to really record this because this is historic. So the upshot was a blog to report on how the hire industry was responding. As we all know, the industry bounced back extremely strongly. So having imagined that everybody would be stuck at home twiddling their thumbs, the construction industry took off very quickly because they could socially distance, keeping the two meter observancy rule to avoid the spread of COVID. And they needed people to supply them with equipment. So hirers who’d originally planned to close, quickly reopened. They’d furloughed a lot of people, so they couldn’t bring them back. So you had the very strange case of many companies with fewer staff doing probably more work than they had ever done. So I started a blog to follow this. And in the wake of COVID, even though we are I think now well beyond it, in the wake of that we had, as I’m sure you know, better than anyone supply chain disruption. Because of the factories that were disrupted around the world, you couldn’t get equipment, and yet it was in high demand. Now we have difficulties in recruitment. We had inflationary problems, interest rates, we have conflicts in Ukraine, the Middle East. It’s one unprecedented situation after another and I keep trying to find a synonym for unprecedented but I’ve never found one. We are living in unprecedented times still. But they’re also absolutely fascinating. So that’s where the blog came from. It was completely unplanned, almost like on the back of an envelope. And and here we are nearly four years on.

Tim Doling 6:40
So retirement lasted approximately how long a week or…?

Alan Guthrie 6:44
Well, as somebody said to me, Alan, didn’t you get the memo? Yeah, I left one scenario and and started another one. So yes, retirement was a figure of much figment of our imagination in some ways. But here we are, here we are, you couldn’t write it? Could you really?

Tim Doling 7:06
That’s crazy. So I just wanted to ask from those early dark days of COVID. Is there one story that particularly sticks out in your mind that you’re you’re covering, you’re making these phone calls to various people in your Rolodex, I guess, any stories that really stuck out from those initial days?

Alan Guthrie 7:22
So many stories people putting in, because you you couldn’t, because of the social distancing rules that were in place hirers were having to put in place one way systems in their hire shops. So that people went in one door, went through another with footprints and signs embedded in the admittedly small retail premises or the hire shop premises. They put in collect, call and collect operations, where you’d call, you’d order the equipment, by phone or online, you’d go to collect it, you’d never have direct contact with anyone. Now, of course, we’re used to this. But the hallmark of hire really is the personal contact. And it’s interesting how, even though we still have the online element, the personal contact is still paramount. And I hear a lot about artificial intelligence, as I’m sure we all do. Artificial intelligence has its place, but you will never in hire, you will never replace the personal contact or the personal element, because so much of hire is not about the equipment. It’s about the service. And it’s about a customer who says, basically, they’re saying, I don’t know what I want, but I want you to supply the answer. And this is where companies like POWR2 come in. Because you have people wanting to go green, they want to go sustain, they want to be sustainable, but they don’t really know how to do it. And it’s the advice and the information and the dialogue that is necessary to reach the appropriate solution that is absolutely paramount. And that that is key. And I’m sure we’ll refer to that, again, in our conversation. But this this partnership approach is collaboration. You can’t do that with a computer, you can only do that with a human and all power to the human being.

Kevin Sturmer 9:25
100% Agree, because it is, it’s about in any industry. It’s listening to the needs of your audience. And whether you’re writing in a journalistic standpoint on a blog and you’re customizing the message, or you’re customizing the solution working, as you said, have this partnership approach to help them meet their needs, whether that’s a sustainability goal, a financial goal, they have to do noise reduction, they want to bring down CO2, whatever whatever they’re looking to do, and then saying all right, well, this is the situation well, you okay, you may be in a remote area. So maybe this setup might be better for you from a battery energy storage situation where you might have a hybrid, you know, a diesel generator powering it if it’s in a remote area. How have you seen things change? And where do you see things going? When it comes to sustainability, the hire industry, and then with a slight focus on battery energy storage.

Alan Guthrie 10:27
I can remember, in the early days, when I was covering the industry, most companies did not have a computer system. Windows was in its infancy still, most hire companies had paper based systems. sounds incredible now, but they were still entering things manually. Look how far we’ve come since then. Shortly after that, or indeed around that time, you know, the late 90s, early 2000s – there were cordless tools, there was battery powered equipment. But, it was everybody said, This is great. This is the next best thing. But the runtime was very poor. And the equipment was very, very expensive. The original batteries were all lead acid. And the early the early battery storage systems were lead acid batteries. There are a number of hire fleets with these products still in their fleets. And they’re working, they’re still working well. We now have lithium ion, of course. But we also have and again, you’ll be more up to speed with this than I am but we have we have lithium ion, we have lithium phosphate, lithium sulfate, I believe. We’ve also got molten metal batteries, which I don’t think they’ve made their appearance in hire yet. But all these different technologies, sodium, will, I’m sure we’ll continue to see these developments and refinements to products of what they can offer. But the key to it also is the hire industry is extraordinarily well placed, uniquely placed perhaps to offer these solutions, because by definition anything new will have. It’ll be reflected in the price tag. This new technology takes a lot of effort, a lot of resources to develop. We’re all aware of the need to reduce carbon, the 1.5 Paris Agreement target. Everybody talks about net zero, we’re all aware of having to do it. I know you’ve done a lot of webinars and discussions on real life case studies, where you’ve shown the benefits that this equipment can deliver. And again, it’s this sharing of knowledge and showing people what can be done, which will help solve these challenges that they’re facing. So it’s a very exciting prospect. It’s challenging, but hugely exciting I think.

Tim Doling 13:12
We were just looking through your blog and seeing a lot of references to electric machinery. So almost every OEM, or equipment manufacturers coming out with electric dumpers or electric diggers excavators are going electric. So it’s not just in the power generation industry, where we’re seeing this battery and just energy being used. So what impact that’s gonna have on on charging infrastructure, that type of thing. Given that, typically, you’d see, you’d see an excavator delivered to a job site with a fuel tank, which it’s going to be used to refuel it. As you know, that’s where I came from originally was the fuel tank world. And that’s what we did sold fuel tanks to that industry. But nowadays, are we going to see them going out with a battery to recharge on site? I just curious where you think that might be headed?

Alan Guthrie 14:00
Well, I mentioned that sustainability is probably the biggest challenge, the biggest change the biggest shake up that we’ve seen, and this will permeate through society. Yeah, we’re gonna see battery storage systems far more widely. But and I think you mentioned this earlier, Kevin, that we’re still going to see diesel, we’re still going to see a range of options are hirer. A supplier is going to need to offer a palette if you like a palette of options. And the question is going to be there are going to be two questions. I think. They’re probably the questions that are asked today. And always have been asked in, in in hire, where are you working? And what are you doing and where you work as I think you mentioned again, Kevin, where you’re working will influence what is the best power source for your equipment? If you’re in, if you’re working in Saudi Arabia, where you have lots of solar power, you’ll be able to use solar powered solutions more easily than possibly the UK, for example. But and if you’re but if you’re working on a new build housing estate, where by definition, there is no power source, how are you going to charge your equipment in a straightforward way? So we will then see diesel. Stage Five, clean diesel engines are still a very, very attractive option. We’ll see solar will, we’ll see. There’s a lot of discussion about hydrogen, and the use of hydrogen as a fuel, particularly for larger machinery. So we’re going to need to offer a complete palette of options, and the hire company will work with the customer to say, well, we’ve got these options. Let’s see which one suits your job site requirements. And the second question is, after Where are you working? It’s what are you doing? What tasks are you undertaking? What’s the most sustainable way of doing what you want to achieve? So we need the whole range of options. But Tim made the very good point there, that it’s all very well saying that we’ll be using more electrical more battery powered equipment, we need the infrastructure to charge this. And that can pose a lot of challenges. In terms of scaling up for long term projects, you might need to put in a dedicated substation to actually provide the capacity to charge multiple units on a site. So it’s not it’s not at the moment, a straightforward choice in many situations. The one size fits all approach is gone, you’ve got to judge each case on its merits. And this again, shows the power of hire, the hire industry, being able to provide the solutions and understand what the customer really needs. It needs to be calculated costed. And a real partnership approach.

Tim Doling 17:38
Makes a lot of sense, Alan, what you say about offering a palette of different options, because one size fits all approach doesn’t work anymore. But to the earlier point that the solutions are often a lot more costly than the traditional solution. When you’re talking about it being more costly and having to offer more options. Does that unfairly advantage the bigger hire companies? And does it preclude the traditional Mom and Pop independents from getting into this game? Do you think or? Or how would you view that?

Alan Guthrie 18:09
The initial the interest at the moment in the new technology and the solutions available is being driven by the larger contractors. And this is this makes sense because they are the companies who are in a way obligated to do this. Large public, large PLCs are obliged by law above a above a certain turnover turnover level, they’re obliged to meet the sustainability requirements. They have to have a net zero plan in place, they have to work out their carbon footprint, and they have to show a plan to reduce their carbon footprint year on year. Now, so you’ve got the larger companies needing to deliver that for their shareholders. So you’re seeing the the demand there, and it’s the larger higher higher companies who can initially invest in that equipment on a on a sufficient scale. See, the small independent has never got involved. Or very, very few of them. I’ve got involved with large contractors, their bread and butter operation, their bread and butter customer base is the small to medium contractor, the homeowner. Now there will still be an opening, an opportunity for the smaller higher company to offer that kind of equipment to offer battery storage systems of a size that suits their client base.

Tim Doling 19:48
That’s a really interesting perspective and from our side as the equipment provider, we’re seeing a couple of things in the independence favor and that’s as the equipment becomes better known It’s accepted by finance companies who are willing to finance the equipment as they would do with other other traditional equipment. And then secondly, to that the actual rates seem to be there, people are willing to pay a bit more for this equipment. And so you can actually get really good return on investment. So if you can finance the equipment, you can get the return on investment, then it pretty much opens the door for anybody to get involved in renting it. So appreciate your perspective on that back to you, Kevin.

Kevin Sturmer 20:25
We keep coming back to listening to your audience, and to coming to education. And I feel like that’s what part part of what prompted you to start this Site Eco Net Zero section of your website, what what kind of messaging is resonating specifically with this audience that’s there?

Alan Guthrie 20:45
Yeah, I started Site Eco about a year after the initial launch. Because obviously, I was aware of greater interest in all things sustainable. All things net zero. One week, I remember, I realized that virtually every story I’d written that week had an environmental sustainable angle to it. And I thought, this shows me how big this subject area is. And it’s, it’s, it’s worthy of its own dedicated area. So I started the Site Eco area of the blog, to concentrate on these developments. And Marshall McLuhan, the great founding father of Media Studies, Marshall McLuhan. He said, of course, the famous phrase of the medium is the message. And whatever medium you’re writing in, shapes, what you say, this is the funny thing. You don’t adapt to the medium, the medium makes you are that this is the very strange thing that we have in the modern world. But yes, I’m trying to put myself in the position of people who are faced with this challenge towards net zero and thinking, Well, how do we do this? What are the products available? How do I get my carbon footprint down? I think a lot of people are daunted by saying, Well, I don’t know how to achieve net zero. overnight. I don’t know how to do it quickly. And I think the answer there is, you don’t need to do it overnight. You have to do it in a pragmatic, planned way. So you have to work out what your carbon footprint is now, which isn’t easy. But you work out what your carbon footprint is now. And then you say, well, we want to achieve net zero by X year. What can we do in the meantime, to get this down, year on year. So you say, Well, if we adopt this kind of machinery, or we switch over to electric vehicles, or we put solar panels on the roof, you know what that reduces our carbon footprint by X percent, we only need to do a few more percent that year and we’ve met our target. The great lateral thinker, Edward de Bono, the founder of lateral thinking, I think he once said, he said, when you’re faced with a challenge, he said, instead of thinking about all the ways you can’t do something, turn it on its head and think about the ways in which you can do it. Once you start looking at things from that approach, it’s remarkable how quickly things fall into place and become a bit easier. So you don’t need to go completely net zero, overnight. You just need us I just, it’s a it’s a big issue. But you need to work out where you are now, where you want to be, and how you’re going to do that year on year. And again, you do this with advice from people, you do this with, with advice from your trusted suppliers, the people whose knowledge and experience and service you value, the customer goes to the hirer, who’s a who they respect and whose service the value. The hirer deals with the supplier who they know will help them reach this meet this challenge. It’s a fascinating challenge. One of the striking aspects of promoting the benefits of this kind of equipment is the telematics systems that are being used. In terms of harvesting data, in terms of how a machine is being used, how it’s running, the carbon it’s saving, the fuel it’s saving. The telematics software that is now available, and can be supplied by the companies supplying and hiring the equipment. It’s like gold dust because it’s able to extract this data and deliver the actual facts and figures that say we are saving you money. Really, the key is not the product – it’s the software that drives it. There’s a lot of very clever people writing software that can extract all this information. And it comes back again to the original cordless tool where people said, I’ll be interested when it doesn’t cost me any more and it gives me the performance that I need. Well, were now in a situation where the latest equipment is more and more frequently, being able to say, yes, we can meet the price point that you need. And we can deliver the performance that you require. And we’re helping to save the planet. So it’s a fascinating, fascinating scenario. So many elements to it. So many new careers, so many new job opportunities opening up in software, in battery technology, in product development. And this is why I’m very, very optimistic about the future because the pace of change is accelerating. The changes over the last 20 years have been immense. What will the next 20 years bring us?

Tim Doling 26:12
Do you have a prediction?

Alan Guthrie 26:13
Oh, golly, if I was in, if I knew that, Tim, I’d be I’d be I’d be setting up a business, developing the solution. What I do know is that solutions will become more efficient, they’ll be become more cost effective. That downward trajectory that I referred to earlier, that will continue. There’ll be bumps in the road, supply chain issues, limited resources in terms of producing lithium, cobalt, so on and so forth, we’ll probably see alternatives developed, they’re probably being developed now. I hope we have a situation in the future where hire is no longer compete on price. They differentiate themselves in another way. By service and by the quality of the equipment and customer experience they deliver. And to be fair, most, the vast majority of our companies don’t compete on price, they do differentiate themselves with service. So yeah, I think the future is very challenging, but very bright and very exciting. And I hope we can encourage a lot more young people into the industry to move it forward. But that’s that’s a, that’s another topic.

Tim Doling 27:31
That’s excellent. I mean, learn so much just in this podcast today. Including the names of two people I’ve never heard Marshall McLuhan and who’s the other one, Edward de Bono.

Alan Guthrie 27:42
Oh, Edward de Bono. Yah, yah, yah, yah, yah, oh, Marshall McLuhan. I’m a big, huge admirer of him. He basically anticipated the internet. He thought it would be by television, he thought televisions would be interconnected. And yeah, he also coined the phrase, The Global Village, where all the world would become one intercommunicating entity. And to be fair, we’re not far off that, really. And here I am. I’m in the UK. You’re in Connecticut. Who would have thought? Who would have thought, again? 20 years ago, we wouldn’t be doing this. And it shows you how far technology has come.

Tim Doling 28:27
Absolutely. And Marshall McLuhan died, like three years before he was born. And he, he thought I had to this type of thing that’s really interesting.

Kevin Sturmer 28:36
What’s next for you?

Alan Guthrie 28:39
Well, I shall just keep doing what I’m doing. There was no plan to start the blog. So in a way I had my everything is just evolved. It’ll continue to evolve as long as I still have energy and interest in the topic, which I certainly have in abundance at the moment. Retirement is still on hold.

Kevin Sturmer 29:05
Still on hold. And the website once again is alanguthrieonhire.com. Go and check him out. As we wrap up every single episode. We have a few questions for Tim. Tim, how can a battery energy storage system like a POWRBANK, help help a company meet their sustainability and their profitability goals? What are some of the key ways to do that?

Tim Doling 29:26
Yeah, sure. So a POWRBANK is typically paired with a diesel generator. And the whole objective of that is to reduce the reliance on diesel. So you’re reducing the runtime. And you’re also allowing the harvesting of renewables. Because it’s a battery. It’s an energy storage system. So you can put that alongside solar alongside wind and harvest those renewables and further reduce that dependency on fossil fuels.

Kevin Sturmer 29:49
Fantastic. And the second question here, what we talked a lot today about connecting with an audience understanding their needs and how messaging is important. What are some of the features of the POWRBANK that might resonate most with this audience?

Tim Doling 30:06
Yes, good question. So as we’ve been talking about state, understand your audience and understand what their goals are. So we’ve talked about the tier one construction companies and how they have a goal to get to net zero with have a goal to reduce their emissions by a certain amount. So you understand those goals, and you align that with the features that you can pick out from our product. So as we just spoke about, you can reduce emissions by up to 80%. You can significantly reduce emissions whilst harvesting renewables. So you take those features, and you align it with what the customer’s requirements are to meet their own goals. So I think that the two questions really tie in together, Kevin,

Kevin Sturmer 30:43
They did, they did. And thank you so much, Tim. And whatever platform you’re on, hit the like button, the subscribe button, leave a review to all of those good things. And if you want to learn more, we’ll have links to Alan’s blog. In the show notes. He’s just go visit leadingthecharge.io. Now, our legal team wants me to say that any statements or views expressed by the hosts or guests on Leading the Charge are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or positions of POWR2, their partners or affiliates. And finally, I just want to say thank you one more time to Alan and enter Tim, thank you both for spending your time with us here today.

Alan Guthrie 31:18
It’s been, it’s been a delight. Thank you very much indeed for having me on the show. I’ve really enjoyed it.

Tim Doling 31:23
Very good.

Kevin Sturmer 31:24
Thank you. Thank you so much. And we know that your time is valuable as well and we appreciate you spending even just a little bit of that with us. So let’s simplify sustainability and keep working toward a world powered by sustainable energy. See you next time.

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