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seeing the exponential growth of the smartphone as one of the most important tools in the electrician’s tool kit. I have seen a lot of concentration in the industry.


Favourite and traditional UK product brands have disappeared, as they have been re-named and become part of larger national or international groups. More manufacturing takes place overseas now. There have been many mergers and acquisitions among wholesalers, leading to domination by two major groups. Contractors have to deal with many new building regulations and are subject to more and more legislation. Another important development to mention is the


speed of the introduction of new products. Today, a leading manufacturer can launch up to 30 new products in a year, whereas in past it was only one or two. The increase in speed is particularly evident in the lighting industry, where there have been a number of important changes in the past few years, including the introduction of lamp and luminaire recycling, the GLS phase-out, the move to energy-efficient lamps and the very exciting developments in LED technology. Sadly, I’ve also witnessed the decline of the trade show


for the industry. There is no longer a major annual event that brings the entire industry together to act as a focal point for innovation and exchange of information. I was, however, glad to learn that the industry will have a new annual lighting show. The first LuxLive will take place at Olympia in London in November and will provide a much-needed forum for those involved in all aspects of lighting.


I believe that the industry should work together to secure its position as the experts in, and providers of, new renewable technologies


40 ECA Today September 2011


trades also recognise these opportunities and want to take hold of them. Equally, there is a danger from within the industry where securing renewables leadership is concerned – namely short-term opportunism. Promotion of inferior products and systems and installation by untrained operatives could be damaging in the long run. I think we have a new ‘gold rush’. It’s the ‘renewables rush’ with many cowboys inside and outside the industry racing to stake their claim in this lucrative market. Now is the time for the industry to stand together to set standards for products, installation and service, and to commit to abiding by these standards. Obviously, this initiative must be accompanied by a large-scale communication strategy, which involves lobbying government and making domestic and commercial clients aware of the dangers of using unapproved products and installers.


ECA Today: Voltimum has just celebrated its tenth anniversary – how has the electrical industry developed in these 10 years? Margaret Fitzsimons: When I started at Voltimum 10 years ago, only 26 per cent of the UK population had internet access and many electrical contractors did not have an email address or a website. Internet access in the UK is now 82 per cent, and broadband is widespread. Virtually everybody has a mobile phone and we are now


ECA Today: How do you see the electrical industry developing in the next 10 years? Margaret Fitzsimons: Firstly, we are going to have to generate more power. Renewables alone will not meet the increasing demand in the UK and we need to reduce our dependence on overseas sources for our fuel, so I think there will be opportunities in power generation and distribution. Installation of renewable technologies and energy- efficient products in buildings will become the norm. This will be driven by government legislation, soaring fuel prices, threatened fuel shortages, feed-in tariffs and, in some cases, by consumers and organisations wanting to do their bit for the environment and reduce their carbon footprint. Many of us will be driving around in electric vehicles in


10 years’ time, and delivery of the electrical infrastructure to recharge them will be a standard service offered by the electrical contractor. There is going to be a huge need for intelligent


technologies, particularly related to the ageing UK population and how to care for them. People want to be able to spend their latter years at home, not in an institution. In order for this to happen, intelligent technologies, such as alarms and sensors will have to be installed into houses. There are going to be big opportunities in retrofit,


which many seem to be ignoring at the moment. The UK has a huge housing stock that needs to be made energy-efficient and intelligent.


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