The 2016 Paris Agreement on climate change was the spark that set BA (Hons) Accounting and Finance graduate Alessandra Lopes off on starting her own business, while support from LSBU’s Graduate Entrepreneurship Scheme enabled her to put her ideas into action.
The Paris Agreement, negotiated during summer 2016, saw a number of countries agree to take large steps towards limiting the amount of carbon dioxide produced in a bid to prevent irreversible damage to the planet. Many were surprised when Brazil, the largest emitter of CO2 in Latin America, committed to cutting emissions by 37% by 2025, but the Government was determined to play its part. “Our Government is concerned about the future,” said President Michel Temer as he signed the agreement. “Everything we do today is not aimed at tomorrow, but rather at a future that preserves the living conditions of Brazilians.”
Inspired to tap into the Brazilian renewable energy market
Inspired by this commitment and with backing from LSBU, graduate Alessandra Lopes and co-founder Fergal McEntee set up Luz Consultancy, to help Brazilian businesses do their bit in contributing to these ambitious targets by attracting UK investment into Brazilian solar energy projects.
“Brazil is pretty good at producing some forms of renewable energy, especially hydro-electric power, but the solar power industry in Brazil is still in its infancy, despite the fact that it gets twice as much sunshine as most European countries,” explains Alessandra.
A UK–Brazilian win-win
Alessandra’s business model is simple, as she brings together UK and European investors and Brazilian businesses. The UK investors contribute to the cost of installing solar power systems on premises owned by the Brazilian businesses, which then sell the electricity generated by the system back to the company.
“This way everyone wins,” says Alessandra. “The Brazilian business benefits from electricity that is cheaper than buying from the grid, while the UK and European investors will see a full return on their investment within ten years. The rest of the 20-year agreement will see the investors making a clear profit on every bill.”
More than just a business
Luz Consultancy is a business with a social conscience and Alessandra aims to take their mission one step further by installing a smaller system at a school for every business installation they are funded to make. “This will help teach the new generation of Brazilians about climate change and renewable energy,” she says. “It’s something that’s really important to me. We can’t deny that climate change is happening now, as the evidence is all around us.”
Building a better future
“When I first considered getting involved in the scheme, it was all about the numbers; I’m a businesswoman first and foremost. However, helping to preserve the planet and slow down climate change is something that I feel is really important. I’m a mother now, and might even become a grandmother one day. I ask myself what kind of planet will my grandchildren have in 50 or 60 years’ time?”
A successful second year of operation
Luz Consultancy is now in its second year and Alessandra says that the business continues to flourish: “We now have a new partner that is a solar developer from the UK based in Germany and our company has taken on a more structured direction. We are also developing four projects in Brazil to be sold to an investor, so all in all things are definitely on the up. We are also currently busy with three big manufactures in Brazil and an energy off-taker that will produce the energy and then sell it directly to the clients. All of these projects are big for solar projects in my region.”
Combining enjoyment with challenges
As with most people running their own business, a mix of satisfaction from doing something that is a passion and dealing with the inevitable challenges that arise is what Alessandra faces daily. And it’s something she certainly relishes. “As I am a commercial director for my company, what I really like is to connect with people. Dealing with clients and creating a sales team and presenting my company is very rewarding. Also, it’s satisfying to deal with my country, with my people and my language. In terms of challenges, we are not actually generating an income as yet, which means that I am still working part-time in another job. This means that my life is family, business and work, leaving very little time for myself. I wouldn’t swap it though, and I believe that we’re definitely on course to build our first solar project in Brazil, which is just great.”
With all this in mind, no wonder Alessandra is optimistic that the future is bright.