Certa – Leading by Example

Certa – Leading by Example
Pictured left to right Andrew Graham, Managing Director, Certa Ireland and Steven Bray, Founder and Managing Director, Alternative Energy Ireland (AEI). Photo Credit: Sean Brosnan (Brosnan Photography).

Acquisition of AEI a natural extension of the business

IF&CR talks to Certa managing director Andrew Graham about the recent acquisition of AEI Alternative Energy Ireland (AEI), where this fits into the company’s strategic vision – and what it means to lead by example – taking Ireland forward towards carbon neutrality by 2050.

Originally from a small town in New Zealand’s clean, green South Island, Andrew Graham has made another, equally beautiful island in the northern hemisphere home from home. He took up the reins as MD of Certa two and a half years ago, having worked with its parent company DCC plc for nine years.

Having clocked up over 22 years of experience in total, he describes his career in Ireland as an ‘interesting journey’. For seven years before becoming MD of Certa, he was Operations Director for the retail side of the business – responsible for 700 unmanned forecourts across Europe, building that business from scratch as its first employee – technically building it up from nothing – something he describes as a ‘great opportunity.’

Since then, everything has accelerated at break neck speed. The company made two major acquisitions – Campus Oil and Jones Oil, effectively trippling in size from just over 100 employees to 340 – and that was before the recent acquisition of Alternative Energy Ireland (AEI).

Fast growth

The acquisition of leading solar and renewable energy specialists Alternative Energy Ireland is a strategic move, as part of Certa’s drive to become Ireland’s most progressive energy company.

So what’s the thinking behind this important strategic acquisition for the company?

“It was a natural extension for the business – it was clearly the way to go,” said Andrew. “Ireland’s Climate Action Plan is enshrined in legislation to see a 50% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030. All sectors have a role to play in achieving that.”

Certa’s vision

Certa’s vision is to become Ireland’s most progressive energy company – and as managing director, Andrew Graham’s task is to make that happen. It’s a huge leadership responsibility.

“Our business is the distribution of energy solutions – to help make that greener. A big step last year was the introduction of HVO – hydrotreated vegetable oil. Our entire fleet of 100 vehicles runs on HVO – but we wanted to strengthen that offering to the commercial sector – along with solar PV and heat pumps.

“We wanted to have other renewable energy options for customers along with the solar and heat pumps. The acquisition of AEI was a good fit for our customer base as another energy solutions provider.

Alternative Energy

“Alternative Energy Ireland has been in business since 2007 – and we’re very fortunate to bring their fantastic team alongside ours, including of course its founder and Managing Director Steven Bray.


Alternative Energy Ireland (AEI) has been in operation since 2007 and is the country’s longest established renewable energy specialists.

The company designs and installs renewable energy systems including solar PV panels that generate electricity, solar thermal panels that heat water, heat recovery ventilation systems and home heat pumps.

Its commercial customers include Adare Manor, Woodies, Chadwicks and even the seat of government in the north – Stormont Castle. As corporates and companies look to showcase their green credentials and make meaningful changes to how they operate – Certa is now perfectly positioned to lead the way. For example, HVO is now used to power Amazon Web Services  back-up generators on their data centres

Dream team

“I’m fortunate to lead a fantastic team of people, each committed to our vision. My role is to make sure everything is aligned and that the team has all the support and resources to execute the strategy. The people in this business make my job a lot easier.”

Certa was born from the confluence of a number of successful Irish energy brands – servicing commercial, industrial, residential and mobility sectors.

Certa also has the strength of a giant parent company behind it – DCC plc.

Certa is committed to reducing its carbon emissions to net zero by 2050, or sooner, in line with DCC plc’s commitment.

The good parent

DCC plc is a leading international sales, marketing and support services group operating in 22 countries, supplying products and services used by millions of people every day.

DCC is headquartered in Dublin, but the Group operates across three sectors: energy, healthcare and technology, employing over 16,000 people. DCC plc is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 100.

Therefore the pedigree is unquestionable. Now, combining well-known names such as Emo, Campus, and  Jones Oil   – the new brand was born – Certa Ireland.

In 2022, Certa cleverly partnered with Tesco Clubcard for all its unmanned Pay@Pumps – another strategic move for the benefit of both partners – and ultimately for the benefit of customers.

Energy Forward

“Our purpose is distilled into these two words –  Energy Forward. For us, it embodies the alchemy of progress, momentum, agility and entrepreneurial spirit.

“Our vision is to become Ireland’s most exciting energy company, connecting people and businesses to the most progressive energy solutions available.”

Leading by example

The ethos of leading by example is distilled into the mind of Andrew and the team.

“By converting our own fleet to 100% HVO we have reduced the emissions of 100 trucks to the output of nine trucks.

“Solar panels have been installed at our unmanned stations. The HVO solution is an important option for our customer base – and we will be developing that.

“For now, we have one pump on site – with the installation of the country’s first HVO pump at the Certa Lee Tunnel forecourt in Cork. More HVO pumps are planned for later this year.

Greener choices

“Customers are wanting to transition to HVO rather than diesel – people are consciously wanting to make greener choices to reduce their energy consumption and energy costs.

“In some ways it’s all about changing hearts and minds. Consider how people’s attitudes and therefore behaviour have changed since the smoking ban, or the plastic bag ban – now that people know what’s at stake, they are preparing and planning to make changes to how they fuel their homes, their cars and their businesses.

Certa’s network of 39 unmanned, pay@pump forecourts is the largest of its kind in Ireland. It also operates 22 home heating depots across the country.

Major events are also sourcing cleaner, greener options – for example Certa supplied HVO to the National Ploughing Championships, Electric Picnic and golf’s Irish Open .

“In my view, HVO is the way to go – it’s the perfect transition product. It doesn’t require any modification for the vehicle, and there’s a straight 90% reduction in emissions” said Andrew. “As technology develops, we will likely see more options in terms of fuels and hydrogen.”

At the moment, there is no refinery in Ireland for hydrogenated vegetable oil – so the product is sourced from Europe, and the feedstock  is mainly from waste cooking oils.

Carbon Action Plan

Certa’s mission and modus operandi dovetails neatly in many ways with the Irish Government’s Climate Action Plan 2021. It provides a detailed plan for taking decisive action to achieve a 51% reduction in overall greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and setting the country on a path to reach net-zero emissions by no later than 2050, as committed to in the Programme for Government and set out in the Climate Act 2021.

In that respect, the company is way ahead of the game – striving ahead in its mission to provide the country with alternative energy solutions – with no finer man at the helm to make a difference for the future of us all, and most importantly, to create a cleaner, greener environment for future generations.