Since our last annual update, we’ve been busy growing Bulb and finding new ways to help people lower their energy bills and cut carbon emissions. Following tradition, we’re sharing an update on how we’re doing, including taking a look at our latest financial results.
We’ve made great progress on our aim to switch as many people as possible to affordable, renewable energy. At the end of last year, thanks to you, we were recognised as the fastest growing private company in the UK for the second year running – it means we’re now helping over 1.6 million members to save on their bills and cut carbon emissions. There are now over 550 people working for Bulb. In 2019 we brought Bulb to new shores, switching our first homes in France, Spain and Texas. And we’ve also found new ways to achieve our mission through new products and services like smart meters and the Carbon Calculator. We’re excited to share this progress with you. We recently shared this year’s financial report with Companies House, and we’ll be looking at the numbers in there too.
Continuing to invest in growth
The report we filed with Companies House shows how we performed over the past financial year (April 2018 – March 2019). The report shows we make a fair and healthy profit on every member. Compared to the year previous, Bulb’s revenues grew five times from £183 million to £823 million. Broadly speaking, that’s the amount we get paid by our members. After we paid our generators and the energy network, we made a gross profit of £8 million. And as expected, our net loss increased in roughly the same proportions as revenue – from £28 million to £129 million. This is part of the plan – we’re continuing to invest in expansion, by signing more people up to Bulb (both here and now in several countries abroad), and in new technology to better serve our members.
Shrinking bills, cutting CO2
We want to help our members lower their bills and cut carbon emissions. The principal way we do that is by providing affordable, renewable energy to as many people as possible. And we’re doing plenty of that. In 2019, we grew Bulb’s membership base from 870,000 members to over 1.6 million.
For the average home with Bulb, we’re £178 cheaper than standard Big Six plans. And by choosing a renewable supplier, Bulb members significantly shrink their carbon footprint. Over the course of Bulb’s lifetime, we’ve helped our members to lower their personal carbon emissions by 5.2 million tonnes of CO2. This impact has grown over time. When we started in 2015, the fledgling Bulb community lowered its carbon impact by just 29 tonnes. In 2019, Bulb’s 1.6 million members reduced their personal emissions by over 4 million tonnes.
The jump in 2019 isn’t just down to our larger membership base; choosing to go carbon-neutral with our gas in February meant that every Bulb member lowered their carbon impact by an additional 2.3 tonnes of CO2 every year.
Getting service right
We’re always doing everything we can to make service better. To deliver this, we’re hiring more people, building better tools and investing in technology and training. It’s our number one priority to get this right. Bulb is here to change the energy industry for the better, and we know that providing great service is an essential part of that.
Beyond signing up new members in the UK, we’ve also been working on new ways to help our members lower their bills and cut carbon emissions:
In 2019 we launched Bulb in the US, Spain and France, bringing Bulb’s cheaper, greener energy to new homes. In all three locations, we’re working with the first few members to test the service, before opening up to more people in 2020.
100% carbon neutral gas
In March, we began providing 100% carbon neutral gas to all our members, as standard. We still supply a proportion of our gas from renewable sources, but there just isn’t enough available in the UK to supply all our members’ needs so we offset the rest by supporting carbon reduction projects around the world. We’re working with fellow B Corp ClimateCare to help fund several projects including solar and wind farms in India, bio-digester projects in China, rainforest protection in Sierra Leone, and clean-cooking stoves in Ghana and Kenya.
Alongside our carbon neutral gas, we launched our Carbon Tracker. We set ourselves the ambitious goal of helping our members collectively reduce their impact by 6.6 million tonnes of CO2 in 2019. Unfortunately, we’re not going to quite make it. We slowed growth at the end of the year, to focus on service, and that meant we didn’t add as many members as we hoped.
We’ve committed to have Net Zero emissions by 2030, along with 500 other B Corps across the world. This means our 2020 target will be a bit different. It will still include CO2 avoided when new members switch to Bulb. But it will also look at the carbon impact of our business operations, like the emissions caused by the stationery we use here at Bulb HQ. We’ll be setting a target to reduce Bulb’s total emissions in line with the UK’s Net Zero ambition. So look out for an update on this soon.
In February, we began installing smart meters in our members homes. We’re excited to see Bulb exploring how to use smart data to help our members make greener, cheaper decisions about their energy use.
So far we’ve installed 195,000 second-generation meters. While the majority of members’ installations went ahead without a hitch, this hasn’t been true for everyone. The smart meter rollout is a technical challenge for every supplier, and, like others, we’ve experienced problems with the technology now that meters are being installed at scale. This has meant some members’ smart meters have struggled to connect with the smart meter network, while others have experienced an issue with the In-Home Display. We’ve been working with our partners, other suppliers and the smart energy network to fix these problems as quickly as possible. Members can keep up to date via the blog, and we’re grateful to those we’re still working with to solve things.
While there are problems to overcome, we’re excited to see how the smart network is enabling us to build tools to help our members better understand their energy usage. With this information, it’s going to be easier to find ways to use less energy. We’re already testing a smart tariff and recently partnered with Samsung, so that Bulb members with smart meters can monitor their energy use in (almost) real-time and control smart home devices through the SmartThings app. There’s much more to come in 2020.
We raise £2 for charity with every switch to Bulb. Since founding Bulb, we’ve raised over £3 million. Because these donations are getting bigger and bigger, we set up Bulb Foundation to explore new ways we can help to tackle the climate crisis, beyond what the business achieves day to day. The team has been researching projects to fund and will announce what projects will receive the first foundation grants soon.
We’re launching Bulb’s Carbon Calculator, a tool that lets you work out your total carbon emissions and shows you how to reduce what you can and offset what you can’t. This was something we wanted to do since we founded the company, so it’s great to actually be doing it.
We’re still learning how to make this tool as helpful as we can for our members, but the second version of the calculator is live and you can use it now. It takes around 3 minutes to complete.
Building for the future
This year, our first priority is giving great service to all our members. Beyond that, we’ll be continuing to sign up new members while developing new tools and services. In 2020, we’ll fully launch Bulb in Texas, France and Spain. We’ll make our smart tariff available for all smart members, and provide new digital tools to make it easier to understand and lower your energy usage. We’ll bring new tools, like the Carbon Calculator, to more people. And we’ll continue to explore how we can be more useful to homeowners with solar panels and EV drivers. We’re here to help people lower their bills and cut carbon emissions, and we’re excited to continue working with our growing community to do that.
Thank you to all our members for being with us. We’re looking forward to continuing to work with you to change how we produce and use energy in the UK; it’s great to be on this ride together.