01 Feb 5 minutes with Alison Charpentier
A down-to-earth gal from regional Queensland, Elevate Managing Director Alison Charpentier is on a quest to help Aussie households take control of their energy bills.
Why? Because she believes everyone deserves to live comfortably in their own homes, without having to worry about the size of their next energy bill.
So grab a cuppa and relax as we chat to Alison on all things solar – from how she’s shaking up the industry, to the value and importance of gender diversity in this male-dominated sector.
Q: How did Elevate come to life?
A: My career in the energy space began when I was working for a Queensland-based solar business.
Sadly though, I lost faith in that business very quickly due to their high-pressure sales tactics and lack of after-sales support. Especially given that their customers were mainly retirees, the company’s ethics did not sit well with me.
Coming from a working-class background, I have great empathy for those in need and a genuine desire to help people.
So, in 2018, I set out to create a better model; one that stayed true to my values of integrity and transparency. And that’s how Elevate Solar was born.
My vision from the outset was clear: to provide no-nonsense, holistic energy solutions to Australian homes and workplaces.
Q: What sets Elevate apart from others in the solar & energy efficiency space?
A: It’s rare to find an energy solutions company that can look after their customers so completely. Especially with the level of care and service we provide at every stage.
When the business first began, we focused only on solar. But I quickly realised that people need a more holistic solution to truly take charge of their energy bills. So we expanded our services accordingly.
Our process is simple. We undertake energy audits (in both homes and workplaces) and tell our customers the top three ways they can reduce their bills. These recommendations range from switching to more efficient lightbulbs to installing solar solutions.
It’s important to us that we cater to all budgets – and to put the client at the centre of everything we do. Our motto is: No sneaky sales tactics. No BS. Just expert advice from good human beings who genuinely care.
Q: What attracted you to the energy industry?
A: Growing up with a hippy mum, I have always been immersed in sustainable living.
However, my passion for sustainability and renewable energy was truly sparked 10 years ago when I worked in the organic food industry. In this role, I was surrounded by community-minded people who wanted to create change. This inspired me – and helped me define where I wanted my career to head.
Renewable energy it was.
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: My job is all about contributing to my local community and helping families and businesses save money. And I get to do it while helping to save the planet too.
What more could you ask for in a career?
I especially love helping families and businesses go solar. But naturally there are some stories that stick out for me – ones that remind me that we really are making a difference.
For example, we were recently contacted by a single mother of four, who amazingly also takes in foster children. This was especially inspiring to us since she has experienced so much hardship herself (as a survivor of both domestic violence and brain cancer).
When she reached out to us, her power bills were $1,800 a quarter, and constantly rising. This was far too difficult for her to afford on a carer’s payment – so she had no choice but to turn off her utilities whenever possible.
Determined to find her a solar system within her budget, we installed a 13.3 KM set-up. We also replaced her old, energy-guzzling water system with a more efficient, timer-run alternative.
The result? Her energy bills reduced to $200 a quarter. This was life changing for her – as it meant she was finally able to afford a car. She also told me she no longer dreaded receiving her electricity bills!
It’s stories like these that make me excited about my work every day.
Q: What have been the biggest challenges for you as a woman working in a male-dominated industry?
A: My biggest challenge as a woman in this industry is that I am sometimes not taken seriously.
Most people I’ve worked with – both clients and staff – are genuine and respectful. Unfortunately though, I do stillget the odd person who questions my credibility and competence simply because I’m a woman.
I now have a fantastic team of installers whose values are aligned with mine. But I did undertake somewhat of a weeding process to get to this point.
Just recently, my installers were all interviewed for our new website and I was heartened to read their responses about why they love their jobs. From receiving pay that’s highly competitive for our industry, to valuing the respectful relationship we have.
I believe this mutual respect has been crucial to creating my dream team.
Q: What do you think would encourage more women to enter the clean energy sector?
A: Firstly, I think we need more female leaders and mentors in this industry for the junior women to look up to. You can’t be what you can’t see.
Men overwhelmingly make up the majority of solar installers – and that’s a big issue. I would love to see more women follow this career path. And one day, I hope to work with a team of female installers.
Secondly, we need to make this industry safe for all; and foster a culture where diversity is celebrated and acceptance is embraced.
Q: What advice do you have for women looking to enter the clean energy sector?
A: I hate to be a Nike cliché, but… Just do it.
We’re all more capable than we think we are. And women in particular struggle with ‘imposter syndrome’. So be bold and believe in yourself.
On a practical level, I recommend connecting with other women in the sector. I’m so grateful for the talented women on my team, and I’m always on the lookout for more! My business is growing all the time – so I’d love to give other women the opportunity to start or progress their career in this space.
Q: Why is it so important for women to enter the industry?
A: More gender diversity brings more perspectives. I think we can really shake up this male-dominated industry.
Studies have shown the tremendous value of diversity in senior leadership teams and on boards. Current research shows that when companies appoint a female CEO, their market value increases by 5%.
It’s clear that getting more women into the industry stands to greatly benefit the sector as a whole.
This post has been adapted from a feature on Alison that original ran on the CEC website.