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Family-owned sports seating firm secures £100k green loan package with NatWest

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A Telford firm that manufactures and supplies high-spec seating for motorsports and stadiums around the world is looking ahead to a greener future and cheaper energy bills thanks to a tailored financing package from NatWest.

Family-owned Cobra Seats started out in 1978 and has grown its offer to supply innovative, bespoke seating to a growing global market, manufacturing motorsports seating for the North American, Japanese and Australian markets, as well as supplying dug out seats to the Premier League, all from its base in Shropshire.

Faced with rising energy bills and a desire to improve the firm’s carbon footprint, Cobra managing director Mark Dunsford decided to explore alternative fuel options for his business and now, thanks to a green loan from NatWest and additional energy grants, the firm is installing solar panels and additional insulation at its factory headquarters.

Dunsford said: “I started to look at solar power for our premises around five years ago as I wanted to invest for the future and ensure our building itself is an asset that is working positively for the future of the business. At the time though, the payback on the investment would have taken too long to make to make it a viable decision.

“Now, with energy prices rising the way they have and the combination of an energy grant and green loan from NatWest, the £100,000 we’re investing in solar panels will be paid back in around three years. It’s fantastic to be able to take this step forward and it makes complete sense for the business and the environment.”

Cobra calculates that the new solar panels will supply the firm with at least 35% of its annual electricity, while the solar panels and insulation work should also improve the site’s EPC rating, taking it from a D to B, and add value to the building itself. In future the manufacturer also plans to invest in battery storage, so that energy harvested over weekends can be used during the working week.

Andrew Leach, Senior Relationship Manager at NatWest, said: “NatWest recently issued its Springboard to Sustainable Recovery 2022 report, which highlights the key role that SMEs like Cobra can play in decarbonisation and the UK reaching its net zero goals, while also cutting their own energy costs in the process.

“It’s been amazing to work with Mark and the team at Cobra to come up with a bespoke funding package that, combined with the grant the team had already secured, ensures they can take steps towards a greener future, while also protecting the business from the volatility we’re currently seeing in the energy sector.”

NatWest’s Springboard report reveals that if energy prices remain elevated, installing on-roof solar panels could pay back 25% faster today than in 2021, while installing a heat pump now would pay back in half the time that it would have taken just a year ago.

It also highlights that meeting net zero targets is predicted to bring a £175billion revenue boost to the UK economy between now and 2030, with SMEs in a prime position to capitalise on this potential.

Mark added: “I’d encourage any other businesses in a similar position, who may be thinking about improving their carbon footprint, to seek out the support that’s out there. Andrew and the team at NatWest have been amazing and without their support I don’t know if we would’ve been in a position to make this work.

“We’ve also had lots of advice from the local council and others along the way, which has been a massive boost. It’s been a huge learning curve for me and the business and very much worth it to set us on the road to a greener future.”