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Dale Vince, Founder of Ecotricity, pictured by the company\'s first wind turbine at Nympsfield, Gloucestershire (3 Oct 2008).

Talking To Green Energy Tycoon, Dale Vince, Founder Of Ecotricity

Ecotricity was the world’s first ‘Green Electricity’ company. Based in Gloucestershire, England, they strove to offer an alternative to the British public back in the 90′s when the very idea of green energy was, in relative terms, still an alien one. 

Ecotricity’s stated mission ”was and remains to change the way electricity is made and used in Britain”, and with over 65,000 customers they are making good headway – mostly by specialising in selling and generating wind power. On this note we are proud to present the following interview with the entrepreneurial brains behind the enterprise; “Green Energy” tycoon, founder of Ecotricity and vegan, Dale Vince, OBE.

Q&A With Dale Vince

We operate a unique model, using our customers’ energy bills to fund the building of new sources of Green Energy.

Does the company see its role as one of conservation or business first?

Essentially we are environmentalists doing business as opposed to business people doing the environment. Sustainability always comes first – it’s in our DNA. Ecotricity’s missions is to change the way energy is made and used in the UK to reduce the carbon emissions that cause climate change. Electricity from fossil fuels is responsible for 30% of Britain’s carbon emissions – it’s our biggest single source of emissions as a nation – and therefore the biggest single thing we can change.

Windmill at Ford Dagenham Lake. Courtesy of Ecotricity

Windmill at Ford Dagenham Lake. Courtesy of Ecotricity

What is it that makes you different from all of the other renewable energy companies out there?

We operate a unique model, using our customers’ energy bills to fund the building of new sources of Green Energy. We like to refer to this as turning ‘Bills into Mills’ – energy bills into windmills. We’re a not-for-dividend company, so we are able to ensure that all of our profits go into our mission, building new sources of green energy. And that’s what we do, on average spending more each year per customer on new sources of green energy than any other energy company in Britain – bar none. And we share the benefits of our work through our ecobonds initiative – giving people the chance to share the financial benefits of the Green Energy revolution.

Do you see yourself as part of a wider movement for consumer friendly green energy?

We are at the forefront of the movement; we created the concept of supplying green electricity directly to businesses and households. These days there are a handful of green energy suppliers but we are unique amongst them as we are the only one to invest our profits so heavily in building new sources of renewable energy generation. Recently, we worked with Friends of the Earth on a campaign to encourage even more people to think about where their energy comes from and hopefully, we’ll see a bigger swing towards green energy because we are currently too reliant on imported of fossil fuels that further drive up prices and exacerbate fuel poverty.

What did you learn from building the Nemesis in 2009?

As a country we we produce 70.9 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions from transport every year… 12.5% of all emissions

We learnt it was a lot harder than we thought it would be. But we wanted to prove electric cars can be beautiful to look at, cheap to run, and powered entirely by then wind. Ultimately, we wanted to create something that would turn heads and challenge stereotypes. Transport is one of the three things that we focus on here at Ecotricity (the other two being energy and food). As a country we we produce 70.9 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions from transport every year, which accounts for 12.5% of all emissions. Ecotricity is moving into green transport by promoting and investing in the Nemesis, sponsoring an electric TT motorbike, called the Ion Horse, and rolling out infrastructure to charge electric cars called the “Electric Highway”. Our next challenge is to break the UK’s electric car land speed record in the Nemeisis.

Dale Vince with the Nemesis; the result of nearly two years’ hard work by an ‘A-team’ of ex-motorsport engineers, following a brief from Vince to “blow the socks off Jeremy Clarkson and smash the stereotype of electric cars”. Courtesy of Ecotricity

Dale Vince with the Nemesis; the result of nearly two years’ hard work by an ‘A-team’ of ex-motorsport engineers, following a brief from Vince to “blow the socks off Jeremy Clarkson and smash the stereotype of electric cars”. Courtesy of Ecotricity

What are your hopes for the ‘Searaser’? What is its place in the green energy spectrum?

We hope that it will produce electricity cheaper than any other form of renewable energy or indeed fossil fuels. If successful we think it will have a big impact on the energy world. The sea, just like the sun and the wind has a huge potential to make energy economically and efficiently.

Global warming has always been a bad way to describe what is taking place.

Has the term “global warming” lost its meaning impact on the public?

Global warming has always been a bad way to describe what is taking place. Climate change is a more accurate description but both have been damaged in the last 12 months by the climate change skeptic lobby that some newspapers give too much prominence to. In propaganda terms climate change has taken a bashing because a lot of money has been spent trying to discredit the science and renewable energy by people with a vested interest in the status quo of fossil fuels. Recently the BEST (Berkley Earth Surface temperature) project in America harden up the evidence that anthropogenic climate change was indeed happening and this was carried out by a climate skeptic scientist who simply said he would let the evidence take him where it will.

Can we separate the truth of renewable energy from a lot of the so called “green-washing” that is going on?

We can but it’s not easy because a lot of money goes into green-washing. The pale corporate imitations of green and ethical brands or products aren’t helpful. They distract people and divert spending from the real thing and they bring the risk of early onset ‘issue fatigue’. There is a big difference between environmentalists doing business and business.

Updated video insert (July 2014): Dale got an honorary doctorate and describes why here:

If you have any questions or thoughts for Ecotricity, put ‘em in the comments below.