Top twenty influencers in renewable energy investment

Trillion fund logoWho are the movers and shakers in the fast growing renewable energy investment sector? Mike Scott picks the twenty most influential figures.

1) Professor Nicholas Stern (Lord Stern of Brentford)

 Now a professor at the London School of Economics and chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, Stern transformed the climate change debate in 2006 with the publication of The Stern Review Report on the Economics of Climate Change. The report, commissioned by the UK government, instantly became the conventional wisdom. By framing climate change as an economic externality and showing how it would harm economic growth, he showed the issue was not just an arcane scientific problem but something that will affect all of us.

2) Richard Branson

The airline tycoon is flying the flag for more environmentally-friendly transport. He’s tested a biodiesel blend for his trains, although they’re not using it because of concerns over sustainability. Meanwhile, his airlines are vocal supporters of a global cap-and-trade scheme, more efficient flying techniques and sustainable aviation fuels. Virgin Atlantic has partnered with LanzaTech to produce a biofuel made from steelworks waste gases. Branson is also one of the driving forces behind the Carbon War Room, an NGO dedicated to “gigaton” carbon reduction opportunities in fields ranging from shipping to agriculture.

3) Michael Liebreich

Looking for information on clean energy markets with a view to starting an investment fund in the sector, Liebreich realised that there was very little data available. In response, in 2004, he founded New Energy Finance. Within five years, he had turned it into the go-to provider of research and analysis in clean energy and carbon markets and sold it to Bloomberg. The former Olympic skier continues to guide the company as chief executive, as well as serving as a member of the UN Secretary General’s High Level Advisory Group on Sustainable Energy for All and the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the New Energy Architecture.

4) James Cameron

Founder and chairman of clean technology investment house Climate Change Capital, Cameron first came to prominence as advisor to the Alliance of Small Island States during the negotiations for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol. He has been involved with GE’s Ecomagination initiative and the Carbon Disclosure Project for many years, is an advisor to the Climate Bonds Initiative and was a member of the Green Investment Bank Commission.


5) Dale Vince


One of the pioneers of UK renewable energy, Vince famously founded the world’s first green energy company in 1995 from a caravan in Stroud, with the aim of “changing the way electricity is made and used in Britain”. Mainly focused on wind – it is the leading independent wind energy producer in the UK – Ecotricity is also generating energy from solar power and looking at wave power and green gas made from food waste. Vince has also developed the Nemesis, a 151mph electric sports car.




6) Juliet Davenport


Founder and CEO of Good Energy (which has just launched a retail bond, in our directory). An atmospheric physicist by training, she founded Good Energy in 1999 after a stint working in energy policy for the European Commission. Good Energy, which counts the UK’s first wind farm at Delabole in Cornwall among its assets, was a pioneer in paying microgenerators for the energy they produce through its HomeGen scheme. A member of Ofgem’s Environmental Advisory Group, Davenport also sat on the Renewables Advisory Board until it was abolished by the Coalition Government and was Business Green Leader of the year 2012.



7) Jeremy Leggett 


What Vince and Davenport have done for wind, Leggett, founder and chairman of Solarcentury and SolarAid, an African solar lighting charity set up with Solarcentury profits, has done for solar power. The former oil industry consultant turned Greenpeace campaigner has built Solarcentury into the UK’s largest independent solar company. He has also authored several books, including The Carbon War and Half Gone.




8) Margaret Thatcher


Among all her other achievements, it comes as a surprise to many people that Britain’s first female prime minister, a trained research chemist, was also the first world leader to highlight the risks of climate change. “It is mankind and his activities that are changing the environment of our planet in damaging and dangerous ways,” she said In a speech to the UN in 1989.




9) The Miliband brothers


Tony Blair’s commitment to tackling climate change was half-hearted at best. But both David and Ed Miliband held the climate brief during his premiership, David at Defra and Ed at DECC. David launched the Climate Change Act after Blair pushed climate change to centre stage at the 2005 G8 meeting. Ed was energy secretary when the Act became law and he tightened UK emissions cuts from 60% of 1990 levels by 2050 to 80%.

10) Eddie O’Connor


Irish entrepreneur O’Connor has built not one but two significant wind energy companies. After a career at ESB, Ireland’s electricity company and the Irish Peat Board, in 1997 he founded Airtricity, a wind farm developer. He sold the company to SSE in 2008 and promptly started another company, Mainstream Renewable Power. He is also the godfather of the idea of a European Supergrid, linking up wind farms across northern Europe, solar from southern Europe and hydropower from the Nordic countries, particularly Norway.



11) David Blood and Al Gore


The former Goldman Sachs MD and the former US vice-president (and star of The Inconvenient Truth, pictured) started Generation Investment Management in London in 2004. Generation invests on the basis that sustainability factors will drive a company’s returns over the long term. “Integrating issues such as climate change into investment analysis is simply common sense,” says Gore. Renewable energy and energy efficiency are central to the firm’s climate solutions strategy.




12) The Prince of Wales


The heir to the throne is well-known for his interest in the environment but less well-known are some of the practical steps he has taken, including the Prince of Wales’ Corporate Leaders Group on Climate Change and the Accounting for Sustainability initiative.




13) Ian Simm


Simm is chief executive of Impax Asset Management, the investment firm he started in 1999. Impax has £2.2 billion assets under management and has been investing in alternative energy, as well as waste and water, for more than a decade. It designed and launched the ET50 Index in 1999 to measure the performance of companies whose core business was the development and deployment of environmental technologies and in 2007 Impax chose FTSE to take responsibility for the calculation of the ET50 Index.




14) Ben Goldsmith


While brother Zac has taken the higher-profile path of running the Ecologist magazine and then becoming a Conservative MP, Ben has invested some of his fortune into WHEB, another of London’s prominent cleantech funds, which invests in the opportunities created by the transition to more sustainable, resource-efficient economies.





15) Lord Deben


Another former environment secretary, John Gummer is now ennobled and the chairman of the Committee on Climate Change, from which pulpit he has recently been preaching against Chancellor George Osborne’s quest for a new dash for gas and in favour of a 2030 decarbonisation target.

16) Ian Marchant


The former head of SSE, who is due to become chair of Ifinis, Guy Hands’ renewable energy firm, recently warned that “there is a very real risk of the lights going out in Britain” if the government doesn’t get its act together on energy policy. The former accountant turned SSE into the UK’s biggest generator of renewable energy with 3,208MW of capacity, foregoing the option of investing in nuclear at the same time. While much of that is hydropower, SSE has been expanding its on- and offshore wind portfolios rapidly. He also steered the company’s commitment to strengthening Scotland’s transmission and distribution system so it can better cope with large amounts of renewable energy.



17) Shaun Kingsbury


As head of the recently-formed Green Investment Bank, which has £3 billion to invest in clean technology, Kingsbury could be one of the pivotal figures in renewable energy finance in the next few years. He moved to the GIB from private equity firm Hudson Clean Energy Partners, where he was a partner. The former Shell and Centrica executive also helped to found Pulsar Energy Capital and the Low Carbon Finance Group, which aims to advise government and regulatory bodies on renewable energy policy in the UK.




18) Rob Hastings


Now director of energy and infrastructure at the Crown Estate, Hastings joined the organisation in 2006 as director of the marine estate. As the Crown Estate regulates the seabed off the UK’s coastline, he was pivotal in kick-starting the UK’s offshore wind industry, the world’s largest. An aeronautical engineer by training, he has also held roles at Shell Wind Energy and the British Wind Energy Association (now RenewableUK).



19) Anthony Hobley


Global head of sustainability at law firm Norton Rose, Hobley was involved in the creation of the UK’s pilot emissions trading scheme, the EU ETS and Australia’s Clean Energy Package. A former director of legal policy at Climate Change Capital, Hobley has also played a key role in developing several organisations – the Climate Markets and Investment Association, the Businesses for a Clean Economy umbrella group in Australia and Green & Tonic, a London based network for sustainability professionals.



20) Ronan O’Regan


Director of energy and clean tech at PwC, O’Regan has been involved in UK and European energy markets for 18 years and he advises the UK government, the Crown Estate, private equity investors, major UK energy companies and development teams on renewable energy, new technologies, regulation, trading and risk management. An expert on the UK’s offshore sector and Electricity Market Reform, he recently wrote a report on the implications of EMR on financing of renewables, concluding that UK policy signals remain highly ambiguous.