My Week: Juliet Davenport of Good Energy

The founder of the UK's only 100% renewable energy supplier on climate week, the Budget, and the problems with nuclear power.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013
This week was Climate Week, so Good Energy, the 100% renewable energy supplier I founded in 1999, spent the week dealing with lots of possibilities around that. Controversy, too - it was sponsored by RBS, which some of the green groups weren’t very happy about...

At 8am on Monday morning, I was on a train to London to speak at a conference called Creating Low Carbon Communities. There were lots of people keen to do low-carbon installations in their own communities, so there was a lot to talk about. It’s a really good conference, actually – but the interesting thing about conferences is, obviously, that you go and it’s great, but then the next day you get hit by a bow wave of emails afterwards. Everyone’s so interested, they want to ask you lots of questions – which is fine. So that started my Monday morning nicely.

When you live outside it, London is always a lovely place to visit because it’s so different. But coming home to Wiltshire is a relief. When you wake up in the morning and all you can hear is the birds (and they’re very loud at the moment, I can assure you), you realise why it’s amazing. We have a smallholding, and it’s beautiful at the moment – I have a cherry tree outside my window, and we have a beautiful garden, so going home means wandering around, watering the plants. I’ve got some horses as well, so I got and look at them and chat to them gently.

Wednesday was the Budget, which was obviously quite important. There was quite a lot of stuff on renewables, but it wasn’t all positive. There were a couple of things in there that seemed to me to be ill thought-through. For instance, venture capital trusts and people who invest under the Enterprise Investment Scheme are now precluded from investments in feed-in tariffs (which pays small-scale, low-carbon energy producers).

From my point of view, we funded the early stages of the company with three investment rounds under EIS regulation, and I’d say it’s a really good vehicle for new green entrepreneurs. In a sense, the Budget cutting that out means that it’s going to cut back on new, smaller entrants into the whole renewables/green tech market. And that just leaves the big boys – which I think is missing an opportunity.

One thing we’ve spent quite a lot of time on after the terrible events in Japan, is talking to the team about nuclear, and trying to come up with a line on it. It’s a really hard one, but our general views are economic, rather than purely environmental. My beef with nuclear, I suppose, is that if I run a wind farm and I go bust, say because my turbine has fallen to pieces, the Government doesn’t have to step in and take over. Whereas with a nuclear power station, if the company running it goes bust, the Government always steps in because you can’t just leave a nuclear power station not running.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not anti-any technology. It’s just that, practically speaking, renewables have always made sense to me. When you take a wind turbine down (and we’ve just taken down 10), you don’t have much to clean up afterwards.  

This weekend, my husband’s off to watch a football match, and my parents are coming over, so I think it’ll be a case of a big lunch and chilling out in the garden, if the weather stays like this. I think it’s good for my husband to get away – he’s in the middle of starting up a couple of businesses around solar energy, which took rather a knocking under the feed-in tariff stuff in the Budget. So that’s been stressful.

And having two entrepreneurs in the family can be a little tempestuous at times. But it's fine, because I'm right most of the time.

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