New Green Radicals: Juliet Davenport

 

Juliet Davenport is founder and Chief Executive Officer of Good Energy – a renewable energy company with a mission to power a greener, cleaner future together with its customers. Juliet founded Good Energy in 1999, at a time when 98% of the UK’s electricity was non-renewable and customers had little choice about where their energy came from. Today, Good Energy supplies 100% renewable electricity from over 1,400 different locations across the UK and is one of the largest Feed-In Tariff providers. In 2013, Juliet was awarded an OBE for services to renewables. She currently sits on the board of the Renewable Energy Association, Innovate UK and is Vice President of the Energy Institute. In addition, she sits on the advisory boards of leading UK think tanks, including Energy Systems Catapult, Aurora, Oxford Energy, and LSE’s Grantham Institute.

Do you think it’s important we respond to the climate emergency?

It is vital – we are witnessing climate breakdown as our wildlife, soils, oceans, and the quality of the air that we breathe, are under threat. To do nothing, or not do enough, is not an option.

Why do you think we need green radicals at a time like this?

We need radical action. We need dramatic systems change and policy frameworks for governments, businesses, citizens and entire economies, to shift to a sustainable and regenerative economy. The government is invested and trapped in business as usual, making incremental changes. So we need green radicals to step up and take the lead – where individuals lead, others follow.

How would you define a green radical?

A green radical is someone that challenges the status quo and shows that there is a different and better way of doing things. We need more green radicals – people who re-imagine and re-define our future and show that change is possible.

Do we need to redefine markets to drive change?

Working with Kate Raworth, economist and author of Doughnut Economics, in a series of workshops last summer, provided evidence of how we need to recalibrate markets, towards a system that puts people and planet in balance. Kate used Good Energy as an example of a regenerative business delivering a positive impact. We are a for-profit business with a clear purpose to address and combat climate change, and that is what our customers and investors actively choose to support. We want to encourage the growth of more regenerative companies working towards a purpose that is broader than simply ‘profit’, putting more back into the environment than we take out.

Do you regard yourself as a green radical?

I think I have always been a green radical. I was a student of atmospheric physics and could see the impact that climate change was going to have, and I wanted to do something practical to take action and to change the energy system.

I set up Good Energy, co-owned by our customers, to put customers at the heart of a solution to climate change, by offering them the opportunity to commit to new green clean energy and to manage their
own carbon footprint. By working with small energy producers, we started to encourage more and more people to develop their own renewable energy, and then built a customer base to benefit from that supply of 100% renewables.

How has your organisation taken a radical approach to environmental action?

As a purpose led business, we are radical by design. We exist to fight climate change, and to give our customers the power to stand with us in that fight. Today our energy supply customers choose us to source their renewable power from over 1,400 renewable generators via power purchase agreements, which creates a market for more investment in renewables.

We also enable thousands of households to generate their own power, and our goal is to turn every home and business into its own clean power station.

How have customers, employees and stakeholders responded?

Our customers, our people and our investors tend to join us because of our mission. Over the last two years we have also seen more and more businesses becoming aware of their environmental impact signing up to Good Energy to commit to 100% renewable energy.

In the financial world, responsible investors are beginning to recognise the value in what we do. London Stock Exchange has just included Good Energy in the launch of its ‘Green Economy’ listing, designed for investors who increasingly want their money to make a positive difference.

How do you build the business case for radical change?

If your business is designed to improve the world, that helps futureproof it and makes it more attractive to both customers and to investors. Sustainable growth means benefits to people and planet as well as positive financial returns.

What’s the biggest barrier to change?

Short termism and lack of whole systems thinking. Governments, businesses, individuals — we are all guilty of opting for the short-term benefit to the detriment of the long-term goal. And we tend to look at things in isolation — the effect of one solution or technology over another. We need to look at the big picture and wider stakeholders.

What’s the secret to taking a radical idea mainstream?

It needs to be inspiring, an idea that gets people thinking differently about how they live their lives. But it also needs to be accessible, people need to see and understand how to get involved.

Which area of the economy do you think is most in need of radical change?

We need to redefine our entire economy and look at what a regenerative and more balanced economy would be like – and think about people, planet and profit. We need to tackle the climate crisis with a whole system approach.

What’s the most radical thing you’ve ever done?

Setting up Good Energy 20 years ago was totally radical. I was the only woman leader in the energy sector with the radical idea of sourcing 100% renewables from small producers across the UK. The government didn’t want to give us a license to trade, the city didn’t want to give us finance to start up, and our competitors thought we were irrelevant. We broke down barriers. And now others are keen to follow. Our role is now to keep re-inventing and inspiring the market to become the energy service provider at the heart of people’s lives and ensuring we deliver a better and more sustainable future.

Read the full interview in the Meet the New Green Radicals report launched in collaboration with BusinessGreen.

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