Sunday, 27 December 2009

Sun Kings

SolarAid is bringing electricity, light, health and hope to Africa

It is a cruel irony that some of the sunniest countries on the planet spend so much of the time in darkness for want of a cheap source of energy. More cruel still is that the remedy is so easily available, if there were just enough seed money for Africans to be able to harness it: solar power.
SolarAid, one of the charities supported by The Times in this year’s Christmas Charity Appeal, is slowly providing the seed money to exploit this inadequately tapped resource. Money that will allow children who have ambition but no classroom lighting to stay at school beyond sunset, to use computers and listen to tapes while they are in their classrooms, and to do homework when they get home. Money for doctors in hospitals to be able to work in well-lit wards and operating theatres, to ensure that no more mothers have to give birth in the dark, and to power fridges in which to store vital vaccines.
The charity’s work in spreading the use of solar panels helps villages to pump clean water; and enables families to avoid respiratory diseases resulting from the use of toxic, polluting kerosene-powered lamps. It also lessens the risk of their homes being razed by accidents from kerosene-fuelled fires. The lack of electricity means that in rural communities, villagers fell trees to make charcoal for cooking, in the process accelerating deforestation and soil erosion. By funishing power for mobile phones and radios, SolarAid helps remote villages to reach the outside world.
SolarAid may be only three years old, but already it has reached 150,000 people. With the help of Times readers it hopes to reach more than 400,000 of Africa’s poorest within a year, and 1.5 million by 2012. It deserves your support.

Britain’s green rich list

There’s gold in those wind turbines. We highlight the top eco-tycoons, as rated by the compiler of our Rich List

to not show photographer information --> to not show image description -->
From New Age traveller to wind-power tycoon: Dale Vince is worth £85m to not show enlarge option -->

gSiteLife.Recommend("ExternalResource", "6968333","");
div#related-article-links p a, div#related-article-links p a:visited {
The Copenhagen summit may have put the damper on global plans to tackle climate change — but British entrepreneurs are charging ahead regardless.
Research by Philip Beresford, author of The Sunday Times Rich List, has unveiled 20 British business people who have already made millions from going green. They range from Dale Vince, the New Age traveller turned wind-power tycoon, to the Cottingham family, which has quietly built up a fortune from insulating houses and installing energy-efficient heating. In drawing up the list, we have excluded businessmen like Sir Richard Branson, who have added environmental interests to their businesses.
Compared with other European countries, in particular Germany and Spain, Britain has been sparing with its subsidies for renewable energy and slow to push through big infrastructure projects in the face of local opposition.
All that might be about to change. After the fudge at Copenhagen, where world leaders failed to adopt firm targets to cut carbon-dioxide emissions, Britain is one of the few developed countries with a legally binding target on greenhouse gas emissions. The Climate Change Act 2008 says the UK must cut carbondioxide output 34% by 2020, a goal that should generate even more opportunities for our green millionaires.
1: DALE VINCE Ecotricity £85m
Dale Vince was a grammar school pupil in Great Yarmouth but realised he did not want a conventional career. He got his first taste of the hippie way of life at music festivals: “I’d seen people living in old buses and knew there was an alternative.”
So at 19 Vince decided to become a New Age traveller. His first home was an old ambulance. Eventually, he was living in a truck that he had converted into a home and he had an entire alternative lifestyle.
“I had a little wind turbine to charge old batteries and even run a laptop computer ,” he said. Vince wanted more than to lead a lowimpact lifestyle, though, so he drove to Cornwall to see Britain’s first wind farm. It gave him the dream of building a wind turbine on the hill where he lived in Gloucestershire.
It took five years of challenges and appeals before he managed to get planning permission. The next hurdle Vince faced was selling the power. The energy sector had not been deregulated and the price he was offered to supply the national grid was lower than he wanted. Undaunted, he came up with a bold solution. “The only way to make the venture work was to cut out the middleman and reach end-users directly. At that time the electricity industry was just liberalising and it was possible to get a supplier licence.”
The company he created, Ecotricity, has grown rapidly and now incorporates a wind-development arm, which deals with the turbines, and a retail arm, which delivers the energy to customers. In 2007 alone Ecotricity invested £25m in wind energy. In 2007-8 it made a £1.9m profit on £28m sales. It has £37.8m net assets and has been valued at more than £100m. Cautiously, in this difficult climate, we value Vince, 48, at £85m.
2: ANDREW OWENS and ALEX LEWIS Greenergy £50m
Andrew Owens formerly an oil trader, invested £300,000 in 1992 to set up Greenergy to supply what was, at the time, a new concept: low-sulphur petrol. As the oil giants muscled in on his niche, the Welshman, who had worked for Esso and Petrotrade, decided the company needed to focus on carbon itself.
Greenergy now makes car fuel from oilseed rape. By buying oil from the Continent, South America, Russia and Africa and mixing low–carbon versions for supermarket pumps, it has grown with its customers, the largest of which is Tesco. In 2007-8, Greenergy made £21.1m profit on £1.7 billion sales.
Owens, 47, and his wife Alex Lewis, 46, a former lobbyist who is the company’s communications chief, have a 33.1% stake worth perhaps £50m.
3: LEE COTTINGHAM and FAMILY Mark Group £45m
The Leicester-based Mark Group began insulating homes in 1974 and recognised that for most householders this is the first step to saving energy, money and carbon emissions. Now it helps to make more than 3,000 homes more energy efficient every week.
In 2005 the co-founder, John Cottingham, handed control to his son Lee, now 34, after more than three decades in charge. Since then, nationwide expansion has grown the business from 4 depots to 14. Customers range from homeowners to local councils and utility companies.
In 2008-9, profits hit a record £8.8m on sales of £97.6m. Mark Group should easily be worth £45m. The Cottingham family owns it all.
4: ROY MacGREGOR and FAMILY Global Energy Group £45m
Global Energy Group makes, repairs and inspects infrastructure for clients such as British Gas and Trans-ocean. The company, based in Inverness and Aberdeen, has projects ranging from refurbishing equipment on oil rigs to assembling turbines for a wind farm in Scotland.
Roy MacGregor, the chairman, started out in his family’s supermarket operation. That was sold in 1985, when the family had already branched out into recruitment, property and supplying food and other products to oil platforms in the Cromarty Firth. The supply work became the basis of MacGregor Energy Services, which he launched in 1986. It was sold to 3i, the venture capitalist, in 1997 for about £20m.
MacGregor became involved in football as chairman of local club Ross County. In 2005 he started up in business again, founding Global Energy, and has grown it by acquisition. In 2007-8 it made £5.8m profit on £94.3m sales. He stepped down as chairman of Ross County in April but continues as life president.
5=: IAIN DORRITY PV Crystalox Solar £38m
PV Crystalox Solar, which makes silicon wafers for solar roof panels, joined the main stock market in 2007. It is now one of the biggest listed green companies, though the recent stock-market turmoil hit its shares and it is now worth £331m, against £640m in January 2008.
The Oxfordshire business was set up in 1982 and now has about 250 staff. The solar power market is growing at a rate of 30%-35% a year.
About 75% of the production goes to Japan, while the rest is sent to Germany where it is processed into wafers for the European market. Iain Dorrity, 57, the chief executive, joined Crystalox in 1986 and was a member of the management buyout team that acquired the business in 1994. He sold £20m of shares in the float and today has a stake worth £25.8m. After tax, Dorrity should be worth £38m.
5=: BARRY GARRARD PV Crystalox Solar £38m
Barry Garrard, technical director at the company, has a stake worth £24.5m. He sold £27m of shares at the float and afterwards.
7: GRAHAM YOUNG PV Crystalox Solar £30m
Graham Young, a shareholder in the solar power group, has an £8.8m stake. He sold shares worth about £8.7m at the float. With other assets, Young should be worth about £12m after tax.
8: STUART OLDHAM PV Crystalox Solar £22m
Like Graham Young, a shareholder in PV Crystalox Solar, Stuart Oldham has a £15.6m stake. At the float he sold shares worth £13m. His fortune totals about £22m.
9=: JIM CLARKE and FAMILY Clarke Energy £21m
Liverpool-based Clarke Energy is a market leader in decentralised power generation, combined heat and power, green energy and waste treatment. It was formed by Jim Clarke in 1989 from a diesel-engine and spares business. The company’s power-generation projects are in applications such as natural gas, landfill gas, biogas from sewage works, waste methane from mines, coal-seam methane extracted from unmined coal and “syngas” produced by the gasification of biomass and waste. The international business is growing fast and in 2008 made £2.6m profit on £150m sales. It is 50.8% owned by Clarke, 58, the chairman and managing director, and his family. We value the company at £40m.
9=: NEIL ECKERT Climate Exchange £21m
A former insurance executive in the City, Neil Eckert gave up his job in 2005 to dedicate his life to protecting the planet. His good intentions did not come at any great financial cost, however. Rather, they have turned him into a millionaire.
Eckert, 47, became one of the new breed of green entrepreneurs via Climate Exchange, which he co-founded in London. It dominates the market in carbon emissions trading, part of the green gold rush that was created by the Kyoto climate change treaty. Eckert, the chief executive, has a stake worth more than £8.4m.
He also has a £1.8m stake in Trading Emissions, a quoted company in the same field. We add £11m for Eckert family stakes we can see in other companies such as Northward Properties and Whetsone Properties. In all, Eckert should be worth £21m.
11: ROD and DIANE WOOD Community Windpower £10m
Community Windpower was formed in 2001 to work with local communities to build wind farms. The aim is to provide economic, educational and environmental benefits to local schools and whole communities.
The company’s first wind farm, at Dalry, North Ayrshire, was commissioned in 2006 and has generated enough power for more than 12,000 homes in its first year of operation. The second wind farm, near Dunbar, East Lothian, was given planning consent in 2007 and is now generating 48MW of electricity.
In 2008, Community Windpower made an £858,000 profit but its Dairy Community Wind Company subsidiary made a £2.5m profit on £4.5m sales in the same period.
The Cheshire-based business is owned and run by Rod and Diane Wood, 46 and 44, respectively. The company should be worth £8.5m on these figures. We add £1.5m for farming companies owned by the family.
12: ALEXANDER McKINNON and FAMILY McKinnon & Clarke £8m
Sandy McKinnon, a former military intelligence analyst, co-founded the energy consultancy McKinnon & Clarke in 1976 from a small office. The company, headquartered in Dunfermline, has grown into a key player in carbon trading and other areas of renewable energy.
It has expanded into a range of overseas markets and has offices in 17 countries. In the year to June 2008, profits rose from £1.3m to £1.7m. Simon Northrop, the managing director, said in April: “Sales are going like a train. We have never before experienced such demand for our services.”
There have been reports that McKinnon, 66, wants to sell his family’s 55% controlling stake in a deal that would value the company at about £15m. That seems a fair price and the McKinnon family stake would be worth more than £8m.
Entec was formed by Northumberland Water in 1989 as an environmental and engineering consultancy after privatisation of the water industry. It was spun out of Northumbrian Water in 2005 and sold to its management team for £30m. Entec is now a stand-alone company heavily involved in energy, including wind-farm development onshore and offshore. The management buyout was led by Simon Armes-Reardon, 54, the managing director, Douglas Morton, commercial director, and Barry Canfield, finance director. All three are still performing the same roles.
In 2008-9 the Newcastle company made £6m profit on £63.5m sales. The downturn has hit sales, which are not expected to recover until mid-2010. We value the company at £30m, which makes Armes-Reardon’s stake worth almost £7m.
13=: DREW JOHNSON Eaga £7m
Eaga was established in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1990 to administer the Home Energy Efficiency Scheme, which provides government grants for heating and insulation improvements for low-income households. Drew Johnson joined the business a year later, having previously worked at British Coal. He joined the board in 1999 and 10 years later took over as chief executive.
The company became a partnership owned by the employees in 2000. Each year it insulates a quarter of a million homes and fits more than 50,000 energy-efficient central-heating systems across the country. Eaga floated on the stock market in 2007, valued at £453m. Johnson, 50, has a stake worth more than £7m.
David Routledge, 51, is organisational development director at Eaga, the heating and renewable-energy supplier. He joined the company in 2002 after running his own consultancy. His stake is worth more than £7m.
16=: EUAN CAMERON Wind Prospect Group £6m
Euan Cameron is managing director of Wind Prospect, the Bristol company he co-founded in 1997. It reckons to be one of the most successful independent renewable-energy developers in the world, with operations in countries including Ireland, Canada, France, China and Australia.
In 2008 Wind Power made a healthy £1.4m profit on £14.3m sales. It has a strong balance sheet and should be worth £15m. Cameron, 57, has a stake worth about £6m.
16=: ERIC LUMLEY and FAMILY Viscount Environmental £6m
Yorkshire-based Viscount Environmental was formed in 1992. Its core business is providing insulation for residential buildings, and its activities stretch across the energy-saving spectrum, from draught-proofing to central heating installation. In 2007-8, it made £1.3m, and should be worth about £6m. It is largely owned by Eric Lumley, 64, and his family.
18: IAN MCLEOD Eaga £6m
Ian McLeod, 41, finance director of the Newcastle upon Tyne heating and renewable-energy supplier, has a stake worth almost £6m. He spent 14 years with Price Waterhouse Coopers, the accountancy firm.
19: COLIN PALMER Wind Prospect Group £4m
An engineer by training, Colin Palmer is a director of Wind Prospect, the Bristol renewable-energy group that he co-founded in 1997. He is now a non-executive director. Palmer, 61, holds a stake worth about £4m.
20: JEREMY LEGGETT Solar Century Holdings £3m
Jeremy Leggett chairs Solar Century Holdings, a London solar energy supplier he founded in 1998. It designs innovative products for buildings, working with architects and builders. Leggett, 55, has been called “the UK’s most respected green energy boss” and was a member of the government’s Renewables Advisory Board from 2002 to 2006. He has 30.7% of ordinary shares in Solar Century, which is worth £13m. His stake and work in the first private-equity fund for renewable energy take him to £3m.

Gordon Brown can build his green legacy on coral reefs

Charles Clover

There we stood, in a quiet fold of the wooded hills above the Severn, waiting for the clatter of birds and the cries of excitement from the beaters. Fathers and sons, relatives and friends were united, some after many years, for the ritual of a family shoot in a magical landscape of white haze, bright sunlight and hard frost.
As I watched my teenage son raise his gun and bring down several pheasants, I suddenly understood why this time of year focuses the mind on renewal — both personal and public. Not so much because of the birds — which will be eaten in 10 days’ time — but because of the handing-on of a deep-rooted country tradition from one generation to the next.
On the public front, renewal is a political inevitability in an election year, of course, but there are still opportunities to be grasped in the dying days of this Labour administration — and not necessarily where people think they are. Gordon Brown, exhausted by, among other things, his efforts to make the epic bungle of Copenhagen a success, may not even be aware of this yet, but there is an opportunity to create a legacy as great as Yellowstone national park or the designation of the Serengeti as a wildlife reserve.
Unknown to most of its citizens, Britain happens to own the world’s largest coral atoll — the reefs that surround 55 tiny islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Only one island of the Chagos Archipelago is inhabited: Diego Garcia, the site of a US naval base. Now conservationists are saying there is a one-off opportunity to designate the Chagos and everything within its 200-mile limit as a marine reserve, creating in the process the largest marine conservation area in the world — bigger than the three areas in the Pacific that were declared national marine monuments by George W Bush just before he left office. The Chagos islands hold half of the remaining healthy coral reefs in the Indian Ocean, so this conservation area would be comparable to the Galapagos or the Great Barrier Reef. But there are difficulties to be overcome before the Foreign Office makes up its mind in April. One is the claim of the Chagossians — coconut farmers descended from Mauritian French stock, who were shamefully evicted by the military in the 1970s. The other is what to do about a tuna fishery that pays the Treasury about £1m a year.
If fishing were banned, it would undoubtedly cost several times that to police the waters around the islands . But this expenditure, which could come from private as well as public funds, would be relatively tiny compared with the enormous conservation gain. The creation of a reserve this large would double the size of the world’s marine protected areas overnight.
It just remains to be seen if Brown and David Miliband, the foreign secretary (who is keen), will pull it off. It is possible, of course, that the election will take place before they can. If so, the proposal would be likely to languish in David Cameron’s in-tray for years. Far higher in his tray will be the budgets to be balanced, the quangos to be axed and what his party sees as wrongs to be righted.
One of these symbolic wrongs, in Conservative eyes, is the fate of hunting. Cameron’s view, which many who understand the countryside will share, is that Labour’s Hunting Act is a bad piece of legislation which has pleased no one and made a mockery of the law.
There is talk of having a free vote on hunting in the Commons within a month of a new Conservative government coming to power, provided there are enough new members of the house. Despite this, I can’t see a new intake enthusiastically voting for abolition of the act without the promise one day of a law that better defines cruelty to animals — such as that proposed by Lord Donoughue and the Middle Way group. The intellectual failure of the Hunting Act, and the woolly-minded folk who voted for it, was that it failed to define the offence that is apparently so morally reprehensible. That is no simple task.
In the second half of 2010 the business of balancing the nation’s budget is likely to dominate the agenda, whoever gets elected. But there will be opportunities there, too. One is to end the misguided attempt to knock down perfectly good Victorian and Edwardian terraced housing in the industrial towns at public expense in the cause of “housing market renewal”. This pernicious, ideological aspect of Labour’s tenure has cost the public purse more than £1 billion to date, blighted large swathes of the Midlands and the north of England and caused misery for those — many of them among the most vulnerable — who were chucked out of their homes. Leaving renewal to the market is an easy option: the environment of our industrial towns can only gain.
All through next year we can expect attempts to revive the process of cutting the world’s emissions of greenhouse gases, which foundered in Copenhagen. If there is a prize to be grasped in Mexico at the end of 2010, it is likely to be for Cameron’s government. That is why Labour should give serious thought now to the Chagos proposal as a way of redeeming its tarnished environmental reputation.

Geese point the way to saving jet fuel

Planes flying in V formation are more efficient and produce less carbon dioxide, say scientists

Robin McKie, Science Editor
The Observer, Sunday 27 December 2009

Scientists have proposed an unusual method for cutting aircraft fuel consumption – they want to fly jumbo jets in formation like geese.
The prospect of flotillas of airliners soaring across the sky in V-shaped flocks, like migrating birds, is startling. Nevertheless, research by aviation experts has shown that it could lead to major reductions in aircraft fuel consumption.
The work follows research carried out almost 100 years ago by a German researcher, Carl Wieselsberger. In 1914, he published a paper in which he calculated that birds flying in V-formations use less energy to flap their wings than those on solo flights. Birds in flocks can therefore fly for longer periods than those travelling on their own.
Wieselsberger showed that when a bird flaps its wings it creates a current known as upwash; essentially, air lifts up and rises round the tips of the wings as they flap. Other birds, flying in the first one's wake, experience an updraft, allowing them to fly further.
This idea is supported by observations by French scientists who studied great white pelicans trained to fly behind an aircraft. The team – from the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Villiers-en-Bois – strapped instruments and transmitters to individual birds. These revealed that the birds' heart rates went down when they were flying together, and also showed that they were able to glide more often when they flew in formation. "They fly in formation to save energy," said team leader Henri Weimerskirch.
Such experiments suggest that 25 large birds – such as pelicans or geese – flying in a V-shaped formation can travel 70% further than solo birds. Many of the great migratory journeys, some covering thousands of miles, made by birds would be impossible without the energy-saving effects of group flight, scientists say.
But aviation engineers have now taken these discoveries to their logical conclusion and have proposed that aircraft fly in V-shaped groups so they can benefit from similar energy-saving effects. This idea is the brainchild of researchers led by Professor Ilan Kroo, of Stanford University, California, who say airlines could make substantial cuts in the amount of aviation fuel they use.
In one calculation, the team envisaged three passenger jets leaving Los Angeles, Las Vegas and San Francisco airports en route to the east coast of the US. In the hypothetical exercise, the planes rendezvoused over Utah, then continued their journeys travelling in a V, with planes taking turns to lead the formation. The group found that the aircraft used 15% less fuel and produced less carbon dioxide when flying in formation compared with solo performances.
Such an approach could make significant inroads into the amount of carbon dioxide that is pumped into the atmosphere by planes. The aviation industry is expected to become a major emitter of greenhouse gases over the next two decades, and airline chiefs are desperately looking for ways to cut fuel consumption. Formation flights could be the answer, says Kroo and his team.
However, critics have pointed to problems. Safety could be compromised by craft flying in tight formation, while co-ordinating departure times and schedules could become a major headache. Kroo and his team say such difficulties can be overcome by more detailed work on their scheme.

Green tycoon Dale Vince’s eco supercar

Kevin Dowling

BRITAIN’s richest green entrepreneur, who built a £85m fortune on wind power, is to launch an eco supercar.
Dale Vince, 48, will make an attempt on the British electric land speed record of 137mph in February, paving the way for production of the car by the end of 2010.
Vince, the founder of Ecotricity, an energy supplier, named his racing car Nemesis, to presage the demise of the combustion engine. “It’s about turning the heads of ordinary motorists because we all love these fast cars even though we can’t afford them,” he said.
The Nemesis, built for £400,000 by a team of Formula One engineers, will be priced to compete with a Ferrari.
In tests, the Nemesis has reached 60mph in less than four seconds, and Vince says he is confident he will break the land speed record set in August 2000 by Don Wales, grandson of Malcolm Campbell and nephew of Donald Campbell, in Bluebird Electric.
The Nemesis runs for 150 miles between charges and can be powered in one hour from a special charger or eight hours from the mains supply.
This weekend Vince emerges at the top of a Green Rich List produced by Philip Beresford, who compiles The Sunday Times Rich List.

Green law may put US backers off data centre

Carbon reduction rules make it more costly to store data in new centres in the UK
Jane Bradley
EUROPE’S biggest planned data centre could miss out on an expected influx of business from America because of costly environmental laws, the Scottish team behind the project has warned.
David King, the director of the proposed £950m Lockerbie Data Centre, said a large number of blue chip companies in North America wanted to shift their data abroad to avoid government intrusion. They have said they will avoid Scotland because carbon reduction rules make it more costly to store data in new centres in the UK.
Many US companies moved their data to Canada after the 2001 Patriot Act gave the federal government access to any data stored on American soil.
However, Canada is to bring in similar legislation in the form of the Investigative Powers for the 21st Century Act and a reciprocal agreement with the US government, sparking a mass exodus of companies.
King said a trade visit to the US had revealed that companies looking to move their data storage overseas had ruled out Scotland because of higher costs caused by carbon reduction commitment legislation. The legislation is part of government plans to cut carbon emissions by 80% of 1990 levels by 2050.
He said older data centres will be able to work within the laws, significantly reducing their carbon output from a much higher base. But new developments like the planned 250,000 sq ft site near Lockerbie are already built to be highly efficient.
“It is hard to improve on what we have already,” said King.