Tackling climate change: from co-creator to co-founder

james w blog

When I first started as a co-creator on Spark+Mettle’s Star Track programme, the founder Eugenie Teasley asked me one thing:

“What do you want to do with your life, James?”

Without hesitation I answered:

“I want to solve climate change!”

Money makes the world go round. Somebody, somewhere, has said those words, and whoever they are, they are correct! If we want to solve climate change and change our energy infrastructure we need to be innovative, entrepreneurial and above all, we need to have green ideas that make more money than their conventional alternatives. We all know that climate change is a big problem, but not many of us know how to solve it. What is the answer? Increased revenue, increased profits, blah blah blah or put simply—MORE MONEY.

At Crowd Power Plant (CPP) we give our members more money for the excess electricity that their renewable energy installations generate. We buy surplus electricity from domestic renewable energy installations across the UK. We then sell this electricity in bulk (or ‘as a crowd’) on the wholesale market or directly to energy companies. We then share the profits with our members. Our ‘crowd members’ can expect to increase their yearly installation profits by as much as £50. Our hope is that Crowd Power Plant will revolutionise the UK energy market by fostering the uptake of renewable technologies.

A few weeks ago CPP won the Mayor of London’s Low Carbon Entrepreneurs Award 2014. We received a lovely trophy (which has found a very nice home on my mantelpiece) and £15,000 to help start CPP. The Low Carbon Entrepreneur Award, in partnership with Siemens, is an award that looks for the most innovative ideas to help reduce London’s CO2 emissions. The competition was open to London’s further and higher education students and recent graduates. It was a two-stage contest. First a short ‘business plan’ application and then a Dragons’ Den-style pitch at City Hall. It was a fantastic experience which really tested our business plan and ourselves as entrepreneurs.

The idea for CPP came to me by deconstructing contemporary ideas like crowd-funding and ‘crowd-sourcing’ and seeing what other industries the notion of the ‘crowd’ could be applied to. I combined this idea of the ‘crowd’ together with my academic background—in environmental technology—and came up with Crowd Power Plant. After a few weeks of thinking through the idea, I asked my friend Dominic Jacobson to come on board and become a co-founder. He accepted, and the rest, as they say, is history. We are hoping that winning the 2014 Mayor of London’s Low Carbon Entrepreneurs Award will open many doors and put us in touch with experienced mentors, create strategic partnerships and offer a great platform to launch CPP from.

So, how do you solve a problem like climate change?

You think of a green idea that is innovative, entrepreneurial and makes more money than its conventional alternatives. That is what we plan to do with Crowd Power Plant, so watch this space!

Written by James Winfield, 2011-12 Star Track co-creator and co-founder of Crowd Power Plant