Juliet Davenport may have managed to escape the energy supply market. The founder and former CEO of green energy supplier Good Energy ended her 20-year tenure last February, months before an unprecedented surge in global energy prices left the industry in shock .
But then, it’s not uncommon for Davenport to have a head start. Created at the end of the 1990s, Good Energy was one of the first “challengers” suppliers to compete with the behemoths of British Gas and others, born out of privatization. He was also a pioneering investor in renewable energy and an early champion of small-scale community energy businesses.
“I think you can become a bit of an institution if you’re not careful,” she laughs.
At the bar of an upscale central London hotel, Davenport takes a break from the schedule of meetings she has to attend as one of the busiest non-executive directors in the energy industry.
Few such figures have such a green pedigree as Davenport’s. She founded Good Energy, Britain’s first 100% renewable electricity supplier, in 1999, and the company prides itself on owning the UK’s first commercial wind farm since 2002. She is married to Mark Shorrock, the entrepreneur behind the controversial Swansea Tidal Lagoon,
Family a daughter, a daughter-in-law.
Education MA Physics, University of Oxford, Masters in Economics, Birkbeck.
Last holidays Cornwall, in Delabole, site of the UK’s first wind farm.
Best advice she ever received “Try to work with people you like on things that interest you.”
Biggest career mistake “Hire people based on their credentials alone. “
Word she abuses “Cool.”
How she relaxes “Ride and read – I’m always working on doing them simultaneously. “
and has withstood a long-term public feud with his energy maverick colleague Dale Vince, including an attempted coup by his company, Ecotricity, earlier this year.
Having taken a step back from the day-to-day management of Good Energy, Davenport sits on the board of a range of companies helping to tackle the climate crisis. Perhaps her most notable role is as president of rooftop solar innovator Atrato Onsite Energy, whose IPO in November made her the first company with an all-female board to be listed on the Stock Exchange in London.
Davenport says she was no longer happy to “show up and do the same” when she realized that after decades of hard-learned lessons in the industry, she could spread her wings and help new energy companies to navigate the market.
Good Energy also needed new skills, especially in digital innovation. Proving that sometimes being ahead means recognizing when others are more advanced, Davenport said she wanted to bring in “someone who was better at digital than I could ever be”.
She remains a director of the London-listed company, which she says is well positioned to weather an energy crisis in which dozens of small suppliers went bankrupt.
The company has always hedged its exposure to global commodity prices by purchasing a lot of energy in advance, she says, and has negotiated supply agreements directly with local renewable energy projects, which allows also to establish a fixed price.
At the root of the industry’s crisis, she adds, are small energy companies that have failed to maintain investor support by differentiating themselves in a busy market, as well as a series of problems with the way this market is regulated.
So, is the growing criticism of the industry watchdog, Ofgem, justified? Absolutely, comes the pragmatic answer.
“We’ve had conversations with the regulator on various areas related to market competition over the last six or seven years probably,” she says. “The biggest problem was that [Ofgem’s] the key performance indicator of success was the number of suppliers in the market and the number of supplier changes. It has always been a problem.
The clear call for households to help tackle sluggish competition in the energy market by seeking the cheapest offer has triggered a flood of poorly funded suppliers and unsustainable energy offers. This race to the bottom has left more than 4 million homes in need of a new energy supplier after record prices caused 26 businesses to collapse.
“The UK needs energy companies that are ready to invest in the future,” says Davenport. “If you’re constantly competing on price alone, you can’t invest. “
As chairman of Atrato, Davenport has her mind on investing: It has only been a few weeks since the rooftop solar company raised £ 150million from an oversubscribed market listing.
The company plans to use rooftop solar installations to unlock the largely untapped potential of commercial properties. Its strength lies in bringing together employees who have “good knowledge of the commercial real estate market” and experts in the development of renewable energies. Over time, Atrato plans to create standardized contracts that can make the still niche decision to adapt a leased office building with solar capacity a “plug and play” option.
“Good Energy’s original head office was owned by a pension fund,” she says. “I remember trying at least once a year to put solar power on the roof and failing completely, because the [owners] were so far apart and just didn’t want any complications.
“Now, many companies are committed to using renewable energy, and installing projects on their own sites is part of that goal. Helping them find the way forward if they don’t own their building is a big part of it. The energy market must aim to make things easier for consumers.
Atrato’s ethics echo in some ways that of Good Energy, which for decades has made it easy for households to play a role in the growth of renewables by choosing a tariff from a company that invests directly in renewable energy sources. renewable energy projects.
“The question is how fast we can do it,” she said. “And how much we can standardize this process. If we keep everything as simple and repetitive as possible, we can go faster. ”
Energy companies that can “enable” consumers to decarbonise their energy use because it is the easiest option are the ones to watch, Davenport believes. “For many years I have seen big corporations and governments trying to do big things because that’s what they can control. But so much can be done on a decentralized level if you can get into a consumer’s head, ”she says.
In his next chapter, Davenport plans to start over.