Friday, 27 February 2009

Green In The CIty

Does the City really understand Clean Tech and does it need to – isn’t a good deal a good deal whatever class the asset is in?
EcoConnect hosts a series of events called 'Green in the City' designed to connect City decision makers with green technologies. Green in the City is all about making connections to increase business take-up of green technology.

This month’s event took place at the IOD in London and had a fantastic panel of industry experts, chaired by Dan Ilett (, Steve O’Donnell (The Hot Aisle), Andrew Romans (The Founders’ Club and Georgetown Venture Partners), Anne McIvor (Cleantech Investor) and Douglas Lloyd (Venture Business Research).

The evening was very interesting and is one that people in this industry should go out of their way to attend. Some good points were raised and discussed; below is a collection of key points that I took away from yesterday’s meeting of minds:

The general consensus on ‘does the city understand clean tech?’ was the VC & earlier stage players are getting to grips with the technology well. The wider City is further behind, but does have a level of understanding and is showing more interest.

Clean Tech is a hot investment space at the moment and one the city wants to be a part of. However, this is not – Clean tech requires much more initial cap-ex (think of the hardware & assets required and their costs, which can run into millions) and takes far longer to exit. There is no ‘develop a software solution, take to market and flip it’ in this industry.

Looking at the different sources of cash – IPOs are dead at the moment, some clean tech firms floated too early and they are now suffering the consequences.

Also looking at the levels of money going into this space, the exact amount of cash differs depending on the source, but the trend is unmissable­­. 2002 saw $200 million invested in this space, and the following consecutive years saw $400 million, $800 million, $1.2 billion, $2 billion, $4 billion, and anywhere between $8 & $16 billion in 2008! This is total investment from N. America, Europe, India and China.

So there is lots of good news in this industry as a whole, but (and there is always a but!) the UK is in danger of being left behind.

If we look back 20 years, Germany and Denmark etc. identified Wind Turbines as a great technology, researched them and began manufacturing. Now, there is little choice – you have to turn to Europe for a macro wind manufacturer.

The same sets of scenarios are developing in the UK and our government needs to alter this and quickly. Look at the US and Obama’s £800 billion rescue package and how much of that cash is going to be spent in clean tech – this is money that HAS to be spent or the government will take it back! Other European governments are also pouring cash into the space. We need the same support or we will miss the boat.

Overall, the event was a very good and I hope to see more of you there next time!

By Steven Rogers
Sector Lead for Carbon and Renewable Energy Engineering

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Councils Challenge the Crown

Should local Councils have been consulted about the Crown Estate offshore zones before the bids go in?

I read this morning on the BBC that four Borough Council’s have issued a statement in which they have called for an open debate on the future of the offshore “West of the Isle of Wight” Crown Estate zone, off the South coast of Dorset.

Image by phault

The four Boroughs have clubbed together to say that they are “collectively disappointed” as they believe they should have already been consulted to be able to express “[their] views and the views of local residents partners and businesses”, about the proposed area of “economic potential for wind farm development”.

I understand that as part of the development phase for any wind farm, or major development for that matter, consultation with the local community (often represented rightly or wrongly by the Council) is absolutely fundamental. However, at this stage this is just a “zone” (literally just an area of the sea bed) which has been identified as potentially suitable for an offshore wind farm, in the aim to generate 25GW of offshore wind energy by 2020. There’s still a long way to go, in terms of environmental assessment, local consultations, grid connection and I hate to think how many other hurdles that I do not even know about!

It seems to me that the local councils are getting ahead of themselves somewhat. If an individual was planning to construct a new building, they would have the right to buy (or lease) the land before they go through the process of getting planning permission. This is the very first step in the process and at present the zones have simply been identified. Utilities and specialist Developers are currently putting together proposals for how they would go about developing the site (i.e. the full process, including liaising with local governments and communities) which will be submitted to the Crown Estate very shortly. But they are only proposals. In fact, The Crown Estate go so far as putting a disclaimer on their website:
The Crown Estate does not warrant or accept liability for either:
a) The suitability of any area identified for the purposes of specific windfarm developments
b) …
In their official presentations and documentation (which is all downloadable from their website), they say that zone allocation will happen after the SEA (Strategic Environmental Assessment). As far as I’m aware even that has not happened yet, so there is always a risk that some of the zones will not prove suitable for the offshore wind farm proposed. This is a hugely risky business, and in order to encourage the development of clean energy projects in the UK, the Crown Estate is helping to shoulder some of that risk (which is, let’s be fair, pretty generous). The Crown Estate will fund up to 50% of Round 3 development costs through co-investment.

An individual I was speaking to today summarised it nicely for me. Why is it that everyone is so excited about and supportive of green energy, until they realise they might actually be affected? If we’re going to hit these objectives, the local government is going to have to support the developments which are being initiated by national and European governments.

Right, I’ll get off my soap box. For now.

By Clare Buxton
Sector Lead for Wind Energy

Monday, 23 February 2009

25 random things about EcoSearch

As you may have noticed, there has been a meme craze sweeping Facebook in the last few months, where users list 25 random things about themselves so their friends can learn more about them.

We liked the idea and thought you might like to learn 25 random things about EcoSearch;
  1. EcoSearch can reach candidates across more than 82 different vertical markets in more than 32 countries.
  2. We’re already planning our expansion in Australia and the USA as a result of some of specialist skills demand we’ve already been able to meet for our clients.
  3. We were the first global Executive Search organisation to exhibit at the annual All-Energy conference in Aberdeen in 2007. See us at stand E15 this year in May.
  4. Our wind energy team, led by Clare Buxton have been instrumental in the deployment of wind energy projects and wind technology development in the UK, France, Germany and Eastern Europe.
  5. The cleantech team believe that the skill shortage in technology for operational development in the USA will stall any presidential investment.
  6. The thermal energy team has been paramount in the creation of many new departments and new companies.
  7. Phillip Clement is currently involved in putting a team together for a 200m euro green golfing complex in the Algarve.
  8. The talent that we have provided to our clients is deployed in high profile projects from the Isle of Wight Eco Island Project and the European Space Agency.
  9. We’ve just been shortlisted for the Recruiter Awards 2009.
  10. We are not tofu eaters or tree huggers – although Debby does lay claim to having a productive wormery!
  11. Many in our team enjoy environmentally friendly water based sports – all of us enjoy frozen water based sports (i.e. Snowboarding, skiing etc)!
  12. We are a high growth SEEDA (South East England Development Agency) Portfolio Company and as such share many synergies with the high growth innovation companies we work with.
  13. Between us we have 41 years experience in recruitment and executive search.
  14. This blog is read by people across 33 countries/territories, as far afield as New Zealand and Singapore.
  15. The EcoSearch team includes keen sailors with plans to sail around the world in the EcoSearch yacht.
  16. We believe that it’s not all about “Recruiting”. EcoSearch is passionate about delivering added value to its clients and candidates, acting as a go-to point for ideas and relationship creation amongst the biggest and best “green” companies.
  17. Between them, the EcoSearch team can converse across four languages.
  18. The EcoSearch offices are located on the old Greenham common in Newbury. Rumoured to be an old haunt of Dale Vince, CEO of Ecotricity (maybe he would like to confirm this, we wouldn’t want to be accused of casting aspersions).
  19. EcoSearch directors Debby Lloyd and Phillip Clement are honorary advisors to The Catlin Arctic Survey.
  20. EcoSearch has a Facebook page. You can become a fan if you like, just follow the link on the right of this web page.
  21. Steven Rogers’ first job was issuing cow passports.
  22. The team’s favourite crisps seem to be Hula Hoops. We sometimes say that we are powered by tea and Hula Hoops.
  23. Between us we will connect to between 150 and 200 renewable energy professionals in any one week.
  24. Katharine Robinson knits. Her projects to date include a ball gown, suit and a cat-suit. If you are interested, there are details online... somewhere.
  25. We are serious, but honestly, when the planet is falling apart around you, a sense of humour is essential.

Feel free to leave a link to 25 things about you...

Friday, 20 February 2009

So what IS REALLY happening across the markets?

Interesting week this week as we wrap up – there appears to be genuine confusion and much scratching of the old grey hairs – and across the widest variety of sectors... could it be caused by some industries bottoming out of “the recession” and lifting quicker than others? Is the pioneering and dogged spirit that got us here pushing us forward inspite of the hurdles and the furrowed banking brow?

Of course, there are still lots of negatives around, lots of conversations of
“hunkering down”, still some major job loss fall outs... and yet... it's almost as if the snowdrops of opportunity are starting to shake off the cold snow and emerge. Albeit cautiously, perhaps a little slowly, but out there are still some signs of greenness (no pun intended). Evidence of planning, priming, gearing ready for action – and evidence that there is money burning a hole in some people’s pockets - but who don’t have their fingers on the right pulse spots to know where to spend it?

Give us a call if you are an investor wanting to jump into this space – we can point you in the direction of people who can put your money to good use!

Image by todd434

Thursday, 19 February 2009

EcoSearch are Nominated for the Recruiter Awards for Excellence 2009

EcoSearch is very proud to have been nominated for the Recruiter Awards this year.
Eighty-seven companies in all earned places on the shortlists for various categories. Winners will be announced at the gala awards evening on 28 April at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel.
You can see the announcement on the Recruiter website, listing all the nominees. If you have anything nice to say about EcoSearch, you could always leave a comment there to let everyone know.

Fingers crossed for the big day!

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Green Information Technology Challenges

It was my pleasure to host a "Thought Leader Group" at the Arctic Survey Control offices last Friday. Under the rules of our get together the names of those present are protected to save the innocent but suffice to say they are all experts in their field and trailblazers in their current operational roles. Senior executives from a range of consulting, corporate and IT technology businesses attended to discuss their current challenges and developments.

The location was completely relevant. As you know The Catlin Arctic Survey team will be delivering data on the melting icecap to the UNFCCC later this year.

Our guests are all involved in the delivery and deployment of green initiatives from a wide variety of areas. I think it gave them pause for thought and perhaps a dawning realisation that we really must unplug the “verbiage” and crack on with the solutions. This is extremely difficult in the current climate when most CEOs have survival rather than green on their minds. However, most of our audience knows that energy efficiency is about cost and survival.

We heard comment that the polar icecap could be gone (or at least seasonal) by 2013 – a bit of a wake-up call for many present – many people have weddings, birthdays, anniversaries and even round the world sailing sabbaticals planned. When you hear these kinds of statements it brings the planet’s situation sharply into focus. What would the consequences be of a complete melt by 2020 say? (20 – 40 years was quoted in the recent BBC’s Nature’s Greatest Events by David Attenborough… Hmm, some in the know would challenge that).

So anyway – the climate change consulting arena is busy “strategising” behind the scenes. Meanwhile at the coal face, and clearly from the individuals we met with, there is huge challenge surrounding the MIS (Management Information Statistics) behind energy consumption. There appears to be a real log-jam on technology products in the market that can flex to the different and evolving energy streams (not just oil, gas and electricity). Although some have some exciting cross functional products emerging.

The CIO/CTO Government Green IT Strategy has been released but needs now to be pushed by CIOs and CTOs. There’s still little progress from the C Level suite to hold IT responsible for its housekeeping. Easily sorted – set department and personal targets to aid areas of the company where most need. It’s obvious to me that the IT guys are incredibly able and clued up to assist. IT in general still looks to be suffering the same problems as last year I'm afraid – and that is they are not engaging with Facilities, Finance, CSR etc. I guess it can be argued that they don’t know where they can help and until someone pulls them out of the server cupboard and gets them around the table with the other green project managers – they actually would enjoy the ride … most of them I think anyway!

Worryingly there appears to be no real progress in-house on the Carbon Reduction Programme roll out either. Cue – mad scramble in Q4 of this year.

I know from my market conversations that some organisations, including local authorities and architects (worryingly), have a very short cited “just give me a couple of simple PV units for the roof and the bare minimum to meet the requirements” attitude – cost is again a barrier – perhaps we need some Obama style stimulus.

Utilities businesses (and this is my personal view) are challenged with meeting their major business customers’ needs for “consumption information”. Can they deliver holistic consultancy beyond Usage & Billing platforms? Will this see a swing from the utility mindset to customer focus solutions partnering?

Debby Lloyd
Managing Director, EcoSearch

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

The Arctic Survey - They're Off!

I was privileged to be present at the send off party for the Catlin Arctic Survey Team. Pen, Anne and Martin leave Heathrow tomorrow for the frozen Arctic Circle. Their coolness in the face of the task ahead of them was something to behold. Pen with his gentle humour is a British explorer to be proud of and an inspirational leader.

Ice-CoringImage Copyright Martin Hartley

Anne is the only woman on the 3 person team trekking across the ice. She is an inspiration to many women and she’s in charge of navigation! So, with much guffawing going on in the room by the chaps, she is of course a woman to be respected. No jokes about female voices on sat-nav from here on in!

Martin will be capturing on film the beauty and awe inspiring scenery few of us will ever experience and sharing that with the rest of the world. Although quite how you hold a camera in -30 degrees, and not chop people’s feet off when there is a polar bear eyeing you up for dinner, is a real skill.

Their optimism and light-heartedness probably hid personal anxiety and trepidation. When you look at the hazards they face, hungry polar bears seem to feature heavily, -30 degree temperatures and plain simple danger, you cannot help but feel a little humble that they all seem to take it in their stride.

Their personal “adventure” is the thrust of the news and interviews. They have a Royal Pennant from HRH Prince Charles – the first to be given I believe since Shackleton’s expedition – A measure of the importance this one has. But when you reflect on the undercurrent of what they expect to find the situation is unnerving - no-one is really talking about the implications – from energy security, mass exploration and exploitation not to mention the environmental impact of total melt, wholesale methane release, and mass change on commercial shipping and trading routes etc.

The survey data they collect will not be fully known until later this year, but in your daily lives, spare a thought for them in the freezing conditions as they trek across the frozen wastes in the interests of finding out how our lives will be impacted longer term.

The team behind the characters that have made this expedition possible are passionate, dedicated and many. The “goodwill” of people involved who weren’t able to physically put cash in but have put time and effort has given the expedition momentum. It says a lot about harnessing the collective strength of people who want to make a difference in this world.

If your organisation wishes to sponsor some of the education packs going to schools, do get in touch.

And as a final thought, the last couple of weeks snowy inconvenience looks trifling compared to what they have to face for the next few months. Increasingly disruptive weather patterns look set to become something we will have to endure.

Our thoughts, wishes and luck go with them for a safe journey and homecoming and you can watch their progress at

Debby Lloyd
Managing Director, EcoSearch

Monday, 9 February 2009

Snow Problem

As various parts of the British Isles face another week of snow and ice, people everywhere are turning the heating up high, keeping lights on all day, and keeping the radio tuned into the local radio news to keep abreast of school closures, traffic news and weather forecasts. Our energy consumption is sky high and the coal fired plants are, no doubt, burning to capacity, oil is being brought in by the gallon load, and the wind turbines… what about wind generation? As a power generation device which is intrinsically and irrevocably connected to the elements, what will the effects of all the snow and ice be on wind energy generation?

As one of my colleagues from the US pointed out, there are wind turbines installed in many places in the world where extreme weather is the norm, so ultimately they are able to cope with extreme weather (unlike the Brits!). Nevertheless, ice can be dangerous for the turbines. The recent “UFO” collision with one of Ecotricity’s Enercon turbines was possibly due to ice or freezing conditions. Ice can be damaging to the turbine. A group of local residents opposing Nuon Renewable’s plans to construct a wind farm in North Yorkshire are claiming the turbines can be dangerous, especially in extreme weather conditions, and are quoting five other occasions when weather conditions have affected the turbines to the detriment of the machines (and occasionally its surroundings). See details on the Say no to Harrington website.

Wind turbines are programmed to cut out when wind speeds reach certain levels, to prevent them spinning uncontrollably and avoiding disasters. The negative of this is that energy generation suffers. I have heard of occasions when blade heaters have been installed on Vertical Axis Wind Turbines to help prevent the ice problems. Other solutions have also been experimented with, including different types of anti-freeze coatings on the turbines.

No need to panic then, solutions are being evolved, and the wind turbines keep spinning. Ultimately we cannot protect the turbines 100% from the elements, because that’s exactly what we need to keep them turning. We just need more to cope with all the extra energy being consumed!

Thanks Tony (via plaxo) and @doubtingthomH for your input.

By Clare Buxton
Wind Energy Sector Lead, EcoSearch

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

University Challenge – St John’s College Cambridge asked to identify Renewable Energy Projects

Last night on University Challenge St John’s College Cambridge, the eventual winners, were given questions on Renewable Energy Generation around the UK. They did not get on too well, only getting one out of three questions correct.

How would you have done in their place?

Name the form of Alternate Energy Generation used at the following sites in the UK
  1. Scroby Sands off the coast of Great Yarmouth
  2. Ffestiniog in North Wales
  3. Lynmouth in North Devon
You can watch the show on BBC iplayer

Answers: 1. Wind, 2. Hydro, 3. Tidal