David Green: Powering an Eco Island's economy with a smart grid

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

David Green, Founder Eco-Island Partnership

David Green

David was late – but made up for it with a torrent of information about the Eco Island project on the Isle of Wight, which with couple a smart grid with micro-power generation. Below is what could best be described as the very edited highlights of what he said:

Eco Island is unique. It turns us into a totally sustainable region in seven years. And t makes us something the Prime Minister is keen on – the green economy. He has a feeling that it might add up, and for us it has. 15 major investment funds are looking at “floating their boat”, because the economic case is so compelling.

It started with an idea. You can spend all your life having bright ideas. If you can’t turn them into reality, if you can’t anchor them, nothing will happen.

He presented the idea to the Isle of Wight council in 2007, and launched it with a picnic for 700 people. Meetings, advisory groups… They met in a pub every two months for three years. They ended up with 300 people in that pub. They took it to the corporate world, and gained 70 partners – IBM, Cable & Wireless and the like. Once they were in, everyone else follows. They haven’t just come in with money – they’ve come in with massive amounts of help.

There are five people employed at the hub of the network, with up to 7,000 people involved at the periphery.

He’s made (one of…) his houses into one of the most sustainable houses in the country. Those principles will extend into the Eco Centre – and then into a mini Eden Centre that might translate into a tourism piece – there’s a real eco tourism movement that might open to them. A fundamental part of the process is figuring out what will feed the local economy best – and they think tourism is the answer.

But there’s lots of meetings, consultations and presentations. Sustainability is his passion and the Isle of Wight is his home, so he will go anywhere to make it work. A whole raft of technology solutions are coming the way of local small businesses, many of them for free, which will halve their energy costs.

What they’re doing is creating a virtual power plant – they don’t exist in Europe yet, and are just emerging in the US. It’s a mix of sustainable energy generation methods, with a smart grid layer over the top. The virtual power plant can generate, store and retrade energy when the main grid gets into crisis – and that can raise loads of money. It has the potential to make a direct competitive challenge to a fossil fuel-based market and be at the heart of a green economy.

The system is being under-valued by 80% because the advisors don’t think that the market is ready to accept it. The PM asked for a prospectus, because he thinks this vision of a green economy might be a challenge for Mr Osbourne.

He then rattled through the structure far too fast to liveblog – it’s a fascinating structure, so check out the website for more details.

Another initiative: Greenback cards – rewarding green business with discounts. Getting huge support on the islands. The average family can save £400.

The first phase will create around 400 jobs. Put the green investment back in the economy and it will take off in different ways.

The Community interest part will net around £20m a year – that’s not toy town money.

business modelsecologyenergyisle of wightsustainabilitytourism

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.