Five years ago I ran a series of workshops in partnership with Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute. It was all part of the ideation process we were running in our green business incubator, Meltwater Ventures (MV). (In time, MV issued forth 2degrees, of course.)
On this occasion, the workshops were focused on identifying radical new business models that could change the energy landscape and create a new type of energy company that would make more money by selling less energy. Two of the participants came from a company that at the time I didn’t know of: MITIE plc, the largest engineering company no one has ever heard of, as they jokingly put it, with a circa £2bn turnover and more than 50,000 employees.
Roll forward two years and as we are launching 2degrees, so MITIE are launching a new division, MITIE Asset Management, with one of the workshop attendees, Mike Tivey, as Managing Director.
Somehow I managed to pursue them to become our first ever sponsor and their support meant we were able to launch three working groups on day one of 2degrees: Commercial Real Estate, Retail and ICT. They were the perfect partners because those working groups were focused on energy management in their respective markets and MITIE Asset Management had developed a new kind of energy management services company (ESCO) which did three important things:
- It enabled a company wanting to generate on-site renewable and low carbon energy to avoid having to make a capital investment at all. MITIE made the investment;
- It then simply sold the company the clean energy it needed on a predictable, long-term fixed price contract; and
- Importantly, it combined energy generation with energy efficiency services and built both into the contract in such a way that they became incentivised to help the client company use as little energy as possible because any energy the client company didn’t use, MITIE were free to sell on elsewhere e.g. into local communities or other nearby businesses.
Roll forward once more to today and I am delighted to report that MITIE are once again sponsoring 2degrees – this time, our event on 25th January, Raising the Energy Performance of your Properties.
It had seemed to me that in the intervening years, MITIE Asset Management had gone quiet. I was worried that a leading example of the kind of new, decentralised energy company that we needed was struggling.
I was of course wrong, they were just being professional engineers, building competence, track record and making sure that they could roll-out at scale when they were ready to tell the world about what they were doing.
MITIE Asset Management has now built up an impressive set of local clean energy generating assets around the UK, including amongst others: the Waitrose supermarkets on the Isle of Wight and Bracknell; the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead; the Royal Marsden Hospital in Sutton; The London Borough of Camden Council; and a biomass plant in Plymouth. Click here for case studies to see GHG and financials savings generated by these assets.
Of course, MITIE aren’t the only ESCO in the market, Total (Gas and Power), British Gas Business and EDF, to name just three have their own ESCOs.
However, MITIE are worth a special mention in my opinion precisely because they are not a traditional energy company. Change rarely happens at the established centre of an industry but at the periphery. It is nearly always new entrants which drive change which incumbents then respond to. So we all need more innovative companies like MITIE to do well. Even the utilities need them.