Juliet Davenport OBE, an innovator in energy, author and founder of Good Energy. We are talking about renewables, starting businesses and creating change in propositions as well as in thinking.
“So where would you focus your acceleration and therefore I think it’s the same with the technologies that we’re talking about and the behavioral change is that you can’t impact everybody because there’s no way you’ve got a universal message that will impact everybody in society. However, there are parts of society that probably have more capability and more understanding of what the outcome could be. And so you need to focus on those areas because you’ll get a bigger response for the investment you make out of those areas. And one of the challenges for energy has always been that we’ve got this conflict between fuel poverty and climate change. And my sense has always been you’ve gotta separate the two. You’ve gotta focus on climate change and then you’ve gotta focus on poverty. Not just fuel poverty. Poverty. Full stop.“Juliet Davenport
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Check out Juliet Davenport’s new book: The Green Start-up
“I can remember some of our business customers. So we had a bakery that was based in… near Norwich, I think it was, who was an organic bakery that was looking to produce organic bread with renewable electricity. That was part of what they wanted to deliver. So they were one of our first business customers. (..) But we had a lot of support from those original customers and they were amazing.”Juliet Davenport
This transcript was created manually.
Klaus Reichert: Juliet, thank you very much for taking the time for our conversation today.
Juliet Davenport: Thank you. Thank you Klaus. It’s really interesting to talk to you and have a conversation. I can’t wait. I like the fact that you are coaching innovators and I hope that some of the things I did are good and some of the other things I do today reflects well on how people innovate and how we evolve as a society to innovate better.
Klaus Reichert: Very cool. That’s exactly what I’m aiming for. We want to help others to sort of learn from these experiences that people make along their way and you have made a long way since starting in… well, not actually starting, but since starting in 1999 with Good Energy. We want to talk about that. We want to talk about your new book, where you’re giving back to entrepreneurs, and let them participate in what you have learned and your experiences. But back in 1999, you started Good Energy, which was called differently, as a hundred percent renewable energy company.
Juliet Davenport: Yes.
Klaus Reichert: At the time when electricity came straight from the plug and mostly from fossil fuels. That “straight from the plug” is a German expression. How does it feel to be the dwarf with a mission on a field of established giants?
Juliet Davenport: Well, that’s a really interesting question. I think what it always feels like is that you are facing the opposite direction. So where everybody is walking that way and you are trying to walk that way. So every step you are having to try and move past somebody, or persuade somebody, or explain to somebody what you’re doing. And every step you have people who dismiss you, to begin with, who dismiss the concept, who disagree with you. But at the same time what you have to find… and I think that was my real epiphany. Because before that I was working at government level, I was working on policy-led approaches on climate change and renewables. And it kept feeling like every document I put at my heart and soul into producing for the government, it would just be put on a shelf and it would go dusty. And actually, they only cared about what colour the cover was. They weren’t really interested in what was in between the covers. One of the things about setting up your own company or setting up your own idea was that we found a bunch of people and of customers who wanted to walk in the same direction as us. And I think part of the journey that was brilliant and really inspiring despite the fact that everybody else seemed to be going the opposite way, was that there were people who wanted to walk with us.
Klaus Reichert: So you were not alone.
Juliet Davenport: Yes.
Klaus Reichert: Good Energy is a company that provides renewable energy to customers. I can book energy with you, I can buy the energy for my house and car from this company and it is a very normal thing to have today. But in 1999 that was very different. I remember that there wasn’t a lot of suppliers, for example. So you had to sort of fight on different levels all the time. You had to get the good energy and you had to find people that wanted the good energy at the same time also, or was that like a gradual process and you were growing step by step along the way?
Juliet Davenport: So there was in part a graduate process, but there was a big step initially that was quite hard because you’re right, there weren’t very many companies and the existing supply companies who were operating the market were actually government organisations. So the government had privatized the energy sector and they’d taken one big company called… well I can’t remember what it was called now, the Centralised Electricity Board or something like that. And they’d split it into 12 regional companies. So that was the market makeup. And then they allowed new companies to come in as well. And that was us. But getting into the market was really hard because the regulation didn’t really think of competitors or didn’t really think of innovators or startups particularly. Their mindset was large corporates. And so they found it very difficult to deal with people like us because we were completely different and we didn’t have a history and we were new. And so that was the first tough piece, was actually getting a licence to trade. And then I think the second tough piece was, you are right, finding those first generators who trusted us enough to sell us their power because actually we were new. Why should you… if you were a wind farm or a small hydro power station, why should you sell me your electricity? You had to be confident that I was going to pay you for it and I was gonna do something with it. And I think that was quite hard work. We found some great, great initial generators who really believed in what we were doing, so that really helped. And then we went out and found customers and that wasn’t easy, but it was probably easier than finding generators, to be honest.
Klaus Reichert: Was it also a matter of price? Was it, like, more expensive in the beginning or less expensive than the regular electricity?
Juliet Davenport: It was more expensive, but price… I would say it was the practicality that was most difficult to begin with. Price became more of an issue later on in the organisation when we were really trying to scale. But right at the beginning, when you have those early innovators, they’re very keen, so they’re less… tend to be less price sensitive.
Klaus Reichert: I understand you want to have something specific that solves your need. You’re basically paying everything if it solves the problem that you have, I understand. So you had different areas at work with: the regulation part, government part. You were kind of used to it, in a way, because that was part of your background. And I can very well relate to that thing that producing for the drawers and the shelves is just not very refreshing. It’s just not a good thing in the long run. And then some customers that were with you, do you remember, you don’t have to say it, but do you remember the name or the area of your first customer?
Juliet Davenport: Oh, that’s a very good question. I can remember some of our business customers. So we had a bakery that was based in… near Norwich, I think it was, who was an organic bakery that was looking to produce organic bread with renewable electricity. That was part of what they wanted to deliver. So they were one of our first business customers. I think we also worked with the Eden Project, John Bur in Cornwall, which is an amazing project that is a visitor centre, essentially, with these big domes built in an old mine. And they were one of the biggest… our first bigger customers. So yeah, I do remember. I remember a lot of our customers, yes. Maybe not so much the individual domestic customers because you always had to be careful about quoting them. But we had a lot of support from those original customers and they were amazing.
Klaus Reichert: Is energy your physicist, right, or your trained physicist? So for you, energy has a different meaning than for any other normal person, let’s put it that way. Sorry! [laughs] But energy, for you, electricity especially, does it have, like, a special ring for you? A tone, a colour or smell or something specific? Since you can’t feel it unless it’s too high and you get zapped.
Juliet Davenport: Yeah, I mean, I’ve always thought electricity as being quite magical in some ways. So I mean, we all, we all have this wonderful vision, sort of… magical Literature and films have become very popular. So Harry Potter, all the Harry Potters, all the wizards and wizardry that we love to watch. And for me, electricity is very magical because it allows us to do things that you would never be able to do without it. So if you think about all the energy saving and the… how do you boil water? You potentially use an electric kettle. How do you cook food? How do you power this laptop? How do you…? In some ways, I’ve always seen it as this extraordinary being and if… do I smell it? No, not so much, but more see it, I mean, it’s very… It’s… well, it’s light, isn’t it? It’s almost electrical light. I see it as a kind of bluish white sort of light that allows us to be amazing, that allows us to do things we would never consider otherwise.
Klaus Reichert: We are basically superheroes compared to people 200 years ago that didn’t have electricity.
Juliet Davenport: Exactly!
Klaus Reichert: I always find that fascinating too. I was working in the mid nineties in the energy department of the German Eco-INSTITUT. It’s a sort of a consulting institute and as a civil…whatever. It was a special purpose thing I did there. And that was one of these first steps into being aware of the theme energy and of electricity. Because it is something… it doesn’t have this colour. Only it gets that, if you sort of come with that idea, that there are alternative ways to produce that in a world where you burn fuel, for example, just to create electricity. That’s just rubbish if you think about it. Okay, so it smells afterwards, after burning fossil fuels.
Juliet Davenport: [laughs] I think in a way, for me, it’s evolved. So there’s that fundamental, what does it look like? But then start to think about renewable electricity, then you start to kind of evolve a little bit more in terms of its colours and its sense. And for me the ultimate empowering with renewables is solar. Solar is this extraordinary technology that you can use at any scale, whether it’s a household solar plant, or a sort of massive 350 megawatt major power station. Solar can do this extraordinary thing that can stretch in terms of its scale and condense this amazing natural resource that we have as a planet. And for me that is the ultimate in renewable energy, and I find that very inspiring.
Klaus Reichert: Same here. I can do it even on smaller days. I have a pocket calculator. It’s been part of my life for 40 years. It still works perfectly. I don’t use batteries at all. It’s just perfect. And right now there’s all these new things that… where you can have windows that produce power through solar, and it’s just amazing what things, what technical innovations are happening here in this field. I’m very much with you. I think solar power gives us sort of the idea of eternity. At least spatially. I always think of, like, sailboats and solar boats and there you simply can go and you never need to refuel at all. I’m very much with you. At the time when you started Good Energy, did you feel also a bit like a rebel?
Juliet Davenport: Did I feel like a rebel? I’m not sure whether I felt like a rebel. I felt anti-establishment, definitely. So I wasn’t prepared to go and work in a large corporate and be part of a system that didn’t want a change. I recognized that I wanted to try and change something from outside because even if you went and worked for those large corporates and you had a concept that you wanted to change something, you can only move as fast as the slowest person in one of those organizations. And so what I had… I think more than anything else I had, I felt like I had a huge freedom to create. And one of the freedoms as a business is if you can generate an income you have the luxury then to be able to create new propositions or products or new thinking that you wouldn’t necessarily be able to do in any other organization.
Klaus Reichert: When was the time when you felt like you had sort of transformed from, or morphed from, founder to entrepreneur to somebody who sort of knows what they’re doing in the groove and are not in panic mode all the time.
Juliet Davenport: Yeah, I think probably within… so when we first set up, we were part of the European Group. The European Group ran into financial problems, so we separated ourselves out and did a management buyout. And it wasn’t really until I then separated off again from part of the management team and restarted the business from scratch and then crowdfunded it in about 2002, that was probably the first time that I felt that I’d gone through founding, gone through entrepreneurial, and we got to a place where actually we can now build rather than worrying about cash all the time.
Klaus Reichert: I think that is a very important transformation in the life of a founder when you start something that… you don’t get cocky, in a way, but you get confident. Yeah. And that helps tremendously, I think, when you start to scale or when you need to scale such an operation.
Juliet Davenport: Yeah. Definitely. When I look back at the different times, there are different external impacts that caused you to be focused on that rather than focused on the core business. And my experience was there were quite a few and we became more and more resilient against them, but they still took up quite a lot of management time and that was always a problem with the energy sector. It was never stationary or simple. It was constantly changing.
Klaus Reichert: That’s a state I really like myself a lot but I know it can be very tiring especially if you don’t have the resources to catch up with the change. But, this work has broadened your horizon tremendously, I think. You have sort of worked with the energy sector for more than 25 years, let’s put it that way. You transformed these experiences in a government sector into a company which has evolved over time. And now you are sort of out of the trenches and you start to give something back, let’s put it that way. You wrote a book, which we need to talk about in a moment, you do a podcast (yeah!), and you have probably a variety of other things to do. Do you also invest now in green startups, in startups?
Juliet Davenport: Yeah, I’ve done a little bit of investing in green startups and I’m sort of trying to sort of figure out… I’d like to invest more, and that’s partially just a transition I’m going through at the moment. But yeah, I’d love to invest more because I think, sort of… one’s spotting some of what’s really needed and the management team is so important, sort of what the founders are like and have they got self-awareness? Are they self-aware enough to realize where they are running out of capability and they need to bring somebody else in? Has the concept actually got lagged? And more and more of what I find with small businesses, with great ideas, is they forget to do the business plan. And, and I don’t mean a cash flow plan. I mean a fundamental “What is the long-term value of this proposition and how is it gonna deliver?” Not just the high level concepts of it, but actually where, why, what changes, what do we need to believe to take this from where it’s today to a big company?
Klaus Reichert: Yep. I see what you mean. What I also see a lot is that there is a lack of vision. What do I mean by that? Lots of startups lack that ability to sort of describe what they do, how they transform lives. They might show how to transform it, but not what the transformed state is that they are bringing to people.
Juliet Davenport: Yeah. And I also sometimes think that once a business goes on a journey with either a technology or a concept or an innovation, is that they may find that they end up somewhere completely different from where they originally thought they were gonna be and that the innovation is in something parallel to what they’re doing, not the same piece. And that’s what I find fascinating because that… And that comes from interaction with marketplaces or end users who are kind of giving you the feedback to say, actually we don’t quite want that, but we’d like that bit of what you do. And I think that is a really important part of an innovation process, that you can’t… how many times do you start off with a business plan or a business idea that once you start working on it stays the same? It just doesn’t. It needs to evolve. It’s like a living being that evolves and then you figure out actually what is it that we’re bringing in that’s really different. But I think that’s quite difficult to do completely academically before you engage with the market.
Klaus Reichert: So it’s not something that you write once and put it in a drawer and forget about it. It’s something you come back and review all the time and sort of work on it.
Juliet Davenport: Yeah. Completely.
Klaus Reichert: Okay. So would you do also… I mean, you have learned a lot beyond the book, beyond the podcast. Would you also do, like, mentoring of first startups?
Juliet Davenport: So I do do a bit. I’m working with three or four kind of technology startups at the moment, and I do mentoring. It depends on the team, actually. Sometimes I find myself mentoring some of the board members, some other times I find myself mentoring the CEOs. It kind of really depends on what transition and capability they’ve got within the organization. Because what you tend to find is that what they’ve been doing to a point is fine, but they need to take the next step, there probably needs to be some shifting in terms of the behaviour of those interfaces. So yeah, I do a bit of mentoring for CEOs, I do a bit of mentoring for boards themselves. And then I can do, depending on which organization, I’ll do some mentoring further down in organizations as well, which I quite enjoy. That’s quite fun, sort of when you are taking somebody on a journey.
Klaus Reichert: And it’s always… you have all the experience, right, because you have done all these things, you have built a company from scratch, but it’s still… there are still a lot of challenges in that process, I think, because one of them is, you know how things could turn out or did turn out, you have to transform that into a way to tell that the other person so that he or she understands what you’re talking about and gets the grip of that experience. And also in the end, this person has to do their own judgment and their own decisions. And that’s not up to you as a mentor. I find that very fascinating as a situation myself all the time.
Juliet Davenport: Yeah, and I think that is the ultimate piece, is that you are not taking responsibility for decision making and therefore you need to facilitate them to make the decision, not tell them what you think.
Klaus Reichert: For these things you are now providing with your new book, A Green Startup a toolkit that helps to start a company that helps with entrepreneurship, that helps also with a broader sense of entrepreneurship. So it’s, it’s very practical, I guess, on one side and, and in a way it broadens your horizon, in a way, to look at things that you might not have looked at, which are beyond the pure business idea.
Juliet Davenport: No, completely. And I think sometimes people forget that when they set up a company or when they run a company that does something very specific, they don’t realize that actually their influence in the marketplace is not just their customer or their product. It’s also how they run their finance team or how they run their expenses, or how they do their HR, or how they do their marketing. All of these things have a knock-on impact because it’s like we are actors within the marketplace and everything we do can have a knock-on impact. And that’s what the book’s really around. And although it’s called The Green Startup, a lot of it, the practical knowledge in it, you can use at any stage in a business, it kind of prompts people to think. It tries to give some answers, but it also… I don’t think it’s definitive in answers. It allows people to give a framework for thinking about certain aspects of their business.
Klaus Reichert: Yeah. And I think a startup, at least in Germany… It’s interesting, the word entrepreneur, the English word entrepreneur, is being used in German also, and it describes a person that is starting a company, right? But the German word for entrepreneur, which is Unternehmer, is always used for somebody that is running a company.
Juliet Davenport: Yeah. Okay.
Klaus Reichert: With, say, some traction, that already has some traction, so that there is a differentiation, but in English, there isn’t. And I think that’s kind of the interesting part of what you’re saying right now. It’s not just for people that started, the book is also for somebody who is sort of trying to get to another level with an existing company, and I think it helps you work on the company, let’s put it that way.
Juliet Davenport: Yeah. Yeah. It’s like… it’s a reminder because what I’ve found over the years is that lots of people think about, say, the environmental product that they produce, whether it’s packaged in plastic, something that’s very obvious, something you can see, but they don’t think about the pension that they pay their employees and where’s that invested. That’s kind of like the unseen stuff behind closed doors that get stuck in the finance department. And I think that what the book tries to do is say, “don’t forget all of these because these have huge impacts as well.”
Klaus Reichert: Your whole sourcing, your whole way, how to treat people, the way you communicate. You are sort of causing lots of things once you do something as an entrepreneur. And, and it’s important too, to acknowledge that you can’t tackle everything at the same time, right? So you have to do things one after another. But you have to start with that, let’s put it that way, with the green idea so it’s encapsulated in the DNA of the company.
Juliet Davenport: Yeah. And, and it’s been really… I did an article recently for Food Matters Live, which is an online magazine talking about foods, and they asked me to look at the impact of the energy crisis on food cost. And so I got to speak to lots of small and medium sized businesses, and slightly larger businesses, as well, that produce or deliver food in the UK. And one of the things that they said was that… They’re all B core organizations, so they’ve gone through looking at every aspect of the impact of their business. And what they said is that that stood them in very good stead for the energy crisis, because they’d already looked at their energy usage, they’d already looked at their environmental impact. And so it helped them think about that in advance of what happened in terms of the external part. So I actually think a lot of the areas that we focus on in the book are almost like really good risk enlightenment. It’s that anybody who has a risk matrix, and a larger organization should be covering everything we’ve got in here because it is a risk longer times to the business.
Klaus Reichert: And especially the large insurance companies know that. They have to pay for a lot of damages and sort of they are transporting all these messages back into companies again. That seems like a hard thing or a hard item to communicate because we might be talking about something that might happen in five years, in 10 years, in 50 years. So why would I -and I’m very much with you, so I’m playing a bit of the devil’s advocate- why would I think about, for example, specific green things in parentheses if the results are not visible, maybe in 50 years only? What is driving me to do something like that?
Juliet Davenport: So one of the things I think is really driving people now is actually the brand of the company, and that is external as well as internal. So most customers now expect organizations to think about the environmental impacts. And the risk that anybody runs is that then there’s an investigation on the company- that they employ slave labour or they have a massive impact on the rainforest. So you start to think about how does it impact your direct consumer facing brand? I think the next part is how does it impact your employee brand as well, or employer brand? So, in my experience, particularly in the uk, and I don’t know whether that’s the same for Western Europe and, well, for Europe overall, is that actually attracting great people is quite hard these days. And if you don’t have an offering that has environment at the heart of it, you are gonna struggle as time goes on. Because employees want to know that their company is not undermining their future. So they want to know that the company is doing something good and that they are considering the environmental impact, how they’re recycling. And so, making sure that that is visible within the organization in terms of how you run your office, for example, that you can feel it and touch it immediately as an employee, but also when you start to look at… “I have a pension, and where did that pension get invested by…? What happens to that? Does it get invested in coal plants or does it get invested in renewable sites?” And I think that that is important and companies who are missing that potentially are gonna run into a long-term issue in terms of employee engagement and customer engagement.
Klaus Reichert: Thank you very much. That was such a… non-esoteric way to talk about these things. I sometimes think I do discussions around things that we only have to believe in and you believe differently than somebody else and so on. But that’s something very sensible, the way you put it right now. Thank you. That’s very helpful.
Juliet Davenport: Good. Yes. I mean… and I think what you’ve…quite often when you work through a lot of these issues, they come back to the fundamentals of running a company and how you operate. And times are changing people, people don’t wanna buy from companies that are awful, that have dreadful track records, either from a human rights point of view or from an environmental point of view. And they also don’t wanna go and work for them and be there.
Klaus Reichert: You had this fascination for electricity, for energy. You sort of moved on a bit and you are looking at a broader level now with, say, climate change, sustainability, the things we just talked about, let’s put it “green things”, in parentheses. So that’s another level, I guess, and there’s lots of more space to explore that level and work in that field also. But what would be for you, like a next transition level? What’s sort of the next level for you that you might aim for beyond that? Or the next field you are looking into?
Juliet Davenport: Yeah, I mean… I think if I look at… climate change will always be a driver for me. It’s always going to be a fundamental… If I’m not impacting on climate change in what I’m doing, one way or another, then I’m gonna struggle to prioritize it. However, I think understanding… I’m still discovering this, to be honest, Klaus. So I haven’t completely worked this out, but I think it’s a combination of understanding what makes companies successful. Combination of sort of people leadership, innovation, traction, et cetera. And figuring out where the gaps are and how do you fund organizations through that and what… Because we all talk about the valley of death, we all talk about the innovation gap and et cetera, but I think I want to spend more time thinking about how do we accelerate innovation where it’s needed and make sure that we see that coming true in marketplaces. Because innovation is not just about a company not being able to find enough money. It’s about getting the right people, it’s about making sure that actually we’ve got research and innovation going on at university level, pure research level that can feed that machine as well. So investment is going in there. It also impacts on what we’ve already got in place so the infrastructure, whether it’s the financial infrastructure or the physical infrastructure impacts on our capability to move at pace on innovation. And then obviously the customers and how do we make sure customers know that they’re getting what they think they’re buying. So the whole greenwashing concept. And I guess for me, sort of, to be able to move at pace within all of that, you kind of need all of those things. And I’m still figuring out how do I… what are we really missing to get things moving faster? Because at the moment, innovation’s moving, but I think we need to move faster if we’re gonna hit all our climate change targets, and then how do we get consumers engaged that really, really make a difference? So I guess it’s something around there that I’m thinking around.
Klaus Reichert: So this, what I’m hearing right now is sort of a mixture of… or maybe the Venn diagram of, let’s put it that way, companies, products, requirements for green, but also something very social that is based… because we are talking about people, about change in people and change in behaviour.
Juliet Davenport: Yep. And I think that change in behaviour piece is absolutely key to what we need to do next.
Klaus Reichert: I was happy to see that, and kind of frustrated at the same time, when I saw that nowadays more than 90% of all Germans are using the internet several times a week. It doesn’t matter which device and so on, but that’s happening right now. So basically everybody is using the internet, let’s put it that way. But they said in that study that it took about 25 years. We have the internet start, the worldwide web started in around 1994, 1995, 1997 to be broadly used and or being broadly usable. And so that’s 25 years for such a very useful thing where I see the result right away. And it took a generation. And what we are talking about is something that I, as a person, might not even feel the impact at all, but still have to do some sort of massive behavioural change. And this is sort of a frustrating thing if you compare that to those other statistics I just talked about. It will take generations, but it must not.
Juliet Davenport: Yes. And I think it’s a really important point you make, is that what will it take? So for example, let’s say, let’s take a look at the data on internet interaction. I’m sure there’s a curve, isn’t there, where you get… and at what point on that curve is it enough to have engaged? And which parts of that curve can you accelerate? Because you won’t be able to accelerate at all. So where would you focus your acceleration and therefore I think it’s the same with the technologies that we’re talking about and the behavioral change is that you can’t impact everybody because there’s no way you’ve got a universal message that will impact everybody in society. However, there are parts of society that probably have more capability and more understanding of what the outcome could be. And so you need to focus on those areas because you’ll get a bigger response for the investment you make out of those areas. And one of the challenges for energy has always been that we’ve got this conflict between fuel poverty and climate change. And my sense has always been you’ve gotta separate the two. You’ve gotta focus on climate change and then you’ve gotta focus on poverty. Not just fuel poverty. Poverty. Full stop. And you treat them with different policy instruments, but we’ve always conflated the two and put them in conflict. And therefore that has caused us, I think, has slowed us down so much because if you were focusing on behavioral change in the non-fuel poor, the fuel rich, let’s call them, you would use different strategies than you would in the fuel poor. And part of that is to incentivize investments and potentially you get much more response out of that sector if you get it right. And you get a bigger impact on climate change. That doesn’t mean you don’t fix the fuel pool, but you do it in a different way. And that’s been my concern, is that when we’ve looked at it from a policy level, we get these competing areas and we get bad policy making.And if you want to promote behavioral change, you have to understand the people you are trying to change, and then you have to put the structure in place around them that makes them feel like… so there’s a whole part of middle, England, and I’m sure Germany is the same, where tax incentives are very effective because people who think they can save on tax do a lot of things to save on tax and therefore that would work very well, sort of for middle Germany, middle England, to improve their usage of energy one way or another. And then you focus on the fuel poor, and then you focus on everything else. So you’ve got kind of like three sectors that you think about how you’re gonna address, and you don’t try and address them all in the same way.
Klaus Reichert: So are you saying it’s not a one-size-fits-all strategy that leads to results, but it’s sort of focused precision measures that might contradict, sort of, with each other a bit, but that needs to be solved at the time when it’s occurring.
Juliet Davenport: Completely. I mean, if you think about it, if you were selling t-shirts and you worked out that your audience was 25 to 40 for that particular t-shirt, whatever it is, would you try and sell it to the over eighties as well? [Klaus laughs] Well, the answer is no, you wouldn’t. Because they all want something else. They probably want a jumper, not a t-shirt. So you’re trying to… you’re selling the wrong product at the wrong place. And so if we think about it in that context, rather than trying to address everybody in the same way. People are not the same. That is absolutely what we know, and therefore, trying to talk to them in the same language doesn’t work.
Klaus Reichert: I think that’s a very interesting perspective because from what I’m used to, at least in Germany, is that we want to always have the “one-size-fits-all” solution for everybody. And then we are getting into compromises -politics are compromises, that’s normal- but compromises that compromise the whole result or the whole vision and sort of dwarfs the vision substantially.
Juliet Davenport: Yeah, and also one of the things I think the Ukrainian crisis has brought into sharp relief is that, let’s say, you focused it on people who could afford to make changes and reduce their energy usage because they’re using a lot of energy already. By reducing demand in the UK, and I don’t know what the figures were like in Germany, but over Covid energy demand dropped by 10, 11%. Overall prices crashed by 50%. So actually, if you get that part of the market to reduce their energy usage, you can have a positive impact on the fuel pool because you’ll bring prices down. Because what we saw, the wholesale markets, and I’m pretty sure it was the same in Germany, all the wholesale markets crashed at the beginning of Covid. At the beginning of the pandemic, when everybody went home, wholesale markets dropped. Now it didn’t come through in energy process to consumers because everybody had bought all their energy already. But that’s what happened physically in the market.
Klaus Reichert: What I found very refreshing right now is that you talk about measures in politics, using some yardstick from economics, from companies, from a different sector. And I think that helps a lot to sort of stay focused if you say “okay, we wanna focus that on a target group. We want to tackle things differently and so we don’t have that one solution for everything.” I think that’s a very cool approach. I like that a lot, in terms of going back to that group that we need to target because we can’t target everybody at the same time. The podcast is called “The 2.5” after that Diffusion of Innovation Theory, which discriminates between the 2.5 innovators and the early adopters and the early majority and late majority, and the laggards. Let’s put it easily in the energy sector, in the electricity sector, which people do we need to address here the most? Are we already in the majority part, or is it still addressing the early adopters?
Juliet Davenport: I think you need to be beyond the early adopters, because the early adopters will give you something, but they’ll give you small amounts and they also won’t be sustained on a longer process. So, for example, let’s say you take the potential that domestic households can change their behaviour and impact on the overall energy grid in terms of stability. And what you find is that your early adopters are people who are very happy to have a spreadsheet and almost become an energy trader in their house. So they get really into it, they’re very into the data, they love the data all over it. But you are never gonna be able to scale that. And it will have an impact, but it’ll be very small. But for me, the area you wanna focus on is the next stage, where you get this kind of uplift beyond early adopters where it’s becoming mainstream, it’s still relatively early, but it’s becoming mainstream and you can get much bigger numbers involved. And that is where it gets really exciting because you can have much bigger shifts and behavioral changes on systems.
Klaus Reichert: Especially in that energy market or with energy innovations, we see that the raw technology is here. We talked about solar. I mean, solar panels are just normal. They are affordable, they don’t smell, they are quiet and so on. You can put them on your roof and they produce energy. So the raw technology is available, it works, we can trust it and stuff like that. What is the challenge here for people to sort of better interact with that technology so that they can use it the best or maybe control it in their best interest or put it to best use?
Juliet Davenport: I think this is, this is the evolution we are now going through, it’s this translating the technology to be used by the masses in a much more effective way. So I have a heat pump, the interface, the human interface with the heat pump. I have to go back to school every time I try and read it. It is not intuitive. I need to refer to the instructions every time because I’m not using it all the time, but it doesn’t help me reprogram it. It’s the same with any timer as well. Any, anything where you have to put a time zone on something. The interface is still really clunky. If you get enthusiastic enough, then you’ll do it. But if you don’t, if it becomes hard, then you stop and you are not using the technology properly. And I think that is going to be… I mean, the iPhone is something that a three-year-old can pick up and intuitively use. Which is, which has benefits and disadvantages, obviously -we don’t want our children using every technology. But we should be thinking about how we design the consumer interface with these types of technologies, whether it’s solar panels, electric vehicle charging points, E.V. heating. All of those areas need to be able to interconnect and just work seamlessly for us in the way we want them to work.
Klaus Reichert: Especially if you have, for example, solar panels, a battery, a car, a heat pump, and all these things that need to work together in the best way for my use.
Juliet Davenport: Or… for the use of the system. So there’s two ways they should be operating. One to give me what I want primarily, and then two, can they also support the system to make sure we keep the cost down nationally as well.
Klaus Reichert: True, the idea of sort of combining all these small trickling inputs of my power, individual power, into the big net, also, and combine that into something new is also something that needs interfaces.
Juliet Davenport: Completely. And that’s, for me, the really exciting next stage. We got to see that innovation shift now.
Klaus Reichert: We will be providing all the links to your book, podcast, Good Energy and all these things in the show notes. Thank you very much, Juliet, for taking the time for this conversation. It was really helpful for me. I learned a lot and good luck with these getting into next levels and exploring next levels.
Juliet Davenport: Thank you, Klaus. I really enjoyed it and I really enjoyed hearing a very different perspective. Thank you.
“And I think sometimes people forget that when they set up a company or when they run a company that does something very specific, they don’t realize that actually their influence in the marketplace is not just their customer or their product. It’s also how they run their finance team or how they run their expenses, or how they do their HR, or how they do their marketing. All of these things have a knock-on impact because it’s like we are actors within the marketplace and everything we do can have a knock-on impact.”Juliet Davenport