Ecotricity founder Dale Vince was this week named Ernst & Young London & South Overall Entrepreneur Of The Year 2009. But before setting up the seventh-largest supplier of electricity in the country, he was an "outlaw" with "absolutely no rights in the eyes of the police".
Vince spent ten years travelling around the country and following the Peace Convoy. "Every year, I’d be building something new, either to live in or to drive around in," he says. "The first winter you spend out of a house is an interesting challenge."
When RAF Molesworth was chosen to become a base for the US Air Force's mobile nuclear armed Ground Launched Cruise Missile in 1980, Vince occupied the nuclear base in protest. And he was one of the new-age travellers at the Battle of the Beanfield at Stonehenge in the mid-eighties.
"We were always in trouble with the police because of our lifestyle," he says. "They saw us and we were guilty. They were judge, jury and executioner. It was a real eye-opener. Only now has technology really shone the spotlight on police tactics.
"All those videos that came out of the G20 protest in London – that’s the stuff that we lived and breathed," he continues. "The police should be better than us. And if they can’t be better than us, or if they can’t be at least as good as us, then they shouldn’t be police."
It was when Vince was parked on a hillside outside Stroud, charging his trailer's batteries using a camping turbine, that he dreamt up Ecotricity. Today the company supplies electricity to 40,000 homes and businesses in Britain and has built more than 50 onshore windmills.
Read his full profile in the July/August edition of Real Business. Sign up to get your copy here.