“Gypsy” entrepreneur takes on electricity firms

Dale Vince is a maverick. He founded wind-energy firm Ecotricity in 1995 after a decade living a self-sufficient life on the road. “I had no home, no job, I was living out of various vehicles,” recalls Vince. And now this gypsy turned eco-entrepreneur is pulling in sales of £28m.

Ecotricity supplies 30,000 homes, 1,000 small businesses and a dozen or so big corps such as EMI and the Cooperative Bank. The company is a one-stop shop for wind energy. “We’re totally self-reliant,” says Vince. “That’s how we match the prices of the big electricity companies. We don’t go out of house for anything.”

Green for the price of brown is Vince’s big idea. “If green energy’s going to be big enough to make a difference, it has to come without a premium.” But it’s proving a gradual change. Out of the 24 million homes in the UK, only 200,000 currently have green electricity.

The eco-warrior has already launched a David vs Goliath campaign against the six big energy companies. While they run their multi-million pound advertising campaigns full of windmills and laughing children, Vince publishes stats on whichgreen.com, exposing their lack of commitment to green power.

“In some years, we spend up to ten times more on green energy than all the other electricity companies put together,” says Vince. “For every pound a customer spends with us, we invest another pound building a windmill. That’s £430 per customer. The big guys spend a tenner.”

And Vince isn’t stopping with electricity He’s also turned his attention to the mini turbine. “We’re calling it the ‘urbine'”, which should bring in substantial revenue stream. “All the other ones are rubbish,” says Vince.

Ecotricity is also working on a state-of-the-art electric car. “We’re going to smash the stereotype,” says Vince. “Electric cars typically look like something Noddy would drive,” says Vince. “They do 30 miles at about 30mph, then the battery goes flat. We’re building a car that will do 0-60mph in six seconds. It will reach top speeds of more than 100mph and will run for 150 miles on a single charge.” Watch out G-Wiz, there’s a new kid in town.

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