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Subject: Matt Thomas, Head of Renewables, npower

How can you afford to sell Juice at the same price as "normal" electricity?

We were quite clever. The competition charge a premium, because green energy is about twice as expensive to generate. However, we've joined up with Greenpeace who were very keen to be involved in a renewable energy product.

The kudos we get from being with Greenpeace is huge. It's certainly helped to enhance our brand. We created the Juice brand specifically for this product and with very little marketing, it's become very well known.

Because we have Greenpeace's logo on our brand, it cuts down the cost of marketing to the customer. And we have very high customer retention as well.

In theory all of your customers could switch over, could you handle that?

You won't see Juice being advertised on the TV - the economics just won't allow that. Awareness is going to be built more through word of mouth. 15,000 customers is paltry with the 6.5 million customers we have - but it's 25% of the market.

Any electricity buyer really should make the switch. But people don't do that because of inertia. Electricity is a dull subject whichever way you look at it. However, the ramifications of how we use electricity are certainly not dull.

How does it feel to work with organisations like Greenpeace, who work with business behind the scenes, but criticise it in public?

We're fairly relaxed about it. We have a good dialogue with them. We don't agree on everything and we think that's good. It's a positive thing.

Why is npower involved in renewables?

As a large company, we have responsibilities to be a good corporate citizen. But you can't get away from the fact that the burning of our products - electricity and gas - create greenhouses gases and pollution. But we are not responsible for the demand - that's down to the consumer.

So our strategy is to try and enlarge our renewable business, while improving the security of the supply of renewables.

What are the prospects for the renewables market?

I think you're going to see a mix of technologies used. Over the last twenty years, there's been a lot of infighting in the renewables industry. You've had wind people fighting wave people, and solar people battling those making energy from waste.

I think all these technologies have a place in the future of renewable energy. You're certainly going to see more onshore wind farms - but nowhere near as fast a rate as offshore wind power. There are significant areas of the North Sea and the Irish Sea where large scale wind farms can be constructed and those will be exploited over the next twenty years. The large hydro schemes - you won't see many more of those, but you will see small scale schemes. You're going to see a huge increase in micro-embedded generation - solar panels and small wind turbines on farms. People are also going to continue to produce rubbish, so you're going to get landfill gas as well.

Hypothetically, wind power could produce three times as much power as the UK needs. At the moment, we don’t have any way of storing this power, but we're working on giant fuel cells to store power for use when the wind farm isn't working.

If you look 20 years out, I think 20% of the UK's power could come from wind farms, a smaller, but still significant, amount from solar, with other sources adding a little more.

20 August 2002





Who?Matt Thomas
What?Head of Renewables

“Electricity is a dull subject whichever way you look at it.

However, the ramifications of how we use electricity are certainly not dull.“

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