A conversation with solar energy pioneer Jeremy Leggett about the nature recovery industry, the things we can learn from the solar industry, the fossil fuel companies and much more. After Solarcentury, Jeremy is now working on Highlands Rewilding.
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Jeremy shares why he is so excited about the nature recovery industry. In his previous career in the solar industry, he went on from being laughed out of the room by fossil fuel companies and governments to building the cheapest form of energy without subsidies in many places and solar became highly investable and bankable.
THE NATURE RECOVERY INDUSTRY IS IN ITS INFANCY BUT MATURING QUICKLY
There’s an opportunity to solve the twin problem of climate change and biodiversity collapse, and to achieve that there’s a need to bring private capital to the embryonic nature recovery industry. In the early days of solar energy the key was the big financial players smelling the coffee to the extent that they started investing. This hasn’t happened yet in the agriculture sector, but it’s about trying and repeating that trick.
“I mean, the Green Finance Institute estimated last year that we would need 10s of billions of pounds in the UK alone to hit the nature recovery targets that governments have set and of course now codified in the treaty that was agreed in Montreal in December, thank God. But, that’s an Everest, in Scotland the figure is 20 billion pounds. So that’s an Everest to climb. We’re not even in the foothills. And so, I figure that a company like Highlands Rewilding has the chance to lead an expeditionary force into the foothills and encourage people that ultimately this can happen, that these vast sums of money can be raised. They were raised for the solar industry. Let’s repeat the trick.” – Jeremy Leggett
“The natural capital will kick in, and then the whole thing will snowball. The other thing everyone will be aware of is that once you start with a financial institution crossing the line, it’s easier to get the next one and the one after that. So very important, we’re days and weeks ahead.” – Jeremy Leggett
THE LEVEL OF TALENT INVOLVED IS ENORMOUS
Jeremy and his team hold a workshop in their facility with the National Park Authority and a few other confederates, other organizations they are working with, and that want to see coherent policy as they do.
“That was a good workshop, it was all day and a couple of government officials were invited along. And then the next day, I had an email from Nature Scott, the government agency, ‘we heard about your workshop, can we come to bundle aid and have a good old tour and discuss all these things with you and your team? And I said, of course, you can, welcome, how many are coming? And when do you want to come? The answer, is 30, next week? Wow! […] And so they all turn up and, my goodness, what a fascinating day it was. And it becomes completely clear that there are a lot of government officials and people of talented integrity, who are working very hard behind closed doors on a coherent policy regime, backed by a government with ministers saying all the right things at the moment. So, reasons to be cheerful number one, is very different from the history of renewables.” – Jeremy Leggett
IT WILL BE INVESTABLE BY LARGE INSTITUTIONAL INVESTORS SOONISH
You have to come up with a plan and make a persuasive case. At Highlands Rewilding they are very close to that. Big financial institutions are pondering actively eight-figure investments on a continuing basis. That would provide the kind of capital that would turbocharge an entity like theirs, the purpose of which is nature recovery and community prosperity, by taking rewilding to scale.
“We have to be aware that most of these folk are not amenable to the argument that the biggest risk they face is continuing climate meltdown and biodiversity collapse, which will leave them with nothing worth investing in, ever again. That argument doesn’t play with these folks. It should, but it doesn’t.” – Jeremy Leggett
“So, I can smell that development around the corner. I don’t think we’re quite there yet. We’re still going to need, if you’d like, the angel investing community, the types of folk who got Highlands Rewilding going to do another round, probably lead in another round, to get to the point where the big institutions will say yes, but I really believe they’re not far off” – Jeremy Leggett
GOVERNMENTS ARE PLAYING A POSITIVE ROLE
According to Jeremy, the difference today, unlike in the early days of solar energy, is that the governments are doing the right things, they’re talking the right language on policy, and they’ve come up collectively with an encouraging global biodiversity treaty in Montreal.
“But this time, the governments are talking a really good game. And you can see that reflected already in the market. Nobody, I really mean nobody, doubts that this is coming now, the estate agents, the landowners, all the people you might think would be resistant to it, are pretty much saying, ‘hey, you know, this is inevitable, just let’s get on the train before it leaves the station’. And then there’s one other big, big difference, I think, and that is, we now know in the rearview mirror, just how evil, the fossil fuel companies were in their defensive vested interests. They would say all sorts of positive things publicly, but we know what they were doing behind closed doors. Now, it’s all coming out. And this is a very modern form of corporate evil. We don’t have that incumbency defense today.” – Jeremy Leggett
“I think what’s different now, apart from the nature of incumbency, arguing for those kinds of evil things, is that people are really scared by what’s happening to the natural world, both the climate impacts that are emerging and, of course, the evidence in front of our eyes of the collapsing biodiversity. So there’s too much of a critical mass of people saying, hey, if we don’t do meaning meaningful on all this, nothing is going to matter at some point in the future.” – Jeremy Leggett
OTHER POINTS DISCUSSED:
Koen and Jeremy also talked about:
- Why hasn’t nature recovery happened earlier
- How long will it take for the business case to come to market?
- The sense in the market in terms of long-term investment
- Jeremy Leggett website
- Natural Capital Report – 2021
- Highlands Rewilding crowdfunding campaign
Don’t invest unless you’re prepared to lose all the money you invest. This is a high-risk investment, and you are unlikely to be protected if something goes wrong. Take two minutes to learn more.
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The above references an opinion and is for information and educational purposes only. It is not intended to be investment advice. Seek a duly licensed professional for investment advice.