The chronicle covers the energy-, climate-, and (to a lesser extent) financial crises, and issues pertinent to society’s response to this nexus. It consists of selections from one person’s reading experience of the unfolding dramas that most preoccupy him, among the all-too numerous dramas inherent in the human condition.
I began compiling in 2006. Until May 2011, I did this in Word files, hoping the word-search tool would make the file useful ammunition for people wanting to follow events, and/or to refresh their memories on the history. From May 2011, I began typing the log direct on the website. The full log of Word files can be found in the Archive tab.
From May 2013 until December 2015 the chronicle spans events in the period covered by The Winning of The Carbon War. It provides more detail than the book is able to, given space constraints. A reader has very kindly pulled all the entries from the period covered by the book in a single pdf file here. (She didn’t want to be acknowledged personally but knows of my gratitude).
From January 2016 to the present events are summarised in monthly update blogs, and other subject-specific blogs. Let me explain why am I worried about the issues this website covers. I researched earth history for 14 years (see bio below), and so know a bit about what makes up the climate system. I researched oil source rocks for several of those years, funded by BP and Shell among others, and I explored for oil and gas in the Middle East and Asia, so I have a background in the issues relevant to the depletion of affordable oil. And more recently I have been a clean-energy entrepreneur and investor for more than decade, as founder of a solar energy company and founding director of a Swiss venture capital fund, so I have seen how the capital markets operate close to. That experience is the basis for my concerns.
Oil exploration, Baluchistan, 1984
Many of the critics who comment on my blogs urge readers to discount everything I say because I am trying to sell solar energy, and so therefore must be in it for the money, hyping concerns about climate change and oil overdependency in the cause of self enrichment. They have it completely the wrong way round. I left a lucrative career consulting for the oil industry, and teaching its technicians, because I was concerned about global warming and wanted to act on that concern. I joined Greenpeace (1989), on a fraction of my former income, to campaign for clean energy. I left Greenpeace (1997) to set up a non-profit organisation campaigning for clean energy. I turned it into a for-profit company (1999) because I came to the view that was the best possible way I could campaign for clean energy – by creating a commercial success that could show the way. The company I set up gives 5% of its operating profit to a charity that also campaigns for clean energy, SolarAid. All that said, I hope Solarcentury makes a lot of money. It won’t have succeeded in its mission if it doesn’t. I’m hoping fewer people will still want to discount my arguments, knowing the history.
Penance: the La Coruna oilspill, northern Spain, December 1992
Dr Jeremy Leggett is a social entrepreneur and writer. He founded and is a director of Solarcentury, an international solar solutions company (1997 – present), and founded and is chair of SolarAid, a charity funded with 5% of Solarcentury’s annual profits that builds solar lighting markets in Africa (2006 – present). He also chairs Carbon Tracker, a climate-and-finance think tank analysing climate risk in the capital markets. He is winner of the first Hillary Laureate for International Leadership in Climate Change (2009), a Gothenburg Prize (2015), the first non-Dutch winner of a Royal Dutch Honorary Sustainability Award (2016), and has been described in the Observer as “Britain’s most respected green energy boss”. He is a historian, futurist, and author of four books on the climate-and-energy nexus, the most recent of which is The Winning of The Carbon War, an account of what he sees as the “turnaround years” in the dawn of the global energy transition, 2013 -2015. He continues to chronicle that transition, and its intersection with the information revolution, in a blog (www.jeremyleggett.net), a column in Recharge magazine, and in articles for media including the Guardian and the Financial Times. He lectures on short courses in business and society at the Universities of Cambridge (UK) and St Gallen (Switzerland). His vision is of a renaissance in civilisation aided or even triggered by renewable energy and its intrinsic social benefits.
His other books are The Carbon War (2000), an eye-witness account of the climate negotiations in the 1990s; Half Gone (2005), an account of the interaction between oil depletion and climate change; The Solar Century (2009), a vision of the solar revolution; and The Energy of Nations: Risk Blindness and the Road to Renaissance (2013).
In a first career, Leggett went straight from a D.Phil in earth science at Oxford to the faculty at the Royal School of Mines, Imperial College (1978 – 1989), researching earth history as preserved in strata including shale deposits, funded among others by BP and Shell. In this phase, he won the President’s Prize of the Geological Society and was appointed a Reader at the age of 33. He also set up the Verification Technology Information Centre (VERTIC), and served part-time as its first executive director for four years (1985-1989) during the tail end of the Cold War, during which time he also served on the board of Pugwash UK.
Becoming concerned about global warming, he resigned from Imperial College to become a climate campaigner with Greenpeace International (1989 – 1996). In this phase, he won the US Climate Institute’s Award for Advancing Understanding.
In his third phase, Leggett led Solarcentury as CEO from 1997 until 2006, and was Chairman from 2006 to 2015. The company has won multiple awards for innovation and sustainability, including the Sunday Times / Microsoft TechTrack 100 R&D Award (2006), the FT / Treasury Inner City 100 Greenest Company Award (2007), and a Queen’s Award for Enterprise in Innovation (2011). His awards include Entrepreneur of the Year at the New Energy Awards, UK Climate Week’s Most Inspirational Person Award, Outstanding Individual Award at the international Solar Industry Awards (2013), Champion of the Year in promoting the green economy at the Business Green Leaders Awards (2014), and Outstanding Individual Award at the Solar Power Portal Awards (2015).
Leggett was a CNN Principal Voice (2007) and served on UK government advisory bodies including the Renewables Advisory Board (2002 – 2006). He convened the UK Industry Taskforce on Peak Oil and Energy Security, a pan-industry group warning of a systemic oil-depletion risk to economies (2007-2013), which evolved into the Transatlantic Energy Security Dialogue (2013-2014), co-convened with Lt Col. Daniel Davis (US Army). He served on the New Energy Architecture Global Agenda Council of the World Economic Forum (2012 – 2014), a group which among other things works on “black swans” in energy markets. He was a non–executive director of New Energies Invest AG, a private equity fund investing in renewable energy (2000-14).