Meet the Members – Jeremy Leggett

By Jeremy Leggett on 7 August 2019

In the latest instalment of our ‘Meet the Members’ series we speak with Jeremy Leggett of Solarcentury. Jeremy believes that there is no time to reinvent the wheel and that we must collaborate with others across the world to reduce carbon emissions. He provides an example of such a partnership when he talks about the Solarcentury Eritrea project, which aims to power remote communities in East Africa.


I describe myself as a social entrepreneur and writer. I founded and am a board director of Solarcentury, an international solar solutions company (1998 – present), and founded and am chair of SolarAid, a charity funded with 5% of Solarcentury’s annual profits that builds solar lighting markets in Africa (2006 – present). I chaired Carbon Tracker, a climate-and-finance think tank analysing climate risk in the capital markets, from its start in 2010 until 2017.

I have written five solo books, the most recent of which is The Winning of The Carbon War, an account of what I see as the “turnaround years” in the dawn of the global energy transition, 2013 -2015, with an update edition spanning 2016 and 2017. I continue to chronicle that transition, and its intersection with tech, on this website. My other books are The Carbon War (2000), an eye-witness account of the climate negotiations in the 1990s; Half Gone (2005), a holistic critique of the oil industry; The Solar Century (2009), a vision of the solar revolution; and The Energy of Nations (2013).

Why did you join the Rapid Transition Alliance?

Because those of us in positions of influence must continue to support the wider cause. We need people to lead with positive, evidence-based ideas of what is possible for the future. We also need coordinated action if we are to bring together the many, many people around the world working towards zero carbon, but often in small groups on tiny budgets. There is no time to reinvent the wheel – collaboration is the only game in town now if we are to make the necessary shifts in time.

What’s the biggest challenge of rapid transition?

The marriage of those fighting a desperate rearguard action on behalf of the oil and gas industry and the rising phenomenon of the far right. The first group want to hold onto the vast sums of money they have made polluting this planet and the control this has given them over the global economy. The second group see the money and the desperation and see a source of funds for their own heinous belief systems. Let’s hope they don’t get their hands on it.

What is your organisation doing to encourage rapid transition?

As a solar company we see our role as putting real projects on the ground every day that directly reduce carbon emissions. We also have an opportunity to change hearts and minds along the way – and to use the power of social enterprise to bring power to communities in Africa that have been held back for so long by a lack of infrastructure and simple access to electricity. We like to think we are making the industry real, facing up to the oil and gas behemoths and showing them what the future could and should look like.

What is your favourite example of rapid transition?

The Solarcentury Eritrea project, which involves us partnering with the EU and UNDP to power remote communities in East Africa. Solarcentury was selected to design and build two solar powered mini-grids using solar PV and lithium batteries to power the communities of Areza and Maidma in Eritrea, East Africa. The €5.7million contract showcased the use of solar hybrid power systems to provide grid quality power to 40,000 people and businesses remote from the grid and presents a replicable model for rural electrification across Africa.

This kind of work really makes a difference to people’s lives, allowing for education, home working, access to healthcare, and safer communities.

What one thing would best achieve rapid transition?

I believe once people see the inherent weakness of the oil and gas energy model, a switch will flick and customers will move wholesale to renewable energy. It is already happening at the institutional level, at insurers and large investors see the end of the road for fossil fuels and are starting to divest at speed.


Jeremy Leggett

Jeremy is a social entrepreneur and writer. He is the founder and board director of Solarcentury- an international solar solutions company.