Stephen Probyn

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(Alfred) Stephen Probyn (1951–2008) was one of North America's foremost[citation needed] authorities on green energy and the independent power industry. Probyn was best known[citation needed] as a financier, entrepreneur, regulatory expert, and advisor to governments on energy and environmental policy.

Stephen Probyn in 1997

As founder and Chairman of The Probyn Group of companies, Stephen Probyn pioneered long-term financing and investment essential to the "greening" of large-scale electrical power development in North America, the Caribbean and Europe; launched the first public companies to specialize in renewable energy in Canada and the U.K.; and advanced public opinion and government policy favourable to a new era of sustainable energy technologies. In less than 20 years, he was responsible for the funding of some $3.5 billion in environmentally sound energy infrastructure — predominantly, windpower, biomass (wood waste), biogas (landfill gas) and hydroelectricity. He was also an early proponent of carbon markets, believing the trade in Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) and other types of carbon offsets to be the most efficient means of distributing the "pain or gain" of environmental compliance. By 2003, as soon as the regulations for this new market were being put in place, one of the renewable energy companies under his leadership became one of the largest sellers of RECs in the United States.

During his early career on the staff of Britain's Leader of the Opposition Margaret Thatcher and, then, of senior federal and provincial ministers in Canada, he was immersed in the carbon-based politico-economic issues of the 1970s and early 1980s. These issues ranged from the decline of England's coal industry and the global shock of the OPEC oil crisis, to Canada's National Energy Program, which he helped to dismantle.

In 1986, he left politics for the energy industry itself. He wanted to be part of the transformations in the carbon economy and power markets that he saw as essential for an electricity-dependent world to have both a sustainable environment and economic growth in the new millennium.

Stephen Probyn's strategic aim was a "green" industrial revolution, stimulated by consumer demand in a free market system to achieve global expansion and 21st Century growth. Among The Probyn Group "firsts" in power and the environment are:

  • North America's largest wood waste-fueled electrical power generating facility (Williams Lake, British Columbia, Canada – 1991).
  • Canada's first power plant certified under the federal Environmental ChoiceM Program (Whitecourt, Alberta – 1996).
  • Canada's first "demand-driven" Green Power Sales program (Calgary, Alberta – 1998)
  • World’s largest acquisition and financing in the history of wind power (Storm Lake I and II, Idaho, U.S.A. – 1999)
  • World's first 100% renewable energy income fund, and first to be certified under Canada's Environmental ChoiceM Program (Clean Power Income Fund – 2001).
  • Canada's largest wind power financings (Cowley Ridge, Alberta – 1995, Le Nordais, Québec – 1998 and Erie Shores, Ontario – 2005).
  • First renewable energy company on the London Stock Exchange's Alternative Investment Market (Renewable Energy Generation Ltd. – 2005).
  • Central and Eastern Europe's largest windpower facility (Tymièn, Poland – 2006).

Throughout his business career, Stephen Probyn remained an indefatigable public policy activist in speeches, interviews, television documentaries, newspaper columns and published articles. In addition to his numerous executive and corporate board appointments, he volunteered in public service and not-for-profit organizations in such positions as:

  • Founding director of and President (1993–95) of the Association of Power Producers of Ontario (APPrO), formerly IPPSO, the Independent Power Producers Society of Ontario.
  • Founding director of the Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships (CCPPP).
  • Founding director and Chairman of the Canadian Association of Income Funds (CAIF).
  • Chairman of Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC), appointed jointly by Canada’s Ministers of Natural Resources and the Environment.
  • Founding member of the Stakeholders' Alliance for Electricity Competition and Customer Choice.
  • Member of the Electricity Market Design Committee, appointed by the Government of Ontario.
  • Advisor to the North American Electric Reliability Council.
  • Advisor to the Canada’s National Climate Change Process.
  • Advisor to the G8 Renewable Energy Task Force.
  • President and a director of the Couchiching Institute on Public Affairs.
  • Conservative candidate (Toronto Centre-Rosedale) in Canada's 1997 federal election.

Writing in the late 1990s, in an unfinished book he called Green Capitalism, Stephen Probyn summed up fundamental beliefs that made him a true originator in the power sector and inspired his public service to the end of his life:

Real politics, politics that matter, are always about ideas … Every era has its own big ideas. … The theme of this book is that the environment is the next big idea … If you want to change the world, you must first change the way it thinks.

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