Jeremy Leggett

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Jeremy Leggett
Born 1954
Education Doctor of Philosophy in Earth sciences, Oxford University
Occupation Social entrepreneur, author

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 financial-sector think-tank warning of carbon-fuel asset-stranding risk to the capital markets, colloquially known as the carbon bubble (2011–present). 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."[1] 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, on his blog, 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.


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. researching earth history as preserved in strata including shale deposits, funded by BP, Royal Dutch Shell and other energy companies (1978-1989). 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 and is now a board director.[2] 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 set up the charity SolarAid in 2006, which helps African communities access solar power with 5% of the proceeds of Solarcentury’s annual profit.[3] SolarAid owns a retail brand SunnyMoney that is Africa’s top-seller of solar lighting, having sold well over a million solar lights, all profits recycled to the cause of eradicating the kerosene lantern from Africa. He also serves as a Chairman of the Carbon Tracker Initiative,[4] a think tank which was set up to align the capital markets with international climate policymaking.

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,[5] a pan-industry group warning of a systemic oil-depletion risk to economies (2007-2013), which evolved into the Transatlantic Energy Security Dialogue (2013–present), co-convened with Lt Col. Daniel Davis (US Army). Jeremy also served on the New Energy Architecture Global Agenda Council[6] of the World Economic Forum (2012 – 2014), a group primarily working on “black swans” in energy markets. Between 2000 and 2014 he was non-executive director of New Energies Invest AG, a private equity fund investing in renewable energy (2000–14), and is a consultant on systemic risk to major corporations.


Leggett is author of four books: 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). He is a contributor to the Guardian and the Financial Times. He lectures on business and society at the universities of Cambridge and St. Gallen, and is an Associate Fellow at Oxford University.


Described by the Observer as “Britain’s most respected green energy boss, Leggett has been an Entrepreneur of the Year at the New Energy Awards,[7] and a CNN Principal Voice.[8] His awards include the President’s Prize[9] and the Lyell Fund[10] of the Geological Society, the US Climate Institute’s Award for Advancing Understanding,[11] UK Climate Week’s Most Inspirational Person Award,[12] Outstanding Individual Award at the 2013 international Solar Industry Awards,[13] and at the 2014 Business Green Leaders Awards, Champion of the Year in promoting the green economy.[14] He was the first person to be appointed a Hillary Institute Hillary Laureate for International Leadership on Climate Change (2009).[15] At the 2009 Rosenblatt New Energy Awards Leggett won in the Entrepreneur of the Year category.[16]

Leggett received an Honorary Doctorate from Heriot-Watt University in 2010.[17]

Climate change[edit]

Leggett has called for a rapid strategic withdrawal from fossil fuels and argues that coal should be left in the ground.[18] Leggett has been critical of the lack of reporting by the British mainstream media on the economic imperatives of climate change abatement.[19] Leggett is known for his support of microgeneration technology in the fight to abate global warming. Recently, Leggett has spoken in depth about the great dangers of allowing carbon assets to be viewed at zero risk of impairment if promised action on climate change does take place.[19]

In his 2009 book, The Solar Century, Leggett is critical of nuclear power, saying that it cannot come online quickly enough to mitigate climate change; that the nuclear industry still hasn't found a way to deal with its radioactive wastes; and that investing in nuclear power would mean less money for other initiatives involving energy conservation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy. Leggett also states that carbon capture and storage has a "substantial timing problem" as it will take fifteen to twenty years to introduce the technology.[20]


Prior to the 2015 general election, he was one of several celebrities who endorsed the parliamentary candidacy of the Green Party's Caroline Lucas.[21]

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