Jeremy Leggett, 2009 Hillary Laureate

Jeremy Leggett, 2009 Hillary Laureate

Jeremy Leggett, 2009 Hillary Laureate

Social entrepreneur and writer Dr. Jeremy Leggett was the inaugural Hillary Laureate. 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 in a 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 University of Cambridge. His vision is of a renaissance in civilisation aided or even triggered by renewable energy.

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 VERTIC (the Verification Technology Information Centre), 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 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).