Running notes from the Picnic07 conference in Amsterdam.
The winner of the 2007 Picnic Green Challenge is Qurrent, the Dutch-based company developing and enabling Local Energy Networks. The jury choice has just been announced by Sir Richard Branson, the jury's chairman. In the picture, Igor Kluin -- Qurrent's founder -- with the 500'000 euros check, surrounded by (from the left) Bas Verhart (Picnic), Marieke van Schaik (Postcode Lottery), Richard Branson (Virgin Group) and Liesbeth van Tongeren (Greenpeace):
The five finalists presented their projects yesterday evening during an event that I hosted (read Susan's post for details on each of them, on the competition process and on the jury), at the Westergasfabriek in Amsterdam.
Today, before opening the envelope and revealing the name of the winner, Branson told the 600-people audience about his own green epiphany. "Five years ago, I read Bjorn Lomborg's "Skeptical Environmentalist", and for the founder of an airline it was somehow comforting, saying that climate change is a natural phenomenon. So for a couple of years I ignored climate change. Then I had a discussion with Al Gore, following which I met with many scientists and experts, some of which like James Lovelock think that we are already gone beyond the point of no return. Others are more optimistic, saying that as long as we move quickly we can save mankind."
That's what led Branson, last year at the Clinton Global Initiative meeting in New York, to commit all the profits from Virgin's "dirty" businesses (airlines and trains) for the next 10 years would to investment in clean energy. "Over the last 12 months we have worked on the fuels of the future, and we will test a promising one next year in one of our 747, but we have also lobbied other airlines". Among the things Virgin suggested, is the idea that all airplanes be towed from the gate to the runway rather than turn on their engines at the gate and then remain, engines running, for minutes (or hours) waiting for a take-off slot. He said that if this was applied to all airplanes, "8 ou 9 % of the carbon produced by airlines could be avoided". If that's true, one wonders why this is not already implemented.
The event closed with a session of questions and answers between Branson and the journalists and audience, which I moderated, where Branson shared his experiences as an entrepreneur.
Congratulations to Igor Kluin and Qurrent, and to the four other finalists!