Ecotricity Do A Ratner ~ or ~ How to make political friends and alienate your customers

Dale Vince is someone I very much want to like. He is a former New Age Traveller and a vegan, just the type of person who seems to have a good old story to tell. He is also an industrialist, founding Ecotricity, his renewable energy company. I like renewable energy, it’s nice and fluffy and helps reduce my carbon emissions meaning I can ride my motorcycles more. What’s more he has similar haircut to mine and is worried about the sustainability of life – like me. Yes he is someone I very much want to like.

So why do I find myself thinking that actually, this guy is a bit of a dick? Well I’ll come to that in a moment but first let me give you a bit of background on Dale’s company, Ecotricity. As a company that trades under the Green Energy banner it entices altruistic customers who don’t mind paying a premium for their energy requirements under the stipulation that the company invests in renewable energy with the profits. Sounds nice and fair doesn’t it? Well it hooked me and many others too, 155,398 people at the time of writing. The thought that I’m paying over the odds for my energy is easily reconciled as I am helping to invest in a greener future for us all. So far so good.

So Ecotricity = plucky, progressive, sustainability loving company that likes to challenge the status quo? Well I thought so right up until I learned that Dale donated £250,000 of Ecotricity’s cash to the Labour Party. You could say that this made me a little bit pissed off but that would be an understatement. Livid is closer but add a good dose of bemusement and you’ll be right on the money as to how I’m feeling right now. A Green Energy company donating a quarter of a million pounds to the Labour Party. It doesn’t quite compute and it seems that I’m not the only one who has taken offense to this move.

Within hours of making the announcement Ecotricity’s Facebook page was awash with comments from disgruntled customers just as confused, pissed off and bewildered as me. Of course the Labour faithful had also gotten a hold of the story too so there was the odd po-faced detrimental comment from them about the Green Party and the term “Vote Green Go Blue” was branded about without much thought. Though aside from the vitriol there were objective comments from both sides.

It might be true to say that a Tory/UKIP coalition government would be the worst result to come out of the election. This is the reason Dale Vince has given for his actions but there’s no strong evidence that a Labour/UKIP coalition is off the cards either. Which would really be the lesser of two evils? In the wake of an overwhelming UKIP result and a lackluster Lib Dem and Green turn out would Labour really choose not to seek a coalition with the purple party? Regardless of tactical voting how about the very issue that money that we the customers believed was to be invested in renewable energy was now lacing Miliband’s war chest?

Would I be as pissed off if they had donated the money to the Green Party? Probably not but issue remains, as a customer I did not expect my Green Energy company to be making its bed with a Labour government that refuses to condemn the practice of fracking. I expected this money to be invested in renewable energy. A quarter of a million pounds donation to a party I do not believe in because the owner of my energy company wants to try to block the Tories from forming a consecutive government? No thank you. If Dale Vince wanted to donate money to Labour he should have done so with his own money. For a Green Energy company boss to alienate his customers who may vote any other way than Labour (especially the Greens) is a huge faux pas that must be up there with Gerald Ratner?

Ecotricity Web
Ecotricity give £250,000 to the Labour Party

Thanks for reading, please feel free to lend me your thoughts.


12 thoughts on “Ecotricity Do A Ratner ~ or ~ How to make political friends and alienate your customers

  1. I agree with you Daz. Last week Dale was a cool, hip, green guy. Now he just seems to be a confused old man.
    I could have understood £250K going to the Green Party (not necessarily agreed with it mind – not sure he should use company money to fund politics) and most of his customers would have too. But to Labour who abstained on the fracking bill? He appears to have shot himself in both feet.
    It’ll be interesting to see what happens to that customer counter over the next few days, because it looks like it’s stuck currently.
    Dale, Dale, what have you done…


    1. Thanks for your response Lee. We’ve gone with gone with Good Energy, hopefully they’ll be a little less expensive and not sell out to politics. Time will tell.


  2. We have been with @goodenergy for over 10 yrs now. So chuft I’m not supporting nuke power Eva again.


    1. I’m divided on nuclear energy. If they ever achieve true nuclear fusion then the possibilities are equally fascinating and alarming. The potential for supplying energy to all at a low carbon trade-off cost are amazing (and zero radioactive waste) but the potential for it to be weaponised are terrifying.
      I do find it sad though when people complain about wind turbines being built. What would rather on your doorstep, a giant windmill or a coal-belching power station? Or worse a nuclear fission plant or a shale gas fracking site?
      We’re on the cusp of huge change but whether it turns out to be a Star Trek style enlightened world or an Orwellian dystopia only we the people can decide en mass.


  3. Well said Daz. It’s even worse than that because Vince also handed £20,000 to the local Labour parliamentary candidate in Ecotricity’s headquarters in Stroud. The Green Party were big contenders in that seat, but their vote was hammered down by the “Vote Green get Blue” shouts of local Labour Party, backed by Dale Vince. I’ve been with Good Energy for some time now. They’re great.


    1. It’s a shame that so many people went down the route of voting for Tory or Labour but look at how quickly things can swing if there’s enough public opinion behind change. SNP all but wiped out the other parties in Scotland, I think this shows that there is a political appetite for change but the Greens now need to focus on how to capitalise on that across the UK and convince the electorate that they mean business.


  4. Hey Daz,

    I bumped in to this blog last week and thought I’d offer a quick response – in the hope it might be helpful.

    I’m a fellow biker and also not afraid to speak my mind – we have that in common, too.

    As for differences – our haircuts are actually not the same (unless you’ve recently had an undercut) and I wouldn’t call you a dick just because of your politics – only a dick would do that – oops… 🙂

    Our donation to the Labour party got a lot of publicity and attracted a lot of debate and some criticism, not just yours. Our donations to the Green Party rather less so. And our donation to the Lib Dems almost nothing at all. But we did give to all three. You might have missed that during your intensive research… 🙂

    What we did was to try and fund those parties that could prevent a second term Cameron government – we felt obliged to do whatever we could. Our reasoning is set out fairly succinctly in this letter I wrote to Green Party members. Have a read, it may help.

    Think of it as tactical funding – it may make more sense. We supported the Greens where we thought they could win, and the Lib Dems were they were the main challenger to the Tories.

    As it turned out – our worst fears were realised (you could say they were well founded) and Cameron is back in. The Tories have already moved to end onshore wind as feared, I believe big solar (greenfield) will be next – and there will be little or no real commitment to the kind of climate change targets we need. Let’s not even talk about social justice and leaving Europe.

    And then of course there is fracking.

    One of the big objections raised around our support for Labour is their stance on fracking, which was far from ideal – I say ‘was’ because we may see that change with a new leader. But that stance was at least sceptical and not the gung ho, remove all obstacles approach of the Tories. It was the best stance of the two major parties, who on any sensible analysis were the only ones with a chance to form a government.

    With proper planning and environmental controls, on top of the recent fall in oil prices, which we’ll see sustained for a few years, and without the ‘most generous tax regime in the world’ – I do not think fracking would have happened under a Labour government. But even if it did, better to have controlled fracking and renewable energy rather than uncontrolled fracking and no renewable energy – surely you’d agree with that?

    To slag us off, as some people have, for this one policy issue is a little irrational in my view. Especially given our own very strong position on fracking, which you may well be aware of….

    We are the only energy company in Britain to supply gas with a ‘frack free promise’ and the only ones to supply green gas. No other energy company, big or small, green or conventional, does this. And we’ve been active in supporting the anti-fracking community.

    Of course, there’s no fracked gas in the grid just yet, but what we’ve done is create a commercial structure and audit trail to ensure that if and when it does come, none of it will enter our supply – it’s a way for people who oppose fracking to avoid supporting it by buying it in the grid mix – a means to boycott.

    Not supporting Labour because they were not as anti-fracking as we are would have been perverse, particularly given the only possible alternative outcome was a Tory party mad for it.

    You refer to the sum we gave Labour and how you object to us doing this with our bill money (your bill money).

    I understand and accept that and it was a difficult decision to make. But I think the logic behind the move was sound and the intention consistent with our mission. In any event, the sum involved is enough to buy just a fraction of a large windmill; it won’t make a huge dent in what we are able to spend building new sources of green energy- which I think was your objection.

    By contrast, the Tory government has – as expected – moved to end onshore wind completely, making a rather bigger dent, wouldn’t you say?

    Was it really such a diversion from our mission to seek to avoid this rather drastic outcome with this relatively modest sum?

    Our record of spending on new sources of renewable energy is in any event the best in the country by far – we have spent more per customer than any other energy company in Britain for the last 11 years or so – in many of those years we spent more than all the rest put together.

    I’ll stop there, but would be happy to continue the discussion if you still have reservations. I hope this may be helpful.



    1. Thanks for taking the time to reply. I can sense from your passive/aggressive tone (especially regarding haircuts) that this touched a nerve and for something you believe in that’s not a bad thing. You are obviously passionate about what your company does as would be expected. I don’t wish to take anything away from what you’ve achieved, it is very respectable indeed.

      Let me lay out why I wrote this blog. As someone who has been a ‘lazy’ green supporter and environmentally aware for at least 15 years I’ve been guilty of apathy. The reasons behind this apathy are numerous but one of them was distrust in companies who flew a green flag but were actually supporting environmentally unsound practices. In the past 18 months I have made it my goal to change and have actively sought out ways to reduce my carbon footprint and live a more ethical life. Incredibly late to the party compared to some I know. However there are many more folk out there who know they should be changing but are suspicious of who they invest their trust with.

      I turned to blogging partly because as part of modern capitalist culture we are brought up to have narcissistic leanings but also because it’s the only way that I can give myself a voice. The voting system makes sure that my vote doesn’t count as I have lived in only Tory or Labour strongholds. Writing is therefore the only way that I can make my small voice heard by a few more people.

      As a blogger I wear my heart on my sleeve and I am guilty of knee-jerk reactions. I do try and reign this in but when I want to know the reasons why a company, political party or public figure I have invested in has done something blogging seems to be a better way of getting a response.

      This is what happened with the story I run with The Green Party’s stance on motorcycles. I first wrote to the party and I actually received a response, I felt that this response warranted being made public.

      I did write to Ecotricity about when I heard about the Labour donations but only received a generic response. I understand why you can’t respond to every individual but the answer didn’t satisfy my question so I wrote this post.

      I am not a trained investigative journalist, I’m not even a trained writer (as you can probably tell). Like most bloggers I have a day job and fit writing around the many other hobbies I have. I can only write and respond to the evidence that is freely and clearly available without digging into the subject like a ‘professional’ would.

      I hope that explains the reason for my vitriol in this post. The one thing I really want to achieve with this blog going forward is generation constructive discussion without the Internet trolls clouding up the comments. I have no issue with changing my opinion when presented with further information or evidence. The fact that you’ve found this post and took the time to reply says a lot so thank you. However I still stand by the the thoughts that voting/donating to Labour in order to stop the Tories is shortsighted, though I understand why people do.


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