Business Review: Me and My Partner - David Williams and Malcolm Chilton ; David Williams, 40, Met Malcolm Chilton, 48, during a Day at the Races, and the Two Men Discovered They Shared a Passion for Renewable Energy. Now They Run Energy Power Resources, a Pounds 100m Firm Generating Power by Burning Straw and Chicken Litter
Thackray, Interviews Rachelle, The Independent (London, England)
DAVID WILLIAMS: At the South Wales Electricity Company (Swalec) I trained as an engineer but had aspirations to a more commercial role. With privatisation in 1989 came the opportunity to move into power generation. I was charged with growing that business for Swalec. I spent two years looking at power projects, but so many people were trying to get in - the Dash for Gas - that prices went up by 35 per cent, putting the brakes on the sector.
We had to find a niche, and there were two areas we could move into: combined heat and power (CHP) or renewable energy. Renewables such as wind, hydro, energy from waste and landfill were in their infancy. In 1990 the government came up with the non-fossil fuel obligation, or NFFO, the first time a premium price contract was available for renewable energy.
We formed strategic joint ventures to develop wind farms and landfill gas and such, and we formed projects with companies including a shell one called Energy Power Resources (EPR). We could have employed professional advisers but we preferred people to share the risk.
I also went on the board of a charity looking after parrots and I spent time in the Dominican rainforest, raising money for conservation. The clean air struck me, and it made me realise that renewables would bring together good business potential with environmental benefits.
That year, I met Malcolm at the races when we were corporate guests. He was running combined heat and power for Midlands Electricity. I'd never met anybody who knew so much about his field. I was impressed. The common interest in renewable energy was there.
The next time we met was from a distance, in 1993. I did a presentation to the company he was working for, and he asked the most challenging technical questions. Two years later, we started working closely when Swalec and his company, Associated Energy Productions (AEP), Europe's leading waste- to-energy business, were proposing to do a tender together.
Then came the takeover of Swalec by Welsh Water. I was going to play a big role in the combined group but there was a policy change and the decision was made to let go all investment in our business. Everything I had been doing was to go in the bin. I was devastated and took voluntary severance hoping to carry on what I had done.
I joined EPR, a shell company owned by two businessmen whose investments in electricity had been shrewd. I wanted to form a dedicated renewable energy company but it was a step too far. At EPR I became chief executive and, being the first employee, I was all and sundry. My big priority was to get Malcolm and to transfer the AEP venture. I had done more financing, while Malcolm had the technical expertise. It was a good fit.
Then AEP's parent company decided to reorganise in the UK and move AEP into one big waste group, closing Malcolm's office. Malcolm was disenchanted, thought of setting up a consultancy, but our shareholders took on his team, with Malcolm as commercial director.
EPR had been operating out of my bedroom, but when Malcolm's Manchester office was taken over, we found one in Bristol. Resources were stretched so we decided to do a business plan and go for a private placement. Malcolm is a wonderful spokesman, he's very confident and knows his subject. I was responsible for the business plan, and the whole of 1997 was spent raising finance. We found the right investors, Electra, in February 1998.
The pounds 25m deal we made was a combination of working capital and equity loan facility, but Electra said: "We will give you two weeks to finance the first project. If you don't, the deal's off." Our first happened to be a world first, a pounds 22m chicken-litter project in Fife. We completed with Electra on Thursday, and on Monday we were in Fife, but the deal caused complications with our bank.
We camped out to …
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Publication information: Article title: Business Review: Me and My Partner - David Williams and Malcolm Chilton ; David Williams, 40, Met Malcolm Chilton, 48, during a Day at the Races, and the Two Men Discovered They Shared a Passion for Renewable Energy. Now They Run Energy Power Resources, a Pounds 100m Firm Generating Power by Burning Straw and Chicken Litter. Contributors: Thackray, Interviews Rachelle - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: March 22, 2000. Page number: 23. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.