Interview with Matthew Clayton, MD, Thrive Renewables

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Matthew has worked in the Thrive Renewables team (formerly Triodos Renewables) since 2006 and undertakes the overall full-time management of Thrive Renewables Plc. In this time, Matthew has contributed to 15-fold growth in the Company. Prior to joining Triodos Bank, Matthew was part of a small team that established Camco International, one of the world’s leading carbon trading companies, focusing on supporting sustainable energy projects via the Kyoto framework.

Matthew Clayton, MD, Thrive Renewables

We had a great e-chat with Matthew, who along with the whole thrive team, was very helpful and efficient. It was an interesting set of answers and quite enlightening. I expect you will enjoy it as much as we did!

What was the original idea for creating Thrive Renewables?

Thrive Renewables was founded almost 25 years ago, so we were pioneers in this space. We were initially set up by Triodos Bank to encourage investment directly into renewable energy projects. Since then, we have gone from strength to strength, investing in 23 renewable energy projects in total, right across the UK.

Could you briefly explain your business model and its benefits?

The idea is to connect people with renewable energy. We are explicitly structured to enable ordinary people to be able to invest directly in renewable energy projects: our investors range from £5 to over £5 million. Institutional investors and businesses also invest. Thanks to our 6,000+ investors, we now have £117M assets under management. The majority are wind farms, but we also have investments in hydro, battery storage, and renewable heat.

Where has the funding for Thrive Renewables come from – have there been any issues on the way?

Thrive Renewables is funded by people, businesses, foundations, and institutions who are keen to invest directly in renewable energy projects. We fundraise via equity and bond issues on a regular basis. These fundraisers have consistently been popular with investors and are typically fully subscribed.

What stage is Thrive’s development currently at? What are the next steps?

We are about to celebrate our 25th birthday, which is a real milestone for us as an organization. Last year’s annual results were the best we’ve ever achieved, so we are in a good place. We sold two wind farms this year, which in addition to providing a substantial dividend, released £11 million to invest in new clean energy projects, so we are busy working on deploying that capital. Going forward, we are focusing on delivering new onshore renewable energy capacity without government subsidies.

Going forward we are focusing on delivering new onshore renewable energy capacity without government subsidies.

Matthew Clayton, MD, Thrive renewables

How do you determine which companies to invest in? After the investment, do you have any operational responsibilities?

We own and operate many of the projects we invest in. Last year, our portfolio produced enough renewable electricity to power all the homes in a city the size of Norwich. We are always looking for new projects to invest in – we have a flexible approach depending on need. We plug funding gaps to get new projects built, so we acquire, joint venture, and provide mezzanine debt funding. In order to meet our criteria, projects must use proven renewable energy technology needing funding between £0.5 million and £20 million.

Are Blockchain energy companies interesting to invest in? Do you see a future there?

We keep a close eye on innovations within our sector. There are some very interesting things going on right now using technology, particularly around demand-side management and peer to peer trading. Once these projects start to reach scale, have a clear business plan, and can demonstrate a positive environmental impact, then we may consider them.

What do you think about the UK energy market overall? Are you planning to expand beyond UK?

The UK energy market is going through immense change. It was very positive to hear the government’s commitment to reaching net-zero by 2050 recently. We are looking forward to seeing policy details supporting that. In the meantime, we are focussed on working with developers and businesses building new renewable energy capacity in the UK. Focusing on the UK is a vital part of our investor’s connection with renewable energy.

How do you see the UK and Global energy market changing in the foreseeable future?

There is a tremendous amount of change going on globally right now. It is fascinating to see public opinion around climate change shifting, led by our young people. In the long term, we expect this to lead to more renewable energy, better technology, and a cleaner, greener future for us all. The relationship between demand and supply is changing to be more equitable (rather than supply being a slave to demand); this is a key component of a cleaner, smarter system.

Once again, we thank Matthew and his team for this interview – we look forward to seeing you back for the next interview in our featured section.

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