Green action man; John leads way to a low carbon world.
IT'S hard not to feel a little intimidated in the presence of John Barton, not because he is by any means a daunting figure, rather that his CV is so impressive.
Sitting down for coffee it becomes apparent after only five minutes how respected he has become in the low-carbon economy world.
Although modestly describing himself as a salesman for most of his life, it is clear that he has been much more, having helped French energy efficiency outfit Elyo increase its turnover from pounds 2.5m to pounds 45m in four years and heading a team to buy BP's energy reduction operations.
What strikes you right away is his can-do attitude, which has helped him to rise through the process industry at a stellar pace.
Last year saw him become director of Renew - based at Wilton's Centre for Process Innovation.
Formerly Renew Tees Valley, the organisation now has spearhead green schemes right across the North-east.
Like John himself, Renew's approach is characterised by action as it provides a vital link in a chain that takes renewable energy and recycling technologies from development to the marketplace.
As well as securing funding for prospective projects through development agency One North East, the project provides extensive market research for budding enterprises looking to enter the region's low-carbon economy, even going as far as helping to line up a chain of suppliers and customers on their behalf.
John has always been interested in science and technology, having grown up in the shadow of the Wilton industrial site, which in turn inspired him to take a degree in chemical engineering at Salford University between 1969 and 1973.
His first job was for British Steel at Redcar and then the chemical engineer went on to become process technologies engineer at the UK base of American agriculture biotech group Monsanto in Seal Sands, where he stayed 11 years.
"Issues surrounding climate change just weren't on the agenda at that point, so energy reduction was all about preserving the bottom line." In 1985 he was offered the role of sales engineer at new contract energy management firm Emstar..
John, who worked around the country from a site in Darlington, said: "To get ahead of their competitors during a boom time, many businesses were becoming more and more conscious of the amount of energy they were using.
"This meant a number of businesses were set up that could send external people into companies and teach them how to reduce their energy costs. Although it meant travelling around a lot, it was liberating and very exciting to be out of the factory environment." Emstar was funded by Shell, but the business was merged with Associated Heat Services (AHS) in 1992, when John found himself in charge of pounds 80m to pounds 90m of contracts.
AHS was set up by the National Coal Board in 1966 as one of the founding companies of the UK's outsourcing energy management market and provided management of boiler houses at factories up and down the country.
"The effect of the merger was huge and saw us turned into a massive entity overnight," John said. "It was strange at first to be working with coal, which was starting to develop its reputation " I really believe that development of low- technology will help us out of this recession, although this may Government sound nevertheless true - as a 'dirty' source of fuel. However, as the oil price was pretty high at the time and the North-east had all of these coal reserves, it was certainly in the mix." It was in 2001 as a sales director for the now renamed Dalkia Utilities Services that he was approached by French competitor Elyo to be its managing director in the UK, with one of his first assignments being the small matter of heading a bid to buy the energy efficiency arm of BP. .
John's can-do attitude helped steer the successful bid, with the pounds 27m purchase of BP Energy adding about 330 staff to Elyo's workforce of 70.
He would go on to help Elyo UK (part of the Suez group) to achieve a pounds 50m turnover and become one of the major players in the energy and utilities outsourcing market, taking responsibility for contracts at more than 70 sites in the UK for customers such as Nestl, Rolls-Royce, Kellogg's and Jaguar.
But by 2002 he says "the world was waking up to climate change" which helped the firm grow turnover.
It would be this growing interest in all things environmental that attracted John to his next role as key account manager at the Carbon Trust, a
Government-funded company set up to help businesses and the public sector cut carbon emissions and exploit the potential of commercial low-carbon technologies.
"It was really the first time that I was coming at energy reduction from a purely environmental angle, rather than my perception being based on cost savings, which was certainly exciting," John said.
Here he was responsible for building relationships with major clients in the North-east with energy bills exceeding pounds 4m a year, among sectors including chemicals, utilities and waste.
However, he was unable to turn down the position of managing director of Renew after it was launched last year, when he returned to Wilton to work from the offices of the CPI, as well as a satellite office at marine renewables research organisation NaREC at Blyth.
"I feel I've come full circle, though I'm now working on the flip-side of energy conservation by highlighting to firms the environmental implications," he said.
"I really believe that the development of low-carbon technology will help us to get out of this recession, and although this may sound like a Government sound bite, it is nevertheless true.
"The next big thing will be resources management. Companies will soon start to search scrap heaps for those unwanted TVs from years ago, as they will contain precious metals and recyclable materials."
PROJECTS Renew is championing in the Tees Valley include: * The South Tees Eco Park This will transform a 53-hectare, former steelworks site. The site will potentially attract more than pounds 1.5bn investment. PYReco has already announced an pounds 80m pilot tyre recycling plant at the site. It will be the world's largest of its kind, creating 90 permanent and 100 construction jobs.
* Vinyl floor recycling network The scheme was originally developed by not-for-profit recycling company WRAP and set up in partnership with leading UK flooring manufacturing brands. It will provide a clear route for the recovery of vinyl flooring waste generated during new build, replacement and refurbishment projects.
* The Eston Grange Power Project This pounds 1.5bn clean coal power station with carbon capture and storage project would create 1,500 construction and 150 permanent jobs for the Tees Valley.
* Middlehaven The site is to be UK's largest zero carbon development. Fuel cells are already being used to power the marketing suite for residential accommodation on the site and will play an important role in the development itself. In a key partnership, the development's next door neighbour, Middlesbrough Football Club, is installing a 3MW wind turbine * Re-build Tees Valley A new social enterprise which is at the forefront of a national initiative to recover and re-use the huge volumes of building materials that currently end up in landfill sites.."I really believe that the development of low-carbon technology will help us to get out of this recession, and although this may sound like a Government sound bite, it is nevertheless true - John Barton
GREEN CHAMPION: John Barton, project director of Wilton-based Renew
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|Publication:||Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)|
|Date:||May 12, 2009|
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