James eyes innovation ‘holy grail’ with new Ritchie Bland Energy venture

November 12, 2020 @ 19:16 by Steven Hugill

A former energy firm boss has told North East Times he hopes to tap into an innovation “holy grail” after launching a new venture.

James Ritchie Bland wants to make the region “best in class” across the renewables sector with his Ritchie Bland Energy Limited (RBE) endeavour.

The recently-unveiled, privately-funded business has a blueprint to invest in and support emerging technology businesses.

It has already taken a 22.5 per cent equity stake in Harmony Energy Storage (HES), with James, former chief executive at Newton Aycliffe’s Tekmar Energy, confirming talks are ongoing about other opportunities.

Based in North Yorkshire, HES has a history in onshore wind development and is primed to play a key role in the growth of the UK’s energy grid, having helped deliver a Dorset battery energy storage system project.

“There are three of us in RBE and we are looking to take minority stakes and sit on boards to help companies,” says James, who, aged just 21, led a management buyout of Tekmar.

“But we aren’t just backing companies with money, we are providing support that comes with years of knowledge and experience.

“There are so many exciting things happening around energy transition and climate change that we want to support – it’s like the holy grail for entrepreneurs,” continues James, who also oversaw offshore wind sector operator Tekmar’s AIM listing.

“We are focused on investments where we can make a difference, by using the knowledge we accrued from growing Tekmar from a start-up to a full plc.

“When I commit to something, I commit to make it a success – I did that at Tekmar, and I will do the same with RBE.”

For James, who is chair of Energi Coast, the North East offshore wind cluster, his new endeavour is not just about investments, but making the region a leader in energy, and he says he is excited about partnering the innovative firms working in the sphere.

“What really attracted us to HES was their pipeline in energy storage,” says James.

“One of the big challenges in energy transmission is the intermittence of power and we need to have adequate storage to build the grid.

“It’s an investment that shows we are investing not just in the hardware, but the development side too.

“We aren’t going to do hundreds of investments and see what flies – we are going to be selective and choose the opportunities where we really think there is potential for success and use our backgrounds to support our partners.

“As Energi Coast chair, I have a real passion to see UK plc benefit from this too.

“I want to see job creation on the back of these investments.

“I genuinely believe we can be best in class to deliver this.”

And James says that while he’s now focused on his new venture, he’ll still be keeping an eye out for Tekmar’s progress.

“I always had an exit plan with Tekmar, but I’ll always love the business with an absolute passion too,” he adds.

“We took it from a single office to a £50 million turnover plc – it is a fantastic business that has a terrific board and a dynamic team that will continue to grow and succeed.”

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