What can I possibly say about my adopted Scottish home town Dundee? It’s Electrifying…
Where to begin?
The authenticity, passion, kindness, support, and overwhelming generosity of Dundee keep me coming back to this plucky little City in the East of Scotland. This is a city that does not make a secret of its struggles. Dundee faces problems head on, with humility and resolve.
It must be said, that there is no place on earth like any other place on earth. Each city, town, hamlet and home have a unique and ever-evolving culture and landscape. Dundee has flown close to the sun, nurtured change, innovation and resilience for centuries. They have also had rugs pulled out from under them. Jute factories literally pulling the rug and sacking industry out from under the thousands of households employed in the flax mills that made sturdy materials that were used around the globe.
Dundee’s women fascinate and inspire me. They are often feisty, resourceful, and strong, as a legacy of the more than 50% of the workforce in the Jute factory being women (as they were paid an average of 45% of male wages). Women went out to work and their husbands earned the nickname “kettle warmers” as they stayed home to tend the hearth and children.
Many year’s later, in 2019 the legacy of tenacity, strength, community, industriousness, and curiosity have made Dundee a world class case study in the electrification of transport industry.
So many people I respect and admire have contributed to the fascinating narrative of this city. Kristy, El, Fraser, Justin, David, Heather, and the irrepressible powerhouse Lynne. There are so many more heroes to me based here, but let me share with you just a little bit of the magic and meaning these powerful champions for change who are charging into the future have instigated.
Dundee is, by many counts, an economically depressed city. Employment rates here were the second lowest in the UK in 2018. Gentrification and economic stimulation efforts are vast, varied, and creative here, because the only way is up. One of my dearest friends Christine has joined many tech firms from across the UK and even around the world in setting up shop in Dundee. Her creative firm Salamandra has been operating in Dundee since the middle of this year, and her enthusiasm for this venture is clear. More and more tech and innovation will be drawn to this, the sunniest city in Scotland I have no doubt.
Dundee is home to a population with deep roots, and shallow pockets. Generations remain here, rather than seeking greener pastures or higher chances of employment farther afield. Communities are close, local pride is palpable, and the wolf at the door is a shared reality for many of this city’s residents. This seems to have created a warmth, wisdom and love of laughter in the locals. Everyone here has fallen over themselves to help me, whether I am seeking information, directions, or details for this blog. I feel welcome, appreciated, and maybe even understood here. This is a city that gets on with things, and drag themselves through mud and muck to lift each other and their community up.
It is a strange and ongoing struggle for electrification champions to justify our cause to people who claim that our industry is a playground for the rich and privileged trying to assuage middle class guilt. Dundee flies in the face of this rhetoric. One of their many charging hubs is located in the most economically depressed areas of the city, and the stations and cars are treated with respect and pride by owners, users, and locals alike. Electrified transport has made movement affordable, enjoyable and accessible for rich and poor and everyone in between wishing to join the long overdue transition to clean transport and energy independence.
Dundee has been nominated for, and won numerous awards for their brave and innovative projects. The V&A museum, that hosted a recently released panel discussion on the epically popular Fully Charged show has won several design, architecture, sustainability and tourism awards. As. It. Should.
The real magic as far as I am concerned is in the epic electrification efforts this up and coming city has embarked on. I was a guest speaker at the offical opening of the Queen Street charging hub. A resplendent couple of days that included a conference, bagpipes, beer, laughter, hope, happiness, innovation, an epic tour, and too many new friends to list.
This city earned international recognition in October 2019 by winning the “International E-Visionary Award” and in my (and many other’s) opinion were indisputably worthy of this prestigious accolade.
I want one too now though. So, C’mon New Zealand, join the journey to catch up with my darling Dundee. It is probably worth talking Turkey at this point though, and comparing apples with apples in the conversation about investment and uptake.
New Zealand recently hosted a Dundee local as the Scottish representative on a national and international Roadshow across New Zealand’s North Island. Elinor Chalmers was a very welcome guest, and pointed out that Dundee had enjoyed in the vicinity of £8 million in stimulus and support for their audacious electrification goals. This vast push that includes solar capture and storage, education, outreach, and a world class charging infrastructure was championed by the community, the council, private enterprise, and one of the kindest most humble people I have ever met; Dr. David Beeton who is the passionate CEO of Urban Foresight.
Measuring this against the economic climate for stimulus efforts in New Zealand, it might be time to put our money where our transport is in the public and private sectors, in order to claim a stake as research, development, innovation and collaboration leaders across the world stage.
The Kiwi EV community is going head to head over a $6 million dollar contestable fund that is awarded by EECA. I remember tears of joy when a dear friend in that organisation took me out for a cuppa and shared the news of this welcome encouragement for the industry I have dedicated most of my heart and soul to over the last five years. My family have invested our personal resource to install, develop and manage a world class charging infrastructure to the country we Love above all others, and this fund has allowed us to more than double our initial forecasts for this epic rollout. We’d planned on 75 fast chargers by 2020 to provide a basic backbone for EV drivers to travel in their EV across this beautiful island nation. We have more than 170 of these 50kW fast chargers on our network at the end of 2019, and this is in no small part owing to the support of partners, the community and this popular government grant.
I do sometimes lament that we are competing with our dearest friends and closest collaborators for a piece of this pie, and I wonder if there is a better way of encouraging local and global research, development, and innovation dollars to flow through Aotearoa. If anyone reading this has ideas on this, feel free to share them with me, I don’t have the answers, just the question at this point.
The industry is growing here in NZ, as it is in Dundee and globally, and I just want to put this in further perspective by pointing out the fact that around $25 million was spent on an unsuccessful flag referendum in 2015/16. I voted for Red Peak, and still get a solid giggle out of the kiwi with laser beams shooting from the eye sockets flag submission. While I am always pleasantly surprised by the international friends and colleagues who know about our laser kiwi flag meme, I’d really prefer that money being marked to generate real economic and environmental value by securing New Zealand’s green tech sector as this industry grows. And, it is growing.
Dundee has set the bar pretty high. We can learn, apply and be the change we want to see on a global scale, by applying the learnings and experiences from this and countless other EV case studies from around the world.
In conclusion. If you are ever lucky enough to find yourself in Scotland, treat yourself to a trip to my beloved darling Dundee. This is a city with soul, vision and chutzpah.
I know that I will always find my way back to my friends and colleagues on the banks of the Firth of Tay.