Commercial Manager Tom Bouwens joins us this month to talk about his development in energy projects overseas, kayaking on the Thames and more.
Where are you originally from?
I’m originally from Wymondham, a small market town in Norfolk, about two hours north of London.
What little known fact would you let someone know if they were visiting Wymondham?
Wymondham was where landowner Robert Kett’s 1549 rebellion against the enclosures started. The locals were protesting against the common land being fenced off for private use, but instead of fighting them, Kett tore down his own fences and led them to Norwich. They briefly gained control of the city but it didn’t go well and poor Kett ended up hanging from Norwich Castle. Not a huge amount has happened in Wymondham since, which is a large part of its charm.
What path have you taken with education and work to bring you to the Heat UK team?
I studied geography at Manchester and spent a year in Amsterdam on an Erasmus exchange. My first job out of university was in domestic renewable heating, so I guess you could say it set a (long and winding) path to Vattenfall.
Most of my work inbetween has involved developing energy projects overseas, and I’ve been fortunate to work in over twenty countries but always based in London. I worked in carbon markets for five years, including two memorable years on secondment to the Department for Business as carbon markets advisor. My role involved using the UK’s diplomatic missions to help developing countries access finance for low carbon projects, and I met so many extraordinary people.
More recently I led the development of some gas fired peaking plant in Chile’s Atacama desert, helping to pave the way for large scale solar.
What's something that you've always wanted to do - something on your bucket list, perhaps?
I’ve always wanted to sail across the Atlantic. I like the idea of being out in the vastness of the ocean, feeling the distance and moving from one continent to another without burning any fuel.
What's an interesting project you've been working on lately?
Over the last few years I’ve been involved with a community effort to protect the rights of the houseboat community in Chelsea where I’ve lived for the last fifteen years. The mooring operator has been seeking to increase fees to a point where it would be unaffordable for most of the people who live there, many of whom have been there for decades. Our neighbours are all really close, which is a rare thing these days and I cherish it greatly.
What kind of things do you like to do in your down time?
I love getting out into nature, a perfect day would include a long walk out across the Norfolk marshes near where I grew up. Last summer I got quite into kayaking on the Thames; it’s best at night when there’s no traffic and the river goes so calm the light reflects off it like a mirror.
What's something that not a lot of people know about you?
I’m currently volunteering in a trial at Moorfields hospital to have the first ever 3D printed prosthetic eye.
If you could start a charity, what would it be for?
It has been estimated that up to 50,000 people live permanently on houseboats in the UK. They are part of our national heritage and yet the people who live on them lack the basic statutory rights afforded to homeowners. Given the resources, I’d like to establish a charity to campaign for permanently moored houseboats to be recognised under the Housing Act. The security of tenure this would enable would help to avoid disputes and allow the market to mature.