The claim that Powerfuel Portland is a “local company” which is “Bridport-based” is made by the company itself, and it also appears in the local press. It purports to have “an office in Dorset”, but what exactly does that mean, and how true is this claim?

“Any good marketer knows that ‘local’ sells…”

— from a 2017 report by the UN’s World Tourism Organization

LOCAL ENERGY

“Local” is a buzzword in the energy sector. According to the economist Jeremy Rifkin, as we enter the Third Industrial Revolution, power production will become “decentralized” with a shift towards “local grid networks”. There’s a growing interest of localism in the energy sector, and a shift in the conversation around energy policy towards “local values“, so it’s no wonder that Powerfuel Portland would want their large-scale energy-to-waste project to have a whiff of the “local”.

No wonder that it describes itself on its website as: “a local company with an office in Dorset” — but we’ll see how badly that description stands up to scrutiny.

POWERFUEL PORTLAND, THE INTERNATIONAL LOCAL COMPANY

In March 2020, a share allocation in Powerfuel’s holding company was made to the Dutch company, Green Tower B.V., based in Utrecht, with Green Tower now holding 15% of the company. Green Tower is a Dutch/Japanese investment vehicle for the financial advisory company Green Giraffe, which is 50% owned by DC Advisory an “an international investment bank”. DC Advisory is a wholly owned subsidiary of the vast Japanese finance corporation Daiwa Securities Group, headquartered in Tokyo. Which is about 6,000 miles from Bridport, as the crow flies.

Powerfuel is registered to a London address: “2nd Floor, Regis House, 45 King William Street, London, United Kingdom, EC4R 9AN”. This is the correspondence address for both company directors: Giles Frampton and city lawyer Steven McNab.

McNab operates through a company called Cleantech Cadre, registered to an address in Surrey, but which is a “trading name of gunnercooke LLP” — a large law firm with offices in London and Manchester.

Powerfuel’s Regis House address is a serviced office where hundreds of other companies are registered. It’s given on the Powerfuel website along with a London telephone number. There’s another contact telephone number on Powerfuel’s website — 0808 168 1678 — which is a freephone number used for a number of development projects by Quantum PR, one of Powerfuel’s partners in the incinerator project. Quantum Pr is a media relations and crisis communications specialist based in Kent — “one of the South East’s leading PR and marketing agencies”.

London, Utrecht Tokyo, Kent. So far, so local.

POWERFUEL’S “OFFICE IN DORSET”

Powerfuel Portland is keen to emphasize that it’s “a local company with an office in Dorset” and in a recent promotional video on the company website they claim to be “Bridport-based”:

Powerfuel Portland give a specific Bridport business address on a recent mailout:

And if you look through the planning documents submitted by Powerfuel to Dorset Council, a number of them show Powerfuel having an even more specific address at Gore Cross Business Park — “Suite B, The Core”. Here for example:

But to what extent is this actually Powerfuel’s address? Aside from its own PR, none of the company’s financial or corporate documents situate it in Bridport or Dorset. Here’s where Powerfuel’s pretence at being a “local company” starts to unravel. The first thing to note is that one of Powerfuel’s two directors, Giles Frampton, is also a director of a company called Skyfall Energy which has exactly the same address:

In all, there are three companies with contact addresses at The Core. Skyfall and Powerfuel are in “Suite B” — alongside them in “Suite A” is a company called Renewable Energy Management Services Ltd. which has a single director, Liam Tattershall.

Tattershall has a history with Frampton. He used to work at British Solar Renewables Ltd. — from 2012 until May 2020 — and for a good chunk of this time Giles Frampton was a senior figure at the company. Frampton was a director of British Solar Renewables from 2012 until April 2016. And on Tattershall’s LinkedIn profile there are multiple “endorsements” of his work by Frampton.

The only other company with an address at “The Core, Gore Cross Business Park” is a family-run solar panel company called Solarport Systems:

The family that runs Solarport Systems is the Tattershall family. Liam Tattershall is a director. Another of the Solarport team, Jade Tattershall, also used to work at British Solar Renewables (2012-2015) back when Giles Frampton was a director.

Not only that, the Managing Director of Solarport Systems, is Dave Tattershall, who is Liam’s dad and a personal friend of Frampton and some other Skyfall / Powerfuel characters:

These friendly links between the Framptons and the Tattershalls (and the fact that Powerfuel and Skyfall have the same address) begs the question: is Powerfuel Portland in any meaningful sense based at that Bridport business park address? Or is it just a desk and a phone line being borrowed by Frampton from one of his drinking buddies?

It looks a lot like Dave Tattershall has given a desk and a telephone number to his son Liam and a desk and a number to his mate Giles, so they can both run (or appear to run) separate companies from the same office. And when Powerfuel claims to be a “local company” or “Bridport-based” it looks like nothing more than a flimsy bit of corporate propaganda, an example of what’s known as “local washing”.

SKYFALL’S OFFICE IN BRIDPORT

But there’s a further question: to what extent is Skyfall Energy actually based at this Bridport business park address? The Gore Cross Business Park address only appeared on the Skyfall website in January 2020. Before that, Skyfall’s telephone number was given as 01460 309 01, and the company address was a farm in Thorncombe:

These contact details, at Saddle Street Farm, happen to be the exact address and phone number of a beauty and wellbeing company called Lovegrove Essentials:

Lovegrove Essentials is run by the yoga instructor and reiki practitioner Hannah Lovegrove, the wife of Giles Frampton. It turns out that Hannah Lovegrove is not just a wellbeing coach, she’s also the founding director of Skyfall Energy. In fact, she’s the sole shareholder. Here’s part of a Companies House summary of Skyfall:

All of this points to some even more fundamental questions: what sort of a company is Skyfall Energy? and what is the relationship between Skyfall, Giles Frampton and Powerfuel?

LOCAL OR LOCAL-WASHED?

When Powerfuel undertook a public consultation, its exhibition boards repeated the claim that it’s “a local company with an office in Dorset”. And this claim seems to have got a bit of traction. However, legally and financially there’s nothing “local” about Powerfuel Portland except for the actual location of the incinerator they want to build.

It’s hard not to see Powerfuel’s repeated claim to be “local” as a cynical marketing ploy, a cutesy and misleading bit of sales banter in which the internationally financed company is trying to appear plugged into the local community. A textbook bit of local-washing.

LOCAL WASHING: BACKGROUND

A lot of the research into (and criticism of) “local -washing” has focused on the food and retail sectors. The US columnist Jim Hightower, in a syndicated column from 2010, talks about the rise of “a very positive, grassroots economic movement” focused on “local producers, providers, and marketers” but notes how “giant corporations are trying to co-opt the meaning of one of our important words: ‘local’.”

According to the sociologist Dr. Lilian Brislen, writing in 2018: “when a business makes claims about the ‘localness’ of their products when in fact they are part of the same global corporations and/or supply chains that most of our food comes from.”

Local washing is an attempt “to cash in on the trend of shopping, buying and eating local” says the Massachusetts-based consumer group ‘Love Live Local’ — “these tactics are disingenuous and deceptive, and not good for any local community”.

Disingenuous and deceptive are strong words, but in the case of Powerfuel’s claim to be “local” to Portland, they seem entirely appropriate.

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