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ERM founder Trevor St Baker has set up a new energy innovation fund

Posted on 6/10/2016 by Rhiannon Smith
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Trevor St Baker has gone off the grid. Visitors to the St Lucia home of the ERM Power founder are proudly told about the solar panels on the roof before being escorted to the garage where the 76-year-old shows off his gas-fuelled generator and electric car.

Trevor St Baker has gone off the grid. Visitors to the St Lucia home of the ERM Power founder are proudly told about the solar panels on the roof before being escorted to the garage where the 76-year-old shows off his gas-fuelled generator and electric car.

“We sell power back to the grid,” St Baker says.

St Baker’s commitment to alternative energy extends beyond his house, with the entrepreneur pumping more than $50 million into the St Baker Energy Innovation Fund, which invests in everything from electric vehicle charging systems to smart energy devices.

But St Baker, who founded Australia’s fourth largest power retailer, is far from a card-carrying, carrot-munching greenie. Last year, he invested in a coal-fired power station in NSW and warns ambitious renewable energy targets are not practical. St Baker built a 60-year career in an industry fuelled by coal and gas, making him an energy pragmatist rather than an idealist.

“We are involved in the dirty black and the clean green,” St Baker says. “What will keep the lights on when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining?

‘‘It is not possible to do it with just renewables at the moment and we are happy to invest in coal.”

Born in working class Bankstown, St Baker was academically bright enough to enter a selective high school before winning a full scholarship to study engineering at university. “I could have been a civil engineer but decided electricity was the more interesting sector to get involved in,” he says. After working for the NSW electricity commission, St Baker joined its Queensland counterpart in 1970. At the time, Queensland needed major changes to its moribund electricity network as it moved from an agrarian-based economy to an industrial one.

“The coal board met every six months to set prices, so power generators could not do any forward planning,” St Baker recalls.



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