Management initially ignored the threat, and three days later all of the management and the Board of Directors resigned and named him as the contact for the company. Alex explained that in a public company you cannot do that, officers cannot simply walk away from their responsibility. His lawyers advised him not to do anything. A few days later another discussion ensued with the management and Alex stated that he was not going to file the hostile proxy papers. Instead he wanted management to make the changes he had requested, otherwise he would sue them for willful damages.
The casino company’s management responded by issuing a statement rescinding their resignation and implementing the changes that Alex had demanded. Over the last few years the stock value has multiplied seven times, the company is profitable and Alex Winch is one of the largest shareholders.
At that time Alex was generally disenchanted with public capital markets, and decided to create his own small business. Living just five minutes away, he immediately looked at the laundromat when it became available for sale and concluded that it might be an opportunity for an interesting engineering project. And that’s how the story started.
Alex’ interesting business model for the laundromat also includes a wash and fold service that is offered by two local ladies from Monday to Friday between 1 and 7 pm. The “fluff and fold” service affords customers the convenience of simply dropping off their laundry and picking it up completely done later. Alex does not charge the two ladies for running their business out of his laundromat, but his business benefits from greater capacity utilization and load-shifting from the busy evening and weekend hours to less busy daytime hours, creating a win-win situation for his business, the wash and fold service providers and the customers. Alex Winch always strives to find solutions that will provide the greatest possible benefit to everyone concerned.
But Alex’s knowledge of renewable energy generation and innovative business models did not stop with the Beach Solar Laundromat: Alex combined his unique process of on-site energy generation and monitoring and turned it into a successful international commercial venture. Alex founded Mondial Energy, a company with global capabilities to install solar water heating equipment, complete with the requisite monitoring systems, that generates solar thermal energy at the customer’s site and charges for the solar heat energy generated, regardless of where they might be located.
The Beaches Solar Laundromat
The advantage to the customer is that they do not have to invest in the expensive up-front capital costs to get their solar water heating systems up and running. Instead, Mondial owns and operates the hardware to generate the energy, and it assumes the maintenance responsibility for the equipment. Customers are then billed at a fixed monthly rate, based on how much energy the equipment generates.
For customers the ability to lock in energy costs is an important factor in an environment of fluctuating and increasing energy prices. In addition, the price of the solar energy delivered is lower than the cost of a comparable amount of natural gas, making this an increasingly attractive alternative to conventional natural gas water heating. Last, but not least, energy production is completely green, free of greenhouse gases.
Today, Alex is involved in several large-scale sustainable energy retrofitting projects in Toronto: In November 2006, Mondial Energy commissioned a renewable thermal energy system for the domestic water needs at a 172 suite senior’s residence, operated by a local non-profit organization called Neighbourhood Link Homes. Mondial installed 60 flat plate solar panels which are expected to reduce annual carbon dioxide emissions by 40.3 tonnes and will bill Neighbourhood Link monthly at affordable rates.
Solar energy generated by Mondial Energy will also provide water heating at Wood Green Community Housing Inc., a 170 unit social housing site on Queen Street East in Toronto. 108 solar panels will displace an estimated 32,000 cubic meters of gas, resulting in 53 tons of greenhouse gas emission reductions per year.
The Beaches Solar Laundromat
Alex explains that at the present time his system is most well-suited for commercial or multi-unit residential buildings. The economics for single-family private homes do not yet work so well, particularly since Canada offers very few incentives to switch away from conventional energy sources. As a result he focuses on medium to large size projects. Several substantial commercial projects are currently being negotiated, including a major hotel in Atlanta and a casino hotel in Reno. Mondial Energy is also bidding on a large-scale solar water heating project in Hawaii. Contacts throughout the United States have been very receptive to his unique way of on-site thermal energy generation. In a way, Alex explains, he has come full circle: he went from being involved with big corporations to becoming a small entrepreneur and is now back to dealing with big business.
For his innovative sustainable energy efforts Alex has received numerous awards, including the Bremen Partnership Award (the “Bremer Umweltpreis” – The Bremen Environmental Award) for providing high customer value, wide use in the community, sustainable use of water and solar energy and for providing additional value in terms of “social dimensions”.
Alex himself is so highly committed to sustainable energy that his company Mondial Energy has become a partner in creating the Annual Tourism Climate Change Awards. Two awards of $10,000, sponsored by Mondial, will be handed out in November 2007:
• A World Tourism Responsible Energy Award with a global focus
• A Mission Africa Responsible Energy Award focusing on Africa
The Judging Panel for the Award will include prominent figures from global organizations such as Maurice Strong from the Rio Earth Summit, Jose Maria Figueres (past-president of Costa Rica), as well as representatives of the National Geographic Society and the UNWTO (World Tourism Organization). With this award Alex has indicated his commitment to raising the profile of finding Climate Change Solutions for the tourism sector.
The “Bremen Partnership Award”
Alex demonstrates his commitment to sustainable living even in the selection of some of his personal accessories: he showed me his Citizen Eco-Drive Watch, a stylish looking timepiece whose face is a photovoltaic cell that powers the watch, eliminating the need for batteries. Alex said the watch will work for 270 days without exposure to light and Citizen’s marketing slogans often refer to this timepiece as “unstoppable”.
Unstoppable is a moniker that could equally be applied to Alex Winch – Alex will not stop until his mission to do his part in reducing greenhouse emissions is accomplished.