Enechange: Yohei Kiguchi harnesses the power of energy for change

It all began with a shaking — literally. The Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011 compelled Dr. Yohei Kiguchi to found ENECHANGE Ltd., an energy tech company that promotes a decarbonized society with digital technology, guided by the noble mission of “creating the future of energy.”

The highly successful company started as a foundation in April 2015, went on to become an IPO-listed company on the Tokyo Stock Exchange in 2020, and achieved a market capitalization of $ 1 billion in 2021. To date, ENECHANGE is the leading electric-vehicle-charging and online-energy-switching company in Japan, and is also among the top in the world.

Innovation and inspiration in the industry

Since founding the organization, Dr. Kiguchi has been hailed as one of the most innovative and successful climate-tech entrepreneurs. Born in Japan and educated in Cambridge in the U.K., Dr. Kiguchi splits his time between the two countries, seeing the former as the market, and the latter as the inspiration. He is the embodiment, so to speak, of the dynamic U.K.-Japan synergy and spirit. “I’m among the few, possibly even the only, CEOs of a Japanese public company who live in London. The U.K. is more like a hub for innovation inspiration, with Japan being more like a market for expansion — in our early stages, for instance, we actually deployed a pilot project in the U.K., but then found it more scalable in Japan,” Dr. Kiguchi explained.

I’m among the few, possibly even the only, CEOs of a Japanese public company who live in London. The U.K. is more like a hub for innovation inspiration, with Japan being more like a market for expansion — in our early stages, for instance, we actually deployed a pilot project in the U.K., but then found it more scalable in Japan

Yohei Kiguchi, founder of Enechange

“The original ideas and technologies came from my studies at the University of Cambridge, where I obtained my doctoral degree in Engineering,” he said. ENECHANGE was born from his PhD research, for which he mathematically modeled energy efficiency using smart meter data, as well as published two international journals. “When I came into Cambridge, in 2012, way before the Paris Treaty, the green theme was not yet the fashionable theme, internationally — but Cambridge was already pushing hard to go for the green transition. The U.K., Cambridge and its strong academic and international background, and its improved green initiatives, established the foundation of my career,” Dr. Kiguchi shared.

The need for strong green initiatives

The energy expert likewise noted that the green initiative will be a very important issue for King Charles, who is himself an alumnus of Cambridge University, to address throughout his reign. Dr. Kiguchi also recalled having met the former Prince of Wales and newly-crowned King back in October 2019, when the monarch attended the ceremony of enthronement for Emperor Naruhito. They met at the British Embassy gardens in Tokyo, where they discussed the pressing issues of energy, decarbonization, and climate change. “This is an important issue for King Charles, who has very strong green initiatives and is from Cambridge, too. I had the opportunity to meet with His Majesty, when he still carried the title of Prince, on his visit to Japan in 2019. While in Tokyo, he brought together English and Japanese CEO’s who were in touch with climate-related matters. I was an honorary invitee to this lunch, alongside Mitsubishi and Hitachi CEOs, among others,” Dr. Kiguchi recounted.

A mission-driven, focused life

Dr. Yohei Kiguchi’s background is mission-driven, with a clear focus on making a positive impact on the world. Born in 1987 in Okayama, a rural area in Japan, Kiguchi hails from a family with a long-standing history in business and politics, including holding a seat in the House of Lords before World War II.

Determined to forge his own path, Dr. Kiguchi chose to attend Nada School in Kobe, renowned as one of the most academically competitive schools in Japan, with which he has maintained an ongoing mentorship relationship as a committee member of the alumni association. The Kiguchi family relocated with him to support his education. While there, Dr. Kiguchi excelled as the head of students and achieved third place in a national tennis competition. During his time at Nada, Dr. Kiguchi also took part in a summer school in Cambridge England, which would later prove to be a molding experience.

Driving and effecting real change

Dr. Kiguchi went on to study political science at the prestigious University of Tokyo, initially intending to follow in his family’s footsteps and pursue a political career. However, he soon realized that entrepreneurs, rather than politicians, were the ones with the power to drive real change in the 21st century.

This realization led him to shift his focus towards entrepreneurship, and he founded his first company, Milog, a smartphone app data science startup, in 2009, during his fourth year at university. After three years at the helm of Milog, the Fukushima Crisis in Japan prompted Dr. Kiguchi to reevaluate his priorities and to align with the change that was truly needed in the world.

He decided to shut down his company, feeling that its mission was not ambitious enough to effect meaningful change. Seeking personal growth and a broader perspective, Dr. Kiguchi spent a year traveling the world, being exposed to varied cultures and outlooks, before deciding to settle in the UK being welcomed to pursue a PhD at the University of Cambridge. During his time at Cambridge, Dr Kiguchi studied artificial intelligence, statistics, and energy modeling alongside top-tier global peers.

By the time he completed his doctoral work, he felt well-equipped to launch his second startup ENECHANGE, knowing he had the wherewithal to effect change and implement these ideas on the ground. Dr. Yohei Kiguchi continues to use ENECHANGE to innovate, driven in his ability to make a significant difference in the world.

Continuing to pay it forward

As ENECHANGE thrives, Dr. Kiguchi is called on as an expert to give his view on the Green Agenda, having attended COP26 in Glasgow (U.K.) and has been able to collaborate and assist as part of the Trilateral Commission, with the latest gathering held in March 2023 in India. Moreover, Dr. Kiguchi is able to facilitate discussion and exchange of ideas fluidly, given his bilateral depth of cultural integration.

“I am very grateful to the U.K., which welcomed me and gave me an opportunity to acquire a high level of skills and knowledge, and to reshape my mission. The last 10 years of my life in the U.K. were life-changing opportunities for me; thus, I’m going to be looking for more opportunities to contribute as a green entrepreneur and in Japan-U.K. relations.”


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