MBE honour for Unst businesswoman

Unst businesswoman Elizabeth Johnson who was made an MBE in the New Year's Honours.
Unst businesswoman Elizabeth Johnson who was made an MBE in the New Year’s Honours.

Unst businesswoman Elizabeth Johnson is the second Shetlander to be honoured in the New Year’s Honours List, being made an MBE for her work in renewables and charity fund-raising.

Mrs Johnson works for the Unst-based Pure Energy Centre, which specialises in hydrogen technologies, offering feasibility studies, installation and maintenance all over the world. She has also been active in Shetland’s Relay for Life, raising money for Cancer Research UK.

The 51-year-old business development manager at the Pure Energy Centre was in Greece on business when she was informed of her award, and initially thought it was a joke.

She said: “I’m just an ordinary person, people like me don’t get awards. I was surprised and very honoured, and it’s particularly good for the renewables industry that someone is recognised.

“But I don’t see it as just for myself, no one person could do it by themselves.” She added that her husband Ivor and four grown-up children were “all delighted”.

Mrs Johnson, who said she has no scientific background and did not go to university, now travels widely as most of the work is outwith Shetland. On a normal day at the office she could make Skype calls to North Africa, Italy and France, and said: “There’s never a dull moment. It gives us [all] great satisfaction.”

The standalone company Pure Energy Centre was founded in 2006 on the back of the Pure project, and Mrs Johnson believes the team has a much knowledge about hydrogen technology as anyone in the UK. But, she said: “We don’t publicise it, we just get on with it.”

The company was the first in Scotland to install complete hydrogen systems, including storage for back-up power and refuelling, and has hydrogen vehicles on offer. It has also installed hydrogen systems in some lighthouses in the UK.

Mrs Johnson’s charity work was also recognised within the MBE. The 2014 Relay for Life raised a record £306,560, which she described as “absolutly extraordinary”.

She said: “When Belle Spence [Unst athlete who organised the first relays] asked me to help I never dreamed it would take off like this. The whole community takes responsibility for the whole thing.”

Now she is waiting to hear when she will go to the MBE award ceremony – and hoping she will be in this country at the time. And, she added, it could serve as a message to young people.

“You don’t know what you’re capable of. If I can push myself to do some of the work I do, out of my comfort zone, the bairns can do anything.”


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