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McCaffery to leave RenewableUK after ten years

UK: "There are none so blind as those that will not see," said Maria McCaffery of the UK government after it was announced she would step down as CEO of trade body RenewableUK.

RenewableUK CEO Maria McCaffery is stepping down from the role
RenewableUK CEO Maria McCaffery is stepping down from the role

McCaffery offered her resignation to the board but will remain in the post until a successor is found. RenewableUK said this is likely to be in early 2016, and a recruitment process will begin in the coming weeks.  "I am proud of all we have achieved together, but I feel it is time to pass on the baton," McCaffery said.

In her decade at the helm of RenewableUK, McCaffery has seen wind energy supply grow tenfold in the UK, and has turned RenewableUK into a lobbying organisation that now has the ear of government — even if we do not get what we want, she adds.

"When I took on this role, wind power met only 1% of UK electricity needs — today we are delivering 10%, so we are in a very different place to where we were ten years ago. As we approach [the industry's] fifth decade it seems timely for a new leadership to address the next challenges for this great industry," she added.

McCaffery replaced Marcus Rand as CEO in June 2006, when RenewableUK was still known as the British Wind Energy Association.

Government battles

"When I took the helm, I felt we were trying to elbow our way in at the consultation table, not being taken seriously," she says. There was no department of energy — that was introduced in 2008 by the then Labour government. "We claimed that policy victory," she said.

"The Labour government did wake up to the idea and start to take seriously the importance of renewables. It was, after all, Tony Blair who committed us to the 2020 targets [in 2007]. And in the coalition government [2010-2015] we had three heavyweight Lib Dems to carry us through further," she added.

The recently-elected right-wing Conservative government, under the instruction of energy secretary Amber Rudd, is now free from the Liberal Democrats — such as former Energy Secretary Ed Davey — to continue removing the support for renewable energy that had helped to develop a strong energy energy supply and an industry.

In June 2015, McCaffery accused the UK government of "slamming the door" on onshore wind after it was announced the renewables obligation support scheme would be closed a year earlier than expected.

"The government's decision to end prematurely financial support for onshore wind sends a chilling signal not just to the renewable energy industry, but to all investors right across the UK's infrastructure sectors," she said at the time.


This month, the UK fell out of the Ernst and Young renewable energy country attractiveness index (RECAI) top 10 for the first time in its history following months of anti-renewable policy announcements by the new government. The analyst firm said recent policy changes had "sentenced the UK renewables sector to death".

While hugely disappointed at the fall, McCaffery was not surprised. "We have emphasised repeatedly that singling out one renewable energy technology would have ripple effects on other renewable energy technologies. The government just didn’t understand, and here we are the first ever time since Ernst and Young started that index [12 years ago] we are not in the top ten."

"There are a handful of fundamental truths about our energy security, sustainability and affordability that the present government appears abjectly determined not to recognise," says McCaffery. Her successor must find a way to capture the commitment and support needed from government to address these needs.

Already RenewableUK has had notes of interest in the post, which McCaffery expects to leave in the early part of next year, after this year’s party conference season, the annual RenewableUK event and COP21.

RenewableUK chairman Julian Brown paid tribute to McCaffery's tenure over the last decade.

"She has led the organisation very successfully to become one of the most respected trade associations of any sector, most importantly representing the industry during a vital period of the maturing process which has made renewables such a significant part of the UK energy mix we see today," Brown said.

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