Leadership passes to a new generation

WORLDWIDE: The third Windpower Monthly Top 30 -- our annual review of key influencers -- reflects the rapid turnover in chief executives of some of the leading turbine manufacturers with Vestas, GE and Siemens all now headed by new and unfamiliar faces.

Departures… The year has been marked by big changes in industry boardrooms (pic: Alamy)
Departures… The year has been marked by big changes in industry boardrooms (pic: Alamy)

It is surely not often that a person, judged the most influential player in an industry one year, should fail even to make the long list the next. Such, however, is the fate of Ditlev Engel, unceremoniously removed from the post of Vestas CEO in August, and thus wielding somewhat less influence in the wind industry than he did last year.

Other names that were well to the fore last year — such as Felix Ferlemann of Siemens, Vic Abate of GE and Enercon founder Aloys Wobben — are also missing from the 2013 list of wind's movers and shakers as they seek new challenges, shift to new divisions or drift into retirement. There is a distinct feel of the passing of the old guard in this list, of a new generation emerging at the top of the wind industry's leading companies. No fewer than 18 of the 30 people in this year's list — 60% — did not feature in 2012. Indeed, the top three are all new entries.

The old guard's replacements, some of whom are new to the wind business, certainly face a testing time. The past 12 months have not been easy for the industry, and there is precious little sign of improvement on the horizon. The pace of growth has slowed markedly in China and India; Australia has elected an anti-wind administration; Europe remains plagued by policy uncertainty and sovereign debt; and the US is edging closer to the cliff signposted by the expiry of the production tax credit. If 2013 was tough, the brutal reality is that 2014 is likely to be tougher.

Our Top 30 also suggests the industry will have to weather this storm without much in the way of political support. Of the three political influencers in our final list, not one has made it into in the top 20, a reflection perhaps that global energy policy is being driven by finance ministries rather than energy and environment departments. Wind energy does have its champions, but they are struggling to make their voices heard above the strident clamour of the anti-wind lobbies.

On a more positive note, perhaps, is the entry of two influencers from Latin America, a region where the industry is looking for continued growth in the light of policies that favour wind power.

The number of developers/utilities has increased this year, at the expense of technology and finance entrants, a growing sign of a maturity in the marketplace. Manufacturers, however, remain top of the list and prominent in their positions, taking the top three slots, with only one of the nine falling outside the top 20.

How we compiled the list

To generate our long list of industry influencers, we canvassed opinion on worthy entrants from a number of market players, including wind-industry organisations and this magazine's specialist correspondents. We then conducted a readers' poll of our long list, in categories in which the entrants operate - manufacturer, technology, developer/utility, finance/investment, trade association, political influence - and allowed readers to nominate people not on the list. The final ranking was made with consideration for the degree of support registered for individuals tempered by editorial judgment.

Overleaf is the final Top 30, showing the categories in which the influencers were chosen, and the change in their position from last year's list.

30. Fatih Birol

IEA chief economist

(new entry)

Trade association

Listed by Forbes magazine in 2011 as fourth of the seven most-influential people in the world energy sector, the Turkish-born economist is best known for developing the International Energy Agency's annual World Energy Outlook, a primary source for strategic analysis of global energy markets.

29. Francesco Starace

Enel Green Power CEO

(new entry)


The holder of a degree in nuclear engineering, Starace has led the renewables subsidiary of Italy's largest utility since its inception in 2008. The division currently operates 4.3GW of wind projects and has ambitious plans for much more, most of which will be installed in emerging markets, notably Eastern Europe, South America and South Africa.

28. Tom Kiernan


(new entry)

Trade association

A self-confessed Republican, but a veteran of the US conservation scene, Kiernan was appointed CEO of the American Wind Energy Association in May. He faces well-organised and generously funded opponents of wind power within the US political establishment, and considerable uncertainty over wind's future once the production tax credit expires in December.

27. Jean-Paul Prates

Cerne president

(new entry)

Political influence

Brazil is growing rapidly as a global wind-power player, and few people have played a bigger role in its expansion than the Brazilian-born Prates. This former oil and biofuels executive has wholeheartedly embraced wind energy and promotes it through his renewable-energy think tank, Cerne.

26. Torben Moger Pedersen

PensionDanmark CEO

(2012: 11)


While other holders of substantial pension funds have wrung their hands in complaint of low interest rates and the volatility of equities markets, Pedersen has taken his firm into investing directly in wind projects. This year's boldest move was a $200-million investment in the Cape Wind offshore project, set to become the US's first utility-scale offshore wind farm.

25. Günther Oettinger

European Commissioner for Energy

(new entry)

Political influence

First elected to political office in 1979 at the age of 26, Oettinger was appointed EC member responsible for energy in February 2010. Coordinating the energy policies of a bloc that now amounts to 28 nations, many of which are still reeling from the financial crash of 2008, is proving a formidable challenge. The wind industry awaits an EU decision later this year on limiting carbon emission certificates.

24. Mathias Becker

Renova Energia CEO

(new entry)


A graduate in mechanical engineering with experience in the car industry, Becker was made CEO of Brazil's leading renewable-energy provider in January 2012. The firm now has more than 1GW of contracted installed wind capacity, which looks set to grow rapidly over the coming years as Brazil expands its wind industry.

23. Zhang Guobao

National Development and Reform Commission vice chairman

(new entry)

Political Influence

Although Zhang retired as director of China's National Energy Bureau last year, he remains a hugely influential player behind the scenes. Many years of experience in policy and infrastructure have given Zhang unrivalled knowledge of China's energy sector.

22. Ernest Moniz

US energy secretary

(new entry)

Political influence

The former nuclear physicist with the unorthodox haircut was appointed energy secretary by President Barack Obama earlier this year. Although critics accuse him of being rather too keen on shale gas, he does not fall into the climate-change denier camp. "The science is clear - certainly clear for the level that one needs for policy making," he said in his first big policy address in August.

21. Marcus Tacke

Siemens Wind Power CEO

(new entry)


The 48-year-old appointed to head the wind division of the third largest turbine manufacturer in July may be new to the wind industry, but he has plenty of experience with large industrial machinery and has worked for Siemens for the past 15 years. His first priority is to arrest the wind division's profit slide and reduce the firms's dependency on the falling US onshore market.

20. Armando Pimentel

NextEra Energy Resources CEO

(2012: 24)


Now with two years behind him as the head of the generation division of US utility NextEra, Pimentel has overseen further consolidation of the company's position as the US's leading producer of renewable energy. In 2012 it added 1.5GW of wind power to its portfolio and now operates more than 10GW of wind capacity across 19 US states and four Canadian provinces.

19. Thomas Becker


(new entry)

Trade association

The 56-year-old Dane, a veteran of the EU's corridors of power, has set himself three formidable challenges: to counter the argument that wind power needs subsidies to survive; to push EU leaders to set ambitious renewables targets for 2030; to convince the same people of the need for a pan-European grid. He has his work cut out.

18. Sönke Siegfriedsen

Aerodyn founder and MD

(2012: 5)


The 57-year-old German engineer heads an innovative and successful design and engineering consultancy that provides the technology behind some class-leading turbines, particularly in the offshore sector. Currently developing a radical two-rotor downwind unit with Ming Yang of China.

17. Christopher Knowles

EIB head of climate change division

(2012: 13)


Although the European Investment Bank lent only half the amount to renewable projects in 2012 (EUR3.3 billion) that it managed during its peak year of 2010, it remains a key player in long-term wind energy finance. Under Knowles' leadership it has provided more than EUR1 billion in funding for the UK's London Array offshore project, to take just one example.

16. Wu Gang

Goldwind CEO

(2012: 4)


China's largest wind turbine maker, and seventh in the world has adopted a prudent policy of late, focusing on improving product quality, cutting manufacturing costs and streamlining its management structure rather than all-out expansion. According to Gang, CEO since 2006, transitioning from "made in China" to "designed, engineered and created in China" is top priority.

15. William J Fehrman

MidAmerican Energy CEO and president

(new entry)


Despite a drop-off in the US, Warren Buffet-owned MidAmerican Energy has continued to remain a backer of wind energy. Earlier this year, the MidAmerican CEO Fehrman announced it had brought Facebook into a $1.8 billion deal to develop more than 1GW in Iowa. In total the company is due to bring around 3GW of wind projects online between 2012 and 2015.

14. John Eber

JP Morgan Energy Investments managing director

(new entry)


The man behind an investment portfolio that now covers more than 10GW of installed capacity across 92 wind farms in the US. Eber's team at JP Morgan pioneered tax-equity investments in the wind energy business, and now has an investment portfolio of over 10GW.

13. Alfonso Faubel

Alstom Wind vice-president

(2012: 30)


The France-based turbine manufacturer can look to 2014 with more optimism than some rivals, largely due to the interest the offshore industry has shown in its 6MW direct-drive Haliade turbine. Faubel has not been putting all of Alstom's eggs into the offshore basket, however. The company is also developing a high-geared 2.7MW turbine aimed at low-wind onshore sites for production in 2014.

12. Eddie O'Connor

Mainstream president

(new entry)


The ebullient Irishman may have reached an age where most people enjoy retirement, but he shows no signs of slowing. Mainstream, which he founded in 2008, has made some shrewd investments in emerging markets recently and secured its financial base by selling a 25% stake to Japanese trading firm Marubeni for EUR100 million.

11. Gabriel Alonso

EDPR North America CEO, AWEA chairman

(new entry)


As CEO of a developer that operates 27 wind farms across ten states in the US with a total installed capacity of 3.7GW, the 39-year-old Alonso already wields a fair amount of clout. As the new chairman of the American Wind Energy Association, he now wields even more.

10. Ignacio Martin

Gamesa executive chairman

(2012: 25)


Another relatively new boss from outside the wind industry, and another turbine manufacturer that is cutting production, closing plants and laying off workers. Martin's three-year restructuring plan for the world's sixth largest turbine maker is now well under way, with the company's future increasingly tied to two new designs, a 2.5MW onshore turbine and a 5.5MW offshore machine, that are due to go into full-scale production in 2014.

9. Xie Changjun

Longyuan Power group president

(2012: 3)


Longyuan overtook Iberdrola last year as the world's largest wind developer and, under Xie's leadership, shows few signs of slowing down any time soon. Overseas expansion, with North America, Australia, South Africa and the Middle East the main targets, is the group's key goal over the next few years.

8. Ignacio Galan

Iberdrola chairman and CEO

(2012: 6)


An award for best European utility CEO, issued by the Institutional Investor Research Group, indicates that Galan has been doing something right. But the past 12 months have seen the Spain-based utility giant selling assets to reduce a mountain of debt while its home market remains in freefall.

7. Tulsi Tanti

Suzlon chairman

(2012: 23)


It has been another difficult year for Tulsi Tanti's deeply indebted Suzlon Group. Yet the company has managed to hold on to German-based Repower and rearrange its debts through corporate restructuring in India. If it was not for an ongoing cost-cutting review, Suzlon could argue the worst is over. It is thanks to Repower that Tanti stands this high on the list and that Suzlon remains a top-five manufacturer.

6. Henrik Stiesdal

Siemens chief technology officer

(2012: 2)


The failure earlier this year of Siemens' B53 blades and the subsequent curtailment of output of the firm's 2.3MW turbine fleet were a blow to his pride and the company's reputation, as Stiesdal admits. But "the father of the wind turbine" remains a profoundly influential figure in the industry, especially as Siemens has just appointed an outsider, Marcus Tacke, to head its wind division.

5. Jürgen Zeschky

Nordex CEO

(new entry)


Pulling the company out of the Chinese market and ditching the development of an offshore turbine were bold decisions for the engineer appointed to the top job at Nordex last year. It seems to have paid off, however, with the company now back in profit and carving itself a strong presence in the market for lowand mediumspeed wind turbines.

4. Henrik Poulsen

Dong Energy CEO

(2012: 10)


With just over a year under his belt at the helm of one of the world's leading wind developers, Poulsen's strategy of shifting the company's focus from onshore to offshore is now becoming clear. Dong has sold onshore assets in Poland and its native Denmark and is now heavily committed to large-scale offshore projects in northern Europe.


3. Anne McEntee

GE vice-president for renewable

(new entry)


The daughter of a GE blue-collar worker has been keeping a low profile since taking the top job at the US wind turbine giant. But her job is clear - she needs to show that GE can turn a profit in export markets and not be overly dependent on a volatile domestic market.

2. Anders Runevad

Vestas CEO

(new entry)


New to the wind industry, the 53-year-old Swede takes control of a company that finally looks to be emerging from a non-stop round of financial, technical and legal problems. The next 12 months will see whether the former design engineer for telecoms firm Ericsson can provide the safe pair of hands that will prevent Vestas from hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

1. Nicole Fritsch-Nehring

Enercon managing director

(new entry)


Is the fourth-largest wind turbine manufacturer the best run? Enercon's decision to steer clear of the volatile US and Chinese markets, and keep out of the costly and time-consuming offshore sector, looks ever more clear-sighted. Fritsch-Nehring finds herself at the head of a company that is financially stable, growing steadily and gaining fast on the industry's giants.

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