Solarcentury's Derry Newman: "Why I'm leaving my dream job."

Solarcentury chief executive, Derry Newman, explains why he made one of the hardest decisions of his career by announcing plans to step down last week.

Speaking to edie energy of his surprise departure, which came on the eve of another day in court fighting cuts to Feed-In Tariffs (FITs), Mr Newman said he will 'miss it dearly' when he leaves in April.

The decision was made because Mr Newman's wife is seriously unwell and that added to the growing international side of the business meant he felt he couldn't commit to the overseas travel the firm would need.

But still short of his 55th birthday Mr Newman, who says he will be semi-retired from April, admits his timing was surprising given the on-going battle with the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) over FITs.

Solarcentury another solar firm HomeSun and campaigning charity Friends of the Earth have led the fight against the way the Government has introduced cuts to FITs.

Mr Newman said: "The fact I was leaving would have come out so there's no point in trying to keep it secret.

"Also, if the FITs ruling went against us, I didn't want people saying he's leaving because of it."

The FITs fight still leaves a bitter taste in his mouth as Mr Newman describes dealing with the coalition Government over the planned cuts.

Pic: Alistair McGowan backed the campaign against 'crazy' cuts

"We have a Government with a perception of a divine right to rule who hates being brought to account by the little man."

Pre FITs cuts Solarcentury planned job increases and Mr Newman explained in October last year Solarcentury had ten vacancies with 60 applicants for each.

The jobs were for engineers and project managers but all had to be set aside when the consultation into the cuts came in.

However, Mr Newman, who came to prominence with electronics giant Sony before concerns over the future of the planet drew him to Solarcentury in 2006, remains positive about his and the company's achievements and future.

"When I joined the business was focused on the UK and with my background was working across Europe with Sony so we began expanding with contacts in Italy, France, Spain and Germany.

"This was all in the first 12 months so it was an interesting time building links and finding the right people to represent us when we're not there.

"We're still very active in the Italian and French markets, but whoever replaces me will have to grow that beyond Europe and, sadly, I can't commit to that much travel.

"We've made progress into South Africa and it's that element of the business that will need to work on if the business if to grow."

Mr Newman certainly leaves the business in a better state than when he took over, in the accounts, filed for March last year, turnover was up 45.8% to £50,316,123 from £34,518,174 in 2010.

Profits after tax were also up by 474.2% to £2,719,788, beating a loss of £726,911 during the same period last year.

But it's not going to be all rosy for his replacement worrying things on the horizon to look out for though, according to Mr Newman, are Energy Performance Certificates (EPC) linked to FITs cash and the decision to remove the discount for solar installations on community schemes.

From April businesses will need to demonstrate their building meets a certain level of energy efficiency as a level C or above in the EPC system.

And, according to DECC, where this cannot be shown the FIT rate will be reduced from 21p/kWh to just 9p/kWh.

Mr Newman also attacked the 'socially irresponsible' decision to deny community groups discounts for solar power.

He's very critical of the 'short sighted' nature of move that has stopped solar being installed on social housing as it could be a way to remove these costs from local authorities in the long term.

But overall he says he'll leave his dream job with the industry in a good place and confident for the future.

"Solar grid parity will be achieved its not far away I'm certain of that it's already been done in parts of southern Italy.

"I believe I'll be leaving a glide path for my successor, but it will be a tough job and they will have to tolerate storms as it will be rough times before 2015.

"But 21p will keep the industry going, it' ok."

Luke Walsh


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