RenewableUK snaps up DECC director as new chief exec

The national trade association for Britain's wind, wave and tidal power industries has recruited a top civil servant at the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) as its new chief executive.

Hugh McNeal will join RenewableUK in April, step down from his current role as DECC’s Director of Change. McNeal replaces Maria McCaffery, who has headed up RenewableUK since 2006.

McNeal said: “It will be a privilege to represent an industry which is playing such a vital role in providing safe, secure power for our country’s homes and businesses, as well as tens of thousands of high quality jobs across the UK.”

McNeal’s other roles have included Chief Executive of the Office for Renewable Energy Deployment at DECC, and Deputy Director of Low Carbon Business at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

Policy support

He joins RenewableUK at a crucial time for the country’s wind and marine power industries. Energy Secretary Amber Rudd has drastically revised policy, announcing that subsidy support for onshore win would be cut from April – the same month that McNeal takes up his role.

Britain still makes up half of the world’s offshore wind power, and the Government is backing further expansion (expected to reach a total capacity of 11GW by 2020), but questions remain over a lack of private and public funding and fluctuating policy support for the sector.

When it comes to tidal and wave energy, McNeal joins RenewableUK at a time when the organisation is supporting calls for a more unified vision and better financial support from the UK Government to develop fully-commercialised industries. Britain is set to be home to the world’s first ever tidal lagoon energy system in Swansea Bay – but that has been delayed by a year due to the extension of negotiations over Government funding for the project.

Just today (11 January), edie has reported that the Renewable Energy Association’s Ocean Energy Group has claimed Britain’s wave and tidal energy sector is shackled by “detrimental” regulatory burdens that continue to inhibit industry growth.

‘Exceptional skills’

Speaking of the appointment of a DECC official as RenewableUK’s new chief executive, the organisation’s chairman Julian Brown said: “Hugh brings an in-depth knowledge of the entire energy sector to RenewableUK at a crucial moment in the development of wind and marine power.  

“I have no doubt that he will use his exceptional skills to represent the sector successfully, so that we can continue to increase the proportion of cost-effective electricity that we generate from home-grown sources, as well as creating jobs.”

His predecessor at RenewableUK, McCaffery, has overseen a significant expansion in the deployment of onshore and offshore wind during her 10 years in the job.

Brown added: “Maria’s achievements as CEO have been extraordinary. When she took on the role, 1% of the UK’s electricity was generated by wind. By last year, that had increased to 11%. She has deservedly won the admiration and respect of everyone involved in this dynamic sector, and we wish her all the very best for the future.”

Luke Nicholls

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