The happiest of tasks falls to me today - to offer our warmest congratulations to our former Chief Executive Maria McCaffery, who was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for services to the renewable energy sector.
I had the privilege of working closely with Maria, as my stint as Chair of RenewableUK started while she was Chief Executive, and I speak for the whole association when I say how pleased we are to see her award. On a personal level, my time working with Maria was immensely pleasurable. Of course her insights and knowledge proved to be invaluable, but on top of this she possesses a combination of scouse wit, personal integrity and emotional awareness which I wish was more common in the business world. If everyone in industry could cut through in the way she does, we would get a lot more business done. She is held in high esteem across the industry; And; it was great to see her earlier this month at our biggest event of the year, Offshore Wind Energy 2017 at ExCeL in London, representing James Fisher and Sons, which provides marine and specialist engineering services worldwide.
Maria led the sector through a period of unprecedented change – we experienced boom years of extraordinary growth and saw spectacular technical innovation, which sent costs plummeting. It’s no overstatement to say that under her period of leadership, the sector grew up. She took wind energy from the margins, when it was referred to (sometimes pejoratively) as “alternative energy”, into the mainstream, where it has become a main pillar within our modern energy system. When Maria arrived in 2006, wind generated just 1% of UK electricity needs – now it is providing 11%. Onshore wind is now the cheapest source of new power bar none, and offshore wind is set to be cheaper than new nuclear in the upcoming round of CfD auctions. Her record is one of delivery.
She oversaw a cultural change too, making RenewableUK more business-focussed, as befits a sector which has gone global. Renewable energy now attracts $290 billion a year in investment worldwide. We are an economic powerhouse, with UK-based companies exporting goods and services to more than 40 countries across six continents. This work is developing further under the dynamic leadership of Hugh McNeal. All of us feel privileged to work for an organisation which is at the cutting edge of the energy sector. We have a great deal more which we are determined to accomplish, and it’s heartening to see good work being given an official seal of recognition. We are all proud of Maria McCaffery OBE.