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The Hoggett Bowers 2 Minute Interview: Lindsay McQuade

Lindsay McQuade
CEO, ScottishPower Renewables

What challenge did you tackle and overcome in your business this week?

This week, like all of them, presented a unique set of challenges – every day is an opportunity to think about how my business and team will make our contribution to the transition to a cleaner, greener energy system. This week saw me engage with a range of our stakeholders, including government, industry and communities, to address the barriers to delivering renewable generation. Headlines and targets are all well and good but if the barriers fail to be addressed and the enabling policy is not implemented, it simply won’t happen. With the right policy framework, we can go further and faster to deliver more renewable generation, create jobs quickly and reduce carbon emissions.

Which ongoing business challenge is occupying your thoughts this week/month?

Net Zero may be a relatively new term to some but it is something that we all need to be alive to. Each one of us will have a role in realising Net Zero by 2050 if we are to avert the effects of the climate emergency. That might mean thinking about where the electricity you use at work or at home comes from, what fuel source powers your car, or how you heat your home.

At ScottishPower Renewables we are advancing our plans to invest some £3.7bn to 2025 to deliver green generation and storage infrastructure to enable the transition to a clean and green electricity system, generating enough clean energy to power close to 4 million homes. These plans will deliver employment, create and support the delivery of new supply chains and will bring economic and social benefits to communities. We have contributed more than £38million to support community benefit schemes and we are actively working with communities to encourage using community benefit funds to deliver Net Zero initiatives. Today’s actions really will make a difference tomorrow.

We have had 2 national lockdowns and a range of regional tier variations over many months. In what way has your approach to these lockdowns / tier restrictions permanently influenced your own way of working and have you made, or will you make any further adjustments now we are in a 3rd lockdown?

The resilience of ScottishPower Renewables during the pandemic has been my main takeaway from the last 12 months – we were able to transition our business quickly to the new way of working. Whether that was developing new working practices at our operational plants, developing safe methods of work for the construction of vital infrastructure, or using technology to ensure we remained a connected business, the response across the business was fantastic. Our agility as a business and the dedication of everyone at ScottishPower Renewables during this period not only kept our windfarms operating as normal but ensured continuing progress on our pipeline of new projects.

With an agile approach to office/home working prior to the pandemic it was almost a seamless transition to working from home for some of the team. I’ve been in the office now and again over the period, and I am missing the interaction, discussion and exchange of ideas– it’s just not the same through a screen! I am keen to see a return to the workplace, and most importantly the human interaction and sparking of conversations as we move out of what has been hopefully a once in a lifetime event.

Given the reliance on technology during lockdowns, do you now envisage an acceleration in digital transformation in the short-medium term?

Innovation and digitalisation are key features of the renewable generation industry – you can imagine that the vast quantities of data that are produced each and every minute from our fleet of over 1200 wind turbines located across the country. Constantly monitoring wind speed, weather conditions, mechanical performance in addition to electrical output has required ScottishPower to develop platforms to handle huge volumes of data. That data is being put to use to ensure that renewable generation provides the services that were once the domain of coal and gas generation. So not so much of an acceleration, but rather a continuance to keep making the grid greener.

What are the new working norms starting to look like for your organisation?

Prior to C-19, we’d implemented in a new approach to working termed “Better Balance” – we recognised that work and life need to balance, and that with family and caring responsibilities, greater flexibility was required. Through lockdown I’ve seen the most hardened cynics come around – we all now see what’s possible, and whilst I believe home working will stay at least in part, I know that there’s an appetite to get back to the office to engage and collaborate in person.

There is a dramatic reduction in carbon footprints during lockdowns, what is your business planning to do to help continue this going forward?

Over the last decade, ScottishPower radically changed its business model and reduced its carbon footprint – today all the power we generate comes from wind generation, and we’ve added solar and battery storage to our portfolio. We were the first UK integrated energy company to make the jump to 100% green energy back in 2018. Every decision we take is with reference to Net Zero and we’ve a committed plan to double our renewable capacity and deliver the networks to electrify transport and decarbonise heat. With COP26 coming to Glasgow in 2021, where ScottishPower is headquartered, and in our role as Principal Partner, we want to share our journey and support others in taking the necessary steps to reduce their carbon footprint.

In terms of our team, and as part of our Better Balance approach, they’re empowered to choose a space or location to work based on the task at hand, with the ability to collaborate and engage in- person where required, which will reduce our carbon footprint through reduced travel requirements. Our employees are so committed that they’ve also come together to form our latest employee network, I-CAN, to further action on climate change across ScottishPower. A great initiative which further underlines the passion and commitment of the team in further reducing emissions.

In terms of personal well-being, what changes have you made, and will you stick to them post lockdown?

For me, lockdown has seen a change in my week – restrictions meant I’ve not travelled but still attend meetings, conference and events across the globe. Technology has enabled me to work from home, cutting my commute and being able to spend the evening with family, whether that was a movie night or one of our many, many walks. We live in a technology enabled, highly connected world and the lockdown really brought it home to me that you can be effective and make change happen wherever you are.

Who or what has inspired you this week? (They don’t need to be famous)

As a board director of RenewableUK, the UK’s leading trade association for the renewable industry, I’ve the privilege of being a sponsor of their inaugural Shadow Board. This board comprises the rising talent from the renewables industry, with a diverse range of experiences, backgrounds and views on what the future of this vibrant industry will look like. I can’t help but to be impressed by them at every interaction – their enthusiasm and understanding of their contribution to transition to a cleaner, greener energy system is inspiring.

Given the recent announcements pertaining to a roadmap out of lockdown are you planning to book a summer holiday this year? If so where ideally would you like to go?

A staycation beckons – right now, anywhere else other than the four walls of my house would be a welcome change!

Any words of wisdom?

Covid-19 is a challenge but one that we appear to be finally making some headway against – if we can apply that same gusto to the climate emergency, I believe that we will be the generation to make a difference. We’ve got the technology it’s just a matter of getting the other building blocks in place to make it happen.