SCOTTISHPower Renewables’ chief executive Lindsay McQuade might only have
been in the role for a few months, but it is undeniable that the company
has shaped her career and it is a business she feels passionately about.
In February, Ms McQuade replaced Keith Anderson to lead ScottishPower
Renewables when he stepped up to take the top job as chief executive of
Scottish Power. But she has been with ScottishPower for almost 20 years and
says she has witnessed its transformation in that time.
Ms McQuade joined ScottishPower back in 1999 when her first boss was Mr
Anderson, so her progress reflects his move up the corporate ladder in the
last two decades.
Some might view 20 years as a long time to stick with one company, but Ms
McQuade is keen to point out just how much the business has evolved since
then. And it’s unsurprising that the ScottishPower of today does not
resemble the one she joined for several reasons, including its takeover by
Spanish energy company Iberdrola in 2007 and the global shift to green power.
“If you think where electricity classically came from, it was from burning
stuff that we dug out of the ground. In 1999, that was how ScottishPower
made its money,” says Ms McQuade. “Now we make our money from green, clean
energy. It’s a very different operating model. It has been fantastic to be
part of that journey and transition.”
Despite her achievements in becoming chief executive of ScottishPower
Renewables, Ms McQuade does not come from a traditional engineering
She’s an economics graduate, who describes herself as a bit of an “oddball”
for starting to study and enjoy the subject while still at school.
She began her career after university with Clydesdale Bank to “understand
how markets worked”. After a couple of years, she moved to Stakis as a
treasury analyst before it was taken over by Hilton. “At Stakis, I got
really interested in, and aware of, the principles of risk management and
how a company worked when it was going through a period of change,” she says.
Such experience of change will clearly have stood her in good stead at
ScottishPower where she first joined the internal audit function and was
most recently ScottishPower Renewables’ director of policy and innovation
before becoming chief executive of the business.
From starting out visiting ScottishPower’s core assets 20 years ago –
including the coal-fired power stations at Cockenzie and Longannet – Ms
McQuade moved into renewables in 2006.
It’s not just the nature of Scottish Power’s business that has changed in
the last two decades but also the role of women in the workplace –
especially the challenges of being a female in a male-dominated industry.
Ms McQuade says: “When asked about this challenge back in 1999 I referred
to it being a shoulder pad thing. You had to go into meetings with a jacket
on. Now, looking back, I think that was an attempt as a female to be bigger
and have more impact in the room.
“Now, it’s quite different and I’ve seen that change over the period. Women
can now be themselves and work well with men.”
But she says the main challenges in her career haven’t been a result of
gender but working in an industry going through a transformation.
“Renewables in the late 1990s was an embryonic industry. Now the renewables
sector supports thousands of jobs and is of huge amount of economic benefit
both in Scotland and the UK.”
It is onshore wind that Ms McQuade gets passionate about and which
ScottishPower Renewables has been very active in recently.
The business invested in 474MW (megawatts) of onshore wind generation –
enough to power more than 280,000 homes – across eight sites in Scotland
built in 2016 and 2017.
It estimates that from a capital investment of £650 million, it can expect
a lifetime investment of £1.6 billion covering an operating life of 25
years. Of the total £1.6bn investment, it says that more than £800m is in
Scotland, with around £250m in the south west region.
Its study of the economic impact of the wind farms over their life span
also found that they contributed a total GVA (gross value added) of £1.3bn
and added £814m to UK earnings, with £194m of that to local earnings.
Ms McQuade says: “This smashes the misconception that the value of onshore
wind leaves the country. It’s staying with us and we’re creating long-term
And she says onshore wind is vital as electricity is becoming increasingly
fundamental to every single element of people’s lifestyles, from smart
homes to smart cars.
Ms McQuade, along with others in the industry, is vocal about the need to
address the issue that onshore wind does not have an obvious route to
market, unlike every other form of electricity.
Earlier this year the renewable sector warned that UK Government policy has
been stalling the growth of onshore wind, despite the commercial investment
that has gone into turbines.
The Contract for Difference (CFD) government regime is intended to give
greater certainty and stability of revenues to electricity generators by
reducing their exposure to volatile wholesale pries while protecting
consumer from paying too much.
But while another CFD auction is planned for offshore wind and less
established technologies next year, nothing new is currently scheduled for
Ms McQuade says: “I would love to see that process being made more
efficient by having another auction for onshore wind running in parallel.
We think that would make sense. I don’t doubt for a minute that we would
see some breathtaking results in terms of really low pricing for onshore
She points to research that shows public support for the development of
renewables and onshore wind in particular. The business, energy and
industrial strategy department of the UK Government does a public attitudes
tracker every quarter. The last tracker found that 85 per cent of the
British public support renewable generation and 76 per cent support onshore
During Onshore Wind Week, the first in the UK, which ran from June 10, Ms
McQuade took part in events and talks in Scotland and Westminster to
outline the benefits of this type of green energy.
It included a family day at ScottishPower Renewable’s Whitelee Windfarm –
the UK’s largest onshore wind farm, located on Eaglesham Moor just 20
minutes from central Glasgow.
Ms McQuade believes the visibility of wind farms can help people understand
where their electricity comes from and the importance of clean, green
energy. Educating children on the energy sector and encouraging them to
think about careers in the area is also something that Ms McQuade believes
in and she says future employees must come from a diverse range of
Gender diversity is part of the mix and earlier year Scottish Power and CBI
Scotland launched the Powerful Women mentoring scheme with other Scottish
business leaders to help increase the number of females in executive roles.
As well as clearly being proud to have had a successful career with
Scottish Power, Ms McQuade is also pleased that she’s managed to do it
without leaving Glasgow. And she does not seem to have itchy feet to leave
the business or her home city any time soon. Her current priority is
“finding where we are going to go next” and in ten years’ time she fully
expects to be with Scottish Power, saying “I hope there will still be
opportunities for me”.
What countries have you most enjoyed travelling to, for business or
leisure, and why?
Every time I’m in Spain for business it hits home just how successful
Iberdrola has been in cultivating and delivering its renewable vision. It’s
a great country with huge history.
My favourite place on the planet (so far) is Lake Louise in Canada. Walking
on the frozen lake with my husband and daughter is a favourite memory.
When you were a child, what was your ideal job? Why did it appeal?
As a child I wanted to be an architect – I was fascinated by designing
structures that people could live in and work from.
What was your biggest break in business?
Returning from maternity leave in 2011 and being asked to head our energy
policy team in ScottishPower Renewables. I wasn’t sure it was the right
move but it turned out to be the best experience ever.
What was your worst moment in business?
As a young graduate in the late 1990s, being made redundant following the
acquisition of Stakis plc, the hotels group, by Hilton.
Who do you most admire and why?
I admire those that are tenacious, challenging and open minded.
What book are you reading and what music are you listening to?
I’m reading ‘A Good Time to be a Girl’ by Helena Morrissey and listening to
a varies selection of playlists – Ludovico Einaudi, Pet Shop Boys, Calvin
Harris Beyonce, and with a young daughter, a bit of Taylor Swift and Little
What was the last film you saw?
From end to end? Possibly ‘The Last Jedi’ at Christmas. My current TV
obsession is ‘The Good Fight’– intelligent plotlines, strong female
characters, and a good dose of humour.