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Utility Week 24th April 2015

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UTILITY WEEK | 24TH - 30TH APRIL 2015 | 7 Interview A ndrew Whalley is a strange mix of boiling frustra- tion and cool confidence. The chief executive of the UK's largest onshore wind developer, Renew- able Energy Generation (REG), is a true blue Tory who feels he has been betrayed by a prime minister who "cas- ually" announced a moratorium on his core business, first in April 2014 then in February this year and again in the recent Conservative manifesto. But he's sanguine because, he says, no matter who leads the next govern- ment, there is no road to a decarbonised economy that does not include more onshore wind. Pointing to a ring-bound document on his desk con- taining examples of a variety of renewable and low- carbon generating technologies, including their cost and capacity, Whalley triumphantly concludes: "The only one that is capable of making up the gap is onshore wind. If you give it up you might as well forget all your renewable energy targets. It's impossible – and onshore wind is cheap." REG is an AIM-listed renewables development and asset management outfit with revenues of £11.6 million in 2014. It is made up of three subsidiary businesses working across bioenergy, solar and, primarily, wind. It is also a preferred partner of Blackrock – the world's biggest fund management organisation. It understands Blackrock's needs, having launched as a fund manage- ment company itself before changing to an operating model under the intractable influence of the recession. Whalley joined REG in 2005, spurred on by a tip from a pal – former SSE chief executive Ian Marchant – that "wind is the future". The early strategy was to buy operating or near operating windfarms across Europe and "play the con- vergence game". The idea was to extract money for shareholders by refinancing them and becoming "a kind of yield plate". "We were a bit like Green Co but ten years ahead of our time," Whalley muses. Memorable projects during this period included a junior partnership in Poland's biggest windfarm at the time – Tymien – which Whalley describes as "a hoot" but "difficult". Developing windfarms in Canada follow- ing an acquisition of AIM Powergen proved an easier and more lucrative enterprise and REG thrived on its immense development portfolio of 5GW. But then the recession hit and REG, developing windfarms across two continents and dabbling in a new bio-fuel venture with "a tiny balance sheet", was sent reeling. Whalley recalls his "fairly apocalyptic view of the world" in that time of global financial meltdown. "We decided we needed to sell the Canadian business and focus on our home market, which was more in keeping with our balance sheet and P&L," he says. But it was a decision easier made than executed when the buyer, International Power, "embarrassingly for a FTSE 100 company", ran out of money. Eventually though, the deal was achieved for "quite a good price" – about $130 million. "We've been focused on the UK ever since," says Whalley with an air of relief. "We run 11 operating windfarms in the UK – not very big, about 35MW – but also have a partnership with Black- rock, so whenever we need extra cash we sell a project to them and recycle the proceeds back into developing our own portfolio of projects. "Over the next few years, the idea is that, CFDs and

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