“Tête-à-tête with Grzeg” is a series of captivating conversations between the people who make a difference in the energy industry and our CEO, Grzegorz
Marecki. In these interviews, we delve into the challenges, opportunities and successes of the industry. Each interviewee provides a unique perspective that helps to enrich the broader discussion. This exchange takes readers on an exciting journey into the heart of the energy sector and its key players.
G: Helen, tell me about your background
H: Sure. Well, I’m told I have what is called a “squiggly” career.
I graduated in Zoology from the University of Glasgow in the 90s with the hope of becoming the next David Attenborough. Unfortunately, we were in a recession and the prospects for any job were 50/50, so I continued to study in a more vocational subject, taking a MSc in Ecological Economics at the University of Edinburgh.
After volunteering with Friends of the Earth Scotland, I started a job with them as an Energy and Anti-Nuclear Campaigner. I stayed with them for 5 years and as well as making some lifelong friends it really helped me to understand and navigate the energy scene in Scotland.
I then went on to work for a wind energy consultancy in Glasgow. It was still very early days for the wind energy industry and I tried to absorb as much knowledge as possible. I worked in and then ran the “Strategic Studies” department which was basically pulling together non-technical challenges from across the business – anything from resource mapping to market entry for new direct drive technology to supply chain to grid charges. Grid always seemed to be the hardest problem! After that I moved to other consultancies as a Director and Partner – mainly specialising in grid and route to market. Then just at the end of 2021, I left consultancy to become a developer at Fred. Olsen Seawind.
G: Tell me more about your role
H: My job is great! I’m in charge of all things grid for the company. That includes anything from economics and market-based research to making sure the power gets from the turbines to the customer, and also working with colleagues to get the connection consented and built. It’s a mix of policy, engineering, economics and relationship building. As a consultant you get to dip in and out of many, many projects but now it’s such a nice feeling to be part of a team that is working on the same projects from the start right through to the end – I get to see it through and we all have the same goal.
G: What do you consider to be the most exciting or rewarding aspect of working in the renewables industry?
H: I was always environmentally minded and as a result, drawn to green energy. But now, what I find the most fulfilling is seeing new talent join the industry, full of excitement and eagerness to learn. I genuinely love to pass on my knowledge and help people grow.
It’s also an industry that forces you to be more creative and think outside the box. It’s very motivating to have to find solutions that have never been done before.
G: What do you consider to be the biggest obstacles facing the growth of the renewables industry?
H: Well, aside from the grid there are now also capacity constraints in people and kit (supply chain). And it’s not always straightforward to recruit and access younger people with a passion for STEM. The day job is so busy at the moment it can be a challenge to do the level of training that’s needed to fuel the growth of the industry, at the same time.
G: Can you talk about any innovative or unique approaches your company is taking to develop and implement its projects?
H: As you know, we have recently used Optioneer on our Muir Mhòr project. That’s a good example of what I mentioned earlier about having to find new solutions to new challenges. With the Holistic Network Design (HND) defined by National Grid ESO, we wanted to be proactive in gaining a sufficient understanding of the project space – which extended from Moray to the East Midlands – without expending multi £M on survey vessels, and to be well prepared for what the HND process might out-turn. The platform itself is visually impressive and has proven a helpful collaborative working tool for external stakeholder interactions, as well as internal multi-disciplinary meetings.
Additionally, and I’m not sure it qualifies as an innovation but as a developer we are having to change the way we work with neighbouring developers – namely work collaboratively with them on shared problems such as regional ornithological surveys. We are all very accustomed to developing common high level positions through trade associations in this industry. But this is something else: sharing data, sharing contractors. It's not a completely comfortable place to be for competitors. But we’re doing it and it is going to be the new normal I think.
G: Can you share with me any big lessons you've learned during your time in this role?
H: It’s a lesson for my life really but there is rarely a problem that I can solve on my own or a situation that hasn’t been improved by a fresh perspective.
So many different disciplines need to come together in this industry, you can never know everything and you need to be prepared to admit that! Don’t be afraid to ask for help and learn from others.