Welcome to our ‘People Insights’ series!
Join us as we delve into the unique stories, talents, and experiences of the incredible individuals who make up our professional family. From inspiring journeys and innovative ideas to personal milestones and professional achievements, get ready to be captivated by the diverse and fascinating world of our people.
Name: David Still
Title: Chairman and Co-Founder
Years in the Renewable Industry: 40
What initially drew you to the field of renewable energy?
Share a pivotal moment or project from your early years in the industry.
Nearly 40 years ago I left the mangrove swamps of Papua New Guinea to end up in the wilds of Northumberland, starting a career in renewable energy with pioneering works cooperative – Northumbrian Energy Workshop. With clients such as Shell, BP, and the UN we led developments in small scale renewable energy including a 15-turbine wind farm in Outer Mongolia – each turbine output was 50W and could light up a yurt!
These early efforts led us to monitor the site of one of the first CEGB wind farms in Wales and ended with the development of semi-offshore wind farm at Blyth Harbour in 1992.
Describe a landmark achievement that you’re particularly proud of.
How have you seen the renewable energy landscape evolve over your career?
I think that there is always a significant achievement during the different phases of life. So, my first wind farm, watching the boat arrive at Blyth full of a wind farm was one. Herding the industry to work together to transition from academia to commerciality. Dreaming of the latest developments in new technology. Never say never, there are always opportunities to open up new market areas. Still the best feeling is walking onto a new potential site and envisaging the opportunity. Even now I will be proud to be part of our village team delivery a solar PV project. The UK’s first offshore wind farm was surreal – we battled everyone from Government to the regulators to confounding the rest of the industry.
The landscape has changed from sandals & beards to suits & lawyers….. It’s now a real established industry. We are seeing many jobs being created, green electricity generated and a change in the way we see the world. Too little, too late? No, but only just. We need to keep our feet on all of the accelerators (EV vehicles of course) and ensure that our children’s children do not suffer from the political inaction that surrounds us.
LEADING THE WAY:
As a pioneer, how do you stay ahead of industry trends and innovations?
Share an instance where you had to navigate a significant challenge in the renewables sector.
Keep on talking, read the literature, visit the odd exhibition (All Energy is my favourite – especially when it was in Aberdeen).
I was the Renewables Advisor at the Department of Trade & Industry, and one night I worked most of it to create a pitch to HM Treasury to action double ROCs for offshore wind.
Working with DTI, Ofgem, the transmission owners to enable the expansion of the transmission grid including the Beauly-Denny transmission line. Ofgem hate spending money and planning for the future.
What do you hope your legacy will be in the renewable energy field?
Any advice for the next generation of leaders in the industry?
The growth of the offshore wind sector from Blyth to the current developments in the UK, Europe & the rest of the world remain a great sense of pride & achievement.
Working together really does deliver results – common goals end up delivering the larger market opportunities.
How has your daily routine contributed to your success?
Share a daily habit or routine that you believe has been instrumental in your achievements.
Waking up early, clearing my desk, and waiting for the rest of the world to wake up to destroy my peace.
Describe the most exciting technological advancement you’ve witnessed in renewable energy.
Any thoughts on the future of renewables in the UK and globally?
Once upon a time I thought that a 200kW wind turbine was a step too far. Now the sky is the limit. It’s been great to be part of that growth spurt to 20 MW wind turbines plus!!
The UK will use more & more renewables despite all of the obstacles Government put in the way. The world will see a massive growth in renewables – electricity generation, desalination, remote communities – all contributing to reducing carbon emissions and achieving net zero.
What leadership qualities do you consider crucial in the renewable energy sector?
Share a memorable leadership lesson you’ve learned over the years.
Instilling confidence, achieving stretched goals. Gentle persuasion until hard decisions needed.
FAVOURITES AND INSPIRATIONS:
Favourite renewable energy project you’ve been a part of:
Who or what inspires you in the field?
Any project I built at Blyth. In my early days I was always impressed by Bonus as a technology supply and Henrick Stiesdal as a technology leader.
How do you maintain a balance between industry leadership and personal life?
Share a moment where you found inspiration outside of the boardroom.
Always spent too much time working and but no regrets. A good personal working relationship at home has ensured that dreams have been achieved.
REFLECTIONS ON 40 YEARS:
As you approach the 40-year mark, what reflections or sentiments come to mind?
Any special plans or goals for the milestone?
40 years…. How time flies by. No special plans except to keep on working.
Morning person or night owl:
Favourite sustainable practice in your daily life:
Minimising energy consumption at home, still developing a project for my village, & cooking good food to share with friends.
Book or piece of advice that has shaped your career:
Never believe that something is impossible, its always worth trying to achieve your dreams.
Favourite renewable energy technology:
Share a message or piece of wisdom for those aspiring to make an impact in the renewable energy sector.
Never fall out with anyone (at least not in public). The industry is small, and you meet people again & again as life progresses!!