The Conversation: Maria McCaffery, renewable-energy executive



Where did you grow up?

Kirkby, on the outskirts of Liverpool. I'm the seventh of 10 children. There were a lot of hand-me-downs.

You do have a bit of a Scouse accent


A little bit. In business, can a strong accent be a bit of a negative?

Any strong accent creates a poor impression. But so does speaking with a plum in one's mouth. I don't think a hint of an accent is a problem to anybody, and I don't think it's been a hindrance to me. Most people would find a hint of an accent, or being able to place somebody, as actually quite endearing.

What did your parents do?

My father was a mechanical engineer, and my mother was a housewife – you would be, wouldn't you, if you had 10 children.

You are a morning person, right?

Oh yes. I rise at four and leave the house at 5.20am. It's the best time of the day. I arrive into London at 7.20 and I'm in the office at 7.45. The commute gives me time to do "my" work before telephones start ringing. I try not to get to bed after 11pm.

That's still just five hours sleep – do you not feel drained?

It's become a way of life. I've done it now for seven years.

What do you do in your spare time?

What spare time?

Cooking, maybe?

I've got half a dozen meals I can prepare in 15 minutes. I don't do ready meals.

You studied chemistry at Manchester, was it male-dominated?

My entire life has been spent in a minority of women, starting with being in a home of seven brothers and a dad. I did physics, chemistry and mathematics at A-level, but I didn't go straight to university, I went off to work in a chemical laboratory.

How did the men treat you?

I've never had any issues with sex discrimination. I'm sure there are lots of women who wouldn't thank me for saying this, but a lot of the difficulties that arise in male-dominated worlds that women are moving in [are caused by] the behaviour of the women themselves. Sometimes women behave as if they've got something to prove. Without wanting to sound high-handed or arrogant – I just assumed equality and was never challenged.

Have you worked with women?

The renewable energy sector has more women working in it than any other branch of the energy world. The women I have met in renewables have been inspiring.

Renewables generate 12.3 per cent of Britain's electricity generation. We hear a lot about wind, but less about wave and tidal – why?

On-shore wind is the leading technology, but we've been developing it since the early 1990s. It's had a head-start. Wave and tidal are at an earlier stage of their technological development so their contribution is more modest, but in the last five years we've taken great strides forwards.

People say renewables are expensive.

The additional cost to householders has been exaggerated by unsympathetic parties. The cost to a domestic consumer for all renewables is less than £20 in a year.

A lot of people don't want wind turbines in their area.

If everybody says "great, fantastic, so long as you don't build it anywhere near me", that's being a little short-sighted, a little socially irresponsible, perhaps not a little bit selfish as well.


Maria McCaffery, 54, is the chief executive of Renewable UK, Britain's leading trade body for wind, marine and tidal energy. Born in Liverpool, she now lives in Warwickshire. In 1998, she was awarded an MBE for her services to international trade

Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
Morrissey pictured in 2013
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
Field of broken dreams: Andy Bell visits Passchendaele
news5 News's Andy Bell visited the killing fields of the Great War, and his ancestor - known only from his compelling war diary - came to life
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In my grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel