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

Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

JavaScript Developer (Angular, Web Forms, HTML5, Ext JS,CSS3)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: JavaScript Dev...


£50000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

SAP Data Migration Consultant

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a FTSE 100 organisation are u...

Programme Support, Coms, Bristol, £300-350p/d

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice