Market Leaders Pick Their Market Leader: Who is the live wire of the energy industry?

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The Independent Online
Ed Wallis

Chairman & Chief Executive, PowerGen

I THINK that Ian Robinson, Chief Executive of ScottishPower, is very impressive. First and foremost he's a good businessman. His sound judgement and all-round competence have been integral to his company's success over the past few years. In addition, he's not at all arrogant about his achievements. He's the sort of honest, open and capable man whom I believe most people would admire and respect.

Our sector is highly regulated, strategically important to the economy and always close to the top of any government's agenda. Running a company successfully, delivering value to shareholders whilst meeting your regulatory obligations, looking after your employees and playing a responsible role in the community is therefore a very challenging balancing act. During the time that Ian Robinson has been there, ScottishPower has become one of only two truly substantial independent companies in our sector that command wide respect - the other being PowerGen of course.

Bruno Lescoeur

Chairman & Chief Executive, London Electricity

Although I am new to London Electricity, I have followed the energy business in this country with great interest from across the Channel. The British energy industry is never dull but it requires unrelenting determination. John Guinness, chairman of British Nuclear Fuel Limited, first impressed me in the run-up to the electricity industry's privatisation back in 1990.

In particular, I remember his determination throughout the privatisation process while he was at the Department of Energy - not an easy task. He has shown great character in adapting BNFL to the changing environments in which it operates, whilst maintaining the long-term potential of the nuclear industry.

I must mention PowerGen's for his determination and decisive action in making PowerGen such a force to be reckoned with. It could not have been easy building the business out of the nationalised Central Electricity Generating Board. He has built an incredibly strong brand, and he is now realising the dream of running a fully integrated company.

Jim Forbes of Scottish and Southern Energy is widely acknowledged as one of the industry's strongest characters. The merger of Southern and Scottish Hydro, very different companies and geographically distant, was a bold and original move that has underlined Jim's consistent ambition to be an important player in the industry.

Mike Hughes

Chief Executive,

Midlands Electricity

I admire a lot of people within our industry, so it is difficult to single out anyone specific. I think I'd have to nominate of PowerGen though. He started from a relatively weak position and has taken the company to exactly where he said that he would. Then there's Keith Henry of National Power whom I admire even though he's getting a lot of bad press at the moment. He too has taken the company to where he said he would, thanks to his focus and determination.

ScottishPower with Ian Robinson has also done well - but they have no excuse not to because they are in a part of the country where competition is less vigorous. Having said that, they've got a good company and a good man heading them up, I reckon they've got the best chance of us all of becoming a key international player.

Nick Clarke

Chief Executive,

Quantum Energy Group

This is a real teaser as I don't feel that there is anyone who has their head above the crowd, as it were. I do think, though, that Centrica with Roy Gardner has recovered tremendously well from their "take-or-pay" problems. I think that Roy is a very impressive guy who instigated their recovery from a situation that looked very bad for them.

Another man of energy whom I admire is John Devaney who used to head up Eastern Group but left at the end of last year and is currently trying to get a power consortium together. He was a major figure in the process of bringing the utilities industry up to date. I've got immense respect for him as a person too.

And finally, I have to mention of PowerGen. He has always stood out as a bit of a figurehead for me - he is always at the forefront of things in terms of the power market.

Graham Hall

Chief Executive,

Yorkshire Electricity

I think, were I to chose one person in the industry who impresses me, it would have to be Duncan Whyte of ScottishPower. Alongside us and Eastern, ScottishPower has spearheaded the opening up of the world electricity market.

Furthermore, at forums he is a major contributor - really hands-on. Duncan is a man with vision and stature and very clear, very good ideas. He's an intelligent man and a good thinker - in fact he'd make a great Yorkshireman!

I admire his direct, pragmatic approach to business. He has no airs and graces, which means he can communicate just as well with those on the floor as with those right at the top of the industry. The proof of the pudding is his track record, which is a good one: in the past seven years he has increased ScottishPower's market capital by an impressive margin. For all these reasons, he's the chap I most admire in the energy business at the moment.

Neil Tribick

Director,

The Gas Company

It's a difficult task to pick someone out in our industry because, to be honest, there's nobody impressive around at the moment. There aren't any great personalities. The only man who ever did impress me was Sir James McKinnon, the first director general of Ofgas.

He was at the forefront of regulation when it happened in our industry and was all for freedom of choice for the consumer. He did stand out and was a very dynamic worker.

He fought a great battle to create that competitive edge, which enabled all of our companies - gas, electricity and oil - to compete and to create a new kind of industry. As a champion of the buyer he was tremendous, and he was equally good from the perspective of the supplier.

He was a thoroughly exceptional force in the industry and has been served well by his experience of big industry. He's not an academic but a businessman and an honest man. He's really the only one I could possibly pick out.

Peter Sulley

Managing Director, Independent Energy UK

As the power industry currently stands, I think the person whom I am most impressed by is Jim Whelan of Eastern Power and Trading.

I think it is in great part thanks to him and his vision that the company stands out as it does in terms of the way it has created a functional integrated operation and the way in which it is increasingly becoming a serious player on the world-wide stage.

If you try to look further for a another personality, there's quite a big gap in terms of doing something no-one else has done. There's nothing particularly fresh or interesting going on anywhere else. An equally impressive figure is John Devaney formerly of Eastern. The concept of integration really came from him. He also instigated a fresh look at regional energy companies.

Other companies seem to be still very much rooted in the past regarding work processes and structuring. John took a look at the market and readjusted his service accordingly - he saw that value lay in both the production side of power and the supply side. Most of the regulated companies look at the past but both men mentioned above are acutely aware of what the future could hold. It's their freshness of vision that I admire.

Roy Gardner

Chief Executive, Centrica

A formidable man in energy at the moment has to be Ian Robinson of ScottishPower. Under his aegis, the company has grown from a regional electricity firm in to a major national business. He has also successfully pushed the business into new areas such as telecommunications and water.

He has steered the company smoothly through acquisitions while others have struggled somewhat through them. His success has been due to his vision and his ability to build a very good team around him.

What I do think is vital to success, particularly where Centrica is concerned, is the quality of customer service - as that is how we interface with our customers. In this highly competitive business and era, the quality of customer service has to be superior if you want to succeed.

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