The managing director of Australia’s largest wind farm owner, ASX-listed Infigen Energy, has announced he is retiring from the role, after 16 years with the company, eight of them at its helm.
Miles George, who in his time at Infigen, and more recently as chair of the Clean Energy Council, has been one of the Australian renewable energy’s industry’s strongest advocates, said on Thursday he would be leaving his role as MD at the end of 2016.
Taking his place will be Ross Rolfe, a former coal and gas industry executive of many years’ experience, who has also served on the Infigen board for the past five years.
In an interview with RenewEconomy on Thursday, George described the choice of Ross Rolfe as “a great one” and said his background in fossil fuels was not cause for concern.
“Ross has huge experience in the electricity sector over many, many years,” George told RE over the phone. “The fact that his technology background is in coal and gas I don’t think is in any way a negative.
“As we all know, the energy network is going through a huge transformation that necessarily involves a much higher penetration of renewables.
“It’s not surprising to me at all that Ross is keen to be a leader in that transition to net zero carbon (electricity generation).”
“He has been on our board for the last five years and has an intimate knowledge of our strategy. His intention is to continue that and to build on that and to take the business forward… and to continue developing our pipeline of assets.”
For George, he says the timing is right for him to pass the reins, after being part of the company in one way or another since its inception (“I first went down to Lake Bonney in January 2000.”).
“In any business I think it’s healthy to have change and have new blood,” he said. “That’s why I Initiated a process in May or June… and today’s announcement is a result of that process.
“I’ve hugely enjoyed the process of building the business that is now Infigen … to what it is today, the largest wind farm owner in Australia. It’s got a great future and a stable capital structure.”
George told RE that over a period of some rather extreme highs and lows for the industry, its current status quo was probably a high point – both for the industry, which has returned to relative stability after years of policy uncertainty; and for Infigen, whose business has stabilised since it sold off its US assets and returned its focus to Australia.
“Without doubt, most people in the renewable energy sector would acknowledge that the period of regulatory uncertainty during the 2014 RET review under the Abbott administration was a very bad experience for our industry, but also for foreign investment in Australia generally.
“It was a low point that was reflected in a 90 per cent fall in investment. And it was a low point in Infigen’s share price,” George said.
The high point, he added, was the period following the resolution of bipartisan support for the RET and the events that followed that, including the election of Malcolm Turnbull, Australia’s commitment at Paris, and Infigen’s sale of it US assets.
“The opportunities for Infigen now are way better than ever before,” George said. “The high point is pretty much close to now, and that’s one of the factors that led to my decision to move on.”
But George’s departure from the top job at Infigen is by no means a retirement from the renewables industry, or, indeed, from the company – will be staying on at Infigen for at least another 12 months in a part-time advisory role.
Beyond that, he told RE, “I’m very keen to continue in my role providing advocacy for the sector, and for sensible policy. “I’m definitely not going to be leaving the sector or my role advocating for it,” he said.
Podcast: Miles George speaking with ITK’s David Leitch