Conference 2017 Speaker Biographies

2017 Conference speaker biographies


Carol Thomas, Dalavich Improvement Group

In 2012, after a long career in Supply Chain Management, Business Development, and Business Consultancy, Carol Thomas moved to a remote part of Scotland (Dalavich, Argyll ) to begin a new life as a self-employed business woman.  Her business interests are Tourist Accommodation, Business Development, and Project Management.  She is currently Project Managing the implementation of a run-of-river Community Hydro Scheme on the River Avich, which is connecting to the grid via a private Active Network Management Solution.

Sue Kearns, Deputy Director of Energy Deployment Division, Scottish Government

Sue is Deputy Director of the newly formed Energy Deployment Division within the Scottish Government which has been set up to develop support and new policy for local low carbon energy systems, heat and energy efficiency, to remove energy deployment barriers, and to maximise benefits to communities and consumers, all in the context of our draft Energy Strategy.  Sue’s earlier roles within the Scottish Government include leading on onshore renewables and community energy policy, and S36 Consents, and on telecommunications and broadband policy.

 Susan Clark, Great Glen Consulting

Great Glen Consulting was established in 2012 by Susan Clark after more than 20 years in the rail, water and construction industries across a range of disciplines including operations, maintenance, general business and project management. After working on a range of large, complex projects, Susan set up Great Glen Consulting to work on smaller projects which can make a real difference to local communities. GGC is often brought in by Local Energy Scotland or HIE to assist with projects which are under stress and need help to deliver to a tight deadline.

Alex Schlicke, Scene Consulting

Alex is a project manager, landscape architect and planner with extensive experience of renewable energy developments from initial feasibility appraisals to securing planning consents and implementation.  He has worked on all scales of renewable energy development, from single turbine proposals and roof-top solar installations to S.36 wind farm applications and 600 home district heating networks. He has been landscape witness at public inquiries and planning appeals, and since 2015 has been working on a range of local energy system projects. 

Simon Robinson, Snell Bridge

Simon Robinson is the founder and Managing Director of Snell Bridge, an Edinburgh-based corporate finance business which specialises in advising clients in the energy industry.  Snell Bridge works extensively with community and local energy organisations, helping its clients to plan, finance and deliver projects.  Since 2012, Snell Bridge has acted as financial adviser in relation to the financing or sale of over 350 MW of energy projects including single 330 kW wind turbines, biomass projects, battery storage, multi-megawatt wind farms and peaking power generation assets.  In addition to his role at Snell Bridge, Simon is a Director and Trustee of Neilston Development Trust, one of the pre-eminent community organisations in Scotland.  Snell Bridge is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.


Chris Stark, Director of Energy and Climate Change, Scottish Government

Chris Stark is the Scottish Government’s Director of Energy and Climate Change. Chris was previously Head of Energy, managing the Scottish renewable energy strategy, energy consents and the operation of the energy market in Scotland. He previously headed the Strategy Unit, the Scottish Government’s central strategy team.

Chris joined the Scottish Government in 2009, following an early career in Whitehall. He has wide experience in economic policymaking, following work in HM Treasury and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.


Rachel Searle-Mbullu, Head of Communities, Foundation Scotland

Rachel has been leading Foundation Scotland’s Communities team since 2011, securing and overseeing the team’s work to administer place-based funding across Scotland. During this time delivery of the work has regionalised to better meet the diverse interests and requirements of the team’s growing community and commercial client base.

With a keen sense of the varied character and complexity of community funds and the many operational challenges and opportunities they present, Rachel has encouraged a sharpening of practice within the team to better reflect the multiple and often complex issues around capacity, representation, good governance and impact that come with the territory of community funds, whilst co-creating workable solutions with communities.

In her spare time Rachel has helped establish and run a new Duke of Edinburgh award centre in her local area and is currently working with fellow volunteers to establish a new community organisation that can be a vehicle for change and development in her own community. 


Jeremy Sainsbury OBE, Director Natural Power, Director of Scottish Renewables


Jeremy has over 28 years’ experience in the renewable energy sector.  He has been instrumental in the growth of international renewable energy consultancy Natural Power - the company employed just seven people when he joined as a Director, and now has almost 330 staff across 14 offices. He is responsible for policy and regulation issues.




Natural Power has designed, consented, constructed and operates a significant number of wind farms for a range of international clients.  The company has provided technical and due diligence services on over 60GW of client projects and have successfully consented 1GW onshore and 1.2GW offshore. Their unrivalled construction expertise has allowed the team to build out over 100 wind farms, and they are now operating over 2GW of client sites, including managing 30% of all installed onshore wind capacity in the UK.


A serving Director of Scottish Renewables from 2000 and former Chairman for seven out of thirteen years, working closely with The Scottish Government on policy for the renewable sector specialising in planning and grid matters. He regularly works with Scottish Ministers on industry working groups. Having been on the Board for Association of Electricity Producers (now Energy UK) for six years, Jeremy is now the Chair of the Renewable Energy Committee, a member of the Generation Committee and of the main Board, representing small generators.  In 2013 he was awarded an OBE for services to renewable energy and to the community.


Emma Bridge, Chief Executive, Community Energy England

Emma joined Community Energy England as its Chief Executive in January 2015. Prior to joining CEE, Emma was the General Manager of Sheffield Renewables, a community renewable energy group that installs solar PV on community buildings. In parallel to this she worked on two EU projects looking at renewable energy and green urban systems. She has also worked for both local and regional government on sustainable development policy. 


Viv Cockburn, Director of Corporate Services and Low Carbon, Scottish Futures Trust

Vivienne is Director of Corporate Services and Low Carbon with Scottish Futures Trust. Within the Low Carbon remit she supports the development of infrastructure investment programmes including the Scottish Energy Efficiency Programme and wider programmes covering street lighting, non-domestic energy efficiency and district heating. She is a qualified chartered accountant who spent 16 years within the accountancy profession in both management consultancy and project finance roles before becoming Finance Director of Caledonian Economics, a specialist economic and financial consultancy practice. She has advised on a wide range of public private partnership projects across the water, education and health sectors. She is the Public Interest Director for High Wood Health, the SPV established to deliver the new district hospital in Dumfries and is a Trustee of Berwickshire Housing Association.


Tom Thomas, Harper Macleod

Tom is a partner in Harper Macleod's corporate department specialising in mainstream corporate acquisitions, sales, structures and drafting and negotiating commercial contracts. He has over 15 years' experience of the renewable energy sector including advising Forestry Commission Scotland in relation to various wind and hydro renewable energy initiatives and their implementation including community benefit and community investment provisions. Tom also has extensive experience of advising community groups in relation to renewable energy projects as investors, developers and recipients of community benefit payments. In addition he has advised a number of multiple and single site commercial renewables developers as well as advising funders of such projects. Tom is lead legal adviser to Fintry Renewable Energy Distribution Limited in relation to its Local Energy Challenge Fund Smart Meter Project.