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Speaker Biographies

David Bell


David Bell Planning Ltd

David is a planning consultant with 30 years’ experience of planning and development practice. He has particular expertise in relation to energy planning, renewables and onshore wind development. He has advised on some of the UK’s largest renewable energy projects including the Viking, Dorenell, Fallago Rig Extension, South Kyle and Millennium Wind Farms in Scotland, and Scout Moor in England. David has advised on feasibility studies and planning applications covering onshore wind energy, biomass, solar and transmission infrastructure. He has also been providing advice in recent years to the UK Government’s Energy Systems Catapult on low carbon decentralised energy systems, building retrofit policy, and urban district heating systems. David is a recognised leading planning consultant on renewable energy developments and frequently acts in the capacity of expert planning witness at Public Local Inquiries and in Appeals throughout the UK.

Lesley Black

Sales and Markeing Function Leader

CS Wind UK

CS Wind UK is the UK’s only commercial scale producer of offshore wind towers and has the capacity to manufacture around 300 tower sections per year.
I have over 15 years’ experience in the wind Industry and have worked in O&M management as well as in manufacturing management roles.
Formerly the head of production at Machrihanish , my role now is to support the global sales team for with market, policy and regulatory intelligence in the UK.
I am also responsible for community engagement and am actively working to promote the economic benefits of the wind industry can have in the UK, with particular interest in the potential for job opportunities and industry for rural areas and for Scottish supply chain companies.

Neil Douglas


BVG Associates

Neil joined the management team of BVG Associates as a Director in the spring of 2017 and heads up our business in Scotland.

He has 25 years of experience in the renewable energy industry, with specific expertise in the design, development and operational management of projects, including asset management strategy, performance engineering, technical due diligence and risk analysis for onshore and offshore wind farms. He also has extensive knowledge of asset management systems, technology innovation and wind resource analysis.

Neil joined BVG Associates after more than two decades with Natural Power and holds a Masters in Energy Systems and the Environment from the University of Strathclyde.

Mark Evans

Head of UK Business Development


Mark is Head UK Business Development for ERG, based out of their office in Edinburgh. He is responsible for all aspects of project development in the UK, focused on delivering a pipeline of onshore wind projects which can be delivered based on a merchant power business case. In the UK, ERG is currently investing in both greenfield and pre-construction projects, and evaluating further investment in both ready to build and early stage pipelines of onshore wind projects.

Mark's background is in project development and has been involved in all aspects of wind farm and hydro project development, construction, joint ventures, project acquisitions and disposals. He has a PhD in Energy Management from Strathclyde University.

Rachel Furlong

Planning and Environmental Policy Manager

ScottishPower Renewables

Rachel Furlong is Planning and Environmental Policy Manager with ScottishPower Renewables which has been generating 100% renewable electricity since the beginning of 2019, and is part of the Iberdrola Group. A qualified town planner with a background in environmental sciences, she has been working in the climate and energy policy field for over ten years, with roles at RSPB Scotland, The Crown Estate in Scotland and more recently ScottishPower’s Retail business. Rachel now leads SPR’s work on planning and environmental policy advocacy to support SPR’s onshore and offshore renewable interests.

Chris Smith

Head of Renewable Sales


Chris Smith joined SmartestEnergy as Head of Renewable Sales in 2017. He works with independent generators across the UK to develop commercial solutions to help them maximise the value of their generation assets.

Chris began his career in the energy sector in 1996 with Eastern Natural Gas. He went on to work as a Generation Services Senior Business Development Manager at RWE npower, developing PPA solutions for customers. His role as Business Development Manager at Danish energy trading company Neas Energy, saw him build its UK PPA and CHP portfolio from market entry.

Jim Smith

Managing Director

SSE Renewables

After graduating as Mechanical Engineer in 1983, Jim spent five years in power plant and automotive turbomachinery design. Jim joined SSE and its predecessors 27 years ago. During this time Jim has been involved in large scale power generation project development and construction including hydro, wind, gas, coal, gas storage and power transmission projects. He also spent time as Engineering Manager for the Company’s hydro generation fleet and was Station Manager at Peterhead Power Station.

In recent years Jim was Managing Director, Renewable Development, responsible for the development and construction of wind power projects on and offshore. In April 2014 Jim moved to Energy Portfolio Management, covering Energy Trading and Contracts, Risk Management and Planning and the upstream E&P business and latterly the role included responsibility for Business Energy in the retail supply market. From April 2016 Jim took up his current role with operational responsibility for SSE generation, gas storage and E&P assets. In November 2018 Jim was appointed Managing Director (Designate) of SSE Renewables, a new division which will be responsible for the Development Constitution and Operation of all of SSE’s renewable activity.

Paul Wheelhouse MSP

Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands

Scottish Government

Born in Belfast, Paul was raised in Edinburgh, attending Stewart's Melville College. He has an honours degree in Economics from the University of Aberdeen and an MBA from University of Edinburgh. He has lived in Berwickshire since 2000.

‪Paul is a professional economist and, since 1992, had specialised in higher and further education markets, policy evaluation and economic appraisal and impact assessment of capital projects.‬

Between May 2011 and September 2012 Paul served on the Scottish Parliament's Finance Committee, and the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee. And was the Parliamentary Liaison Officer to the Cabinet Secretary for Parliamentary Business and Government Strategy of the Scottish Government. Previously, between May 2011 and Feb 2012, Paul served as Parliamentary Liaison Officer for the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Environment and the Minister for Climate Change.

Prior to taking his Ministerial position Paul was a member of cross-party groups on Epilepsy, Rural Policy, Armed forces Veterans, Funerals and Bereavement, Boating and Marine Tourism and deputy convener of Sport.

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