SSE Renewables appoints Stephen Wheeler MD

Stephen Wheeler

Perth-based renewable power and networks giant SSE announced on Tuesday that Stephen Wheeler is to be appointed as managing director, SSE Renewables, following Jim Smith’s decision to step down from his role and retire in April 2022.

Wheeler is currently managing director of SSE Thermal and was previously managing director of SSE Ireland and general manager (Ireland) of SSE Renewables.

On Monday, SSE finally responded to months of speculation that US activist hedge fund Elliott Advisors is pushing hard for a breakup of the group into two separate companies after buying up a small stake in the Scottish firm.

“There has been no decision to break up the SSE group,” said SSE, one of Scotland’s largest listed companies and biggest employers, on Monday.

Elliott has built up a small shareholding in SSE and is said to be putting pressure on SSE management to create higher value by splitting its renewables and networks businesses into two separate companies.

Wheeler will become part of the SSE group executive committee and will report to board director Martin Pibworth, group energy and commercial director.

He will take up his role in January 2022.

Wheeler said: “I am immensely proud that I will be leading SSE Renewables.

“We have a fantastic platform to build from with the business currently leading the construction of more offshore wind energy than anybody else in the world, including developing and building the largest offshore wind farm in the world at Dogger Bank.

“I’m excited to be building on the excellent job that Jim has done in establishing SSE Renewables as a leading player in the sector and I look forward to a smooth transition with the highly talented Renewables team in order to deliver our domestic and international ambitions, and in doing so accelerating into growth and helping reach net zero.”

Pibworth said: “These are exciting times for the SSE group and Stephen will bring both international and domestic experience of developing and operating low carbon electricity to help propel the renewables business further still.

“Jim Smith’s contribution to SSE and the wider energy sector has been immense over a number of years.

“However, in Stephen we have a fully able successor and I look forward to working with him to build on our already enviable pipeline and enter a new era of renewables growth as we seek to build on our position as the UK and Ireland’s national energy champion and expand internationally.”

Wheeler was part of the successful management team that grew the Airtricity renewable energy platform before SSE acquired it in 2008.

Before joining Airtricity, he spent over 10 years working with ABB and Siemens internationally, specialising in the development and construction of generation assets.

He is a graduate of Electrical Engineering at University College Dublin, with an MBA from the UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School, and a past chairman of Wind Energy Ireland (WEI).