Eddie O’Connor steps back at Mainstream to become executive chairman

Chief operating officer takes over as chief executive at renewable energy group

Eddie O’Connor has assumed the role of executive chairman at Mainstream.

Eddie O’Connor has assumed the role of executive chairman at Mainstream.

 

Energy entrepreneur Eddie O’Connor has decided to step back from the day-to-day management of Mainstream Renewable Power, the international wind farm and solar energy group he founded nine years ago.

Mr O’Connor has assumed the role of executive chairman at the Dublin-based company, while Andy Kinsella, currently group chief operating officer, has been named chief executive. The company’s non-executive chairman, Sir Roy Gardner, has stepped down to become the senior independent non-executive director.

Staff at the company were informed of the boardroom changes in a briefing on Tuesday afternoon, according to sources.

Mr O’Connor set up Mainstream in 2008 after Airtricity, the wind energy company he founded two decades ago, was sold to Scottish & Southern Energy, now SSE. While the venture initially raised €72 million from management, staff, high-net-worth individuals and Barclays Capital, the businessman told The Irish Times last year that the timing of the launch, just as the financial system was going into meltdown, could not have been worse.

“You couldn’t raise money and we had to sell projects far too early,” Mr O’Connor said in the August 2016 interview, adding that the company was “now out the far side”.

Legal battle

While the group said over a year ago that it planned to raise €100 million of equity by the end of 2016 – ahead of a potential New York flotation in 2018 – sources said in July that the plan had been put on ice, pending the outcome of a legal battle over a wind farm project off the Scottish coast, which will cost £2 billion (€2.2 billion) to develop.

In July, the Scottish arm of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds was denied the right to appeal an earlier court decision which paved the way for the development and a number of similar projects. However, the charity is currently seeking to appeal this to the UK supreme court.

The company reignited plans in recent months to sell the project – which would be capable of supplying power to 325,000 homes – subject to the final outcome of the legal process. The company is more focused on developing its emerging-markets activities.

In September last year, Mainstream signed a deal with General Electric to build $1.5 billion (€1.3 billion) worth of wind power plants in Vietnam.

The previous month, the company won contracts from the Chilean government to build and run $1.65 billion worth of wind and solar plants.

While both platforms, which are in addition to existing construction rollout in South Africa and Chile, will be largely funded by debt, they will also require equity investment.

The Dublin-based company completed a $117.5 million stake sale in its main South African venture in July last year to a group of investors, including the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and International Finance Corporation, a part of the World Bank.

Under the new board structure, Mr Kinsella (54) will take on responsibility for the running of the group, its strategy ad direction, according to the company, while Dr O’Connor will lead the company’s “broader business relationships, senior external relations and thought leadership”, according to a statement published on Mainstream’s website on after The Irish Times reported the changes.

“Andy Kinsella has been managing Mainstream’s operations for a number of years and has enormous experience in financing and constructing large power projects around the world,” said Mr O’Connor. “I am very confident that Andy can lead the company to the next stage on its journey and capitalise on the enormous success we have in recent years in developing wind and solar plant in the most promising fast-growing markets of the world.”