Chairman of power company resigns after comments about Africa

Mainstream Renewable Power, which was founded by Eddie O’Connor in 2008, announces decision

Dr Eddie O'Connor has resigned as chairman of Mainstream Renewable Power a week after controversial remarks regarding investment in Africa that were dubbed "climate colonialism".

The well known businessman was at last week’s Dublin Climate Dialogues series where he spoke briefly about dealing with leaders of “tribal societies”, referring to a lack of a tradition of democracy in Africa.

His remarks prompted an immediate backlash and he quickly offered a comprehensive apology.

Describing his remarks as “entirely inappropriate and insensitive,” he said: “I made inaccurate and harmful generalisations about the continent of Africa that do not reflect reality, and instead serve only to perpetuate stereotypes. I take personal responsibility for my comments and recognise the hurt I have caused in making them.”


During an onstage panel discussion on investment, Dr O’Connor had said: “The great problem that we found trying to electrify Africa with renewable energy has been the lack of capability.

“When you go and talk to the ministers and the prime ministers and the ministers for finance, they do not have that tradition of democracy.

“They are largely tribal societies; they don’t have the educated cadres who are going to be able to do this. I see if we get our policies right in the west we certainly could do it but we have the big problem and that problem is the lack of profitability.”

Dr O’Connor set up Mainstream Renewable Power in 2008 after the sale of his first green energy business, Airtricity.

On Thursday morning, Mainstream Renewable Power issued a statement saying Dr O’Connor had resigned as chairman of the board with immediate effect.

“Dr O’Connor, who turns 74 in June, founded the company in 2008 and was chief executive officer until 2017, at which point he was appointed executive chairman of the board of directors,” it said, also noting that he was leaving the board.

"Aker Horizons, the Norwegian company dedicated to investing in renewable energy and green technologies, recently completed its acquisition of 75 per cent of the company."

He will be replaced by Kristian Røkke, chief executive of Aker Horizons.

“On behalf of the Board, I wish to thank Eddie for his unwavering commitment and dedication to fulfilling his vision of a world electrified by renewable energy,” Mr Røkke said.

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times