Jacqueline Redmond has spent more than 20 years in corporate strategy roles at the heart of the energy industry, most recently leading Macquarie’s efforts to identify emerging technologies that will deliver a cleaner future. Here, she talks to HC Insider about why diversity will be the key to energy transformation
Jacqueline Redmond has been battling groupthink throughout her career. An electrical engineering graduate with a PhD in Energy Economics, she has worked in senior corporate strategy roles at ScottishPower, Shell, Green Investment Bank and Macquarie, and strongly believes that diversity now holds the key to unlocking the new technologies that will drive cleaner energy solutions for the world.
An advisory board member at the Energy Policy Research Group at Cambridge’s Judge Business School, Redmond began her clean energy journey when she was appointed to lead the global LNG strategy for Shell in 2006, following a decade with ScottishPower. She “fell in love with the Hague”, and after three years was appointed vice president of technology strategy. An entirely new role with a $1.3 billion budget to spend on research and development, she was tasked with enhancing the spirit of innovation through new and unusual partnerships and spotted an immediate problem – a lack of diverse thinking.
She established the company’s first Open Innovation programme in 2010 having recognized a problem with groupthink because everyone was building on the same experiences. “We created an external thinktank with support from universities, blue-chip partners, government labs and start-ups. We gave them problems and gave them free rein to solve them.”
It was a great success, says Redmond: “The internal teams saw this as an opportunity to talk to like-minded folk about solving problems in an entirely different way.”
After three years she became a senior deal lead and head of commercial power, tasked with extending the business model of the commercial power segment to generate electricity in different ways. “What is clear,” says Redmond, “is that the International Energy Agency and others are saying it’s going to take billions of dollars to ensure we hold the increase in the global average temperature to 2oC above pre-industrial levels that experts say is critical. But it is important to understand that money is not going to come from government agencies – we are going to have to find a way to bring in the private sector.”
In 2015, Redmond returned to Edinburgh as Chief Risk Officer for the Green Investment Bank, the first in the world with a mission to accelerate the UK’s transition to a greener economy. When the bank was acquired for £2.3 billion by Macquarie in 2017, Redmond became director of emerging technology in Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets Investments.
Having worked at a utility, an oil major and a bank, Redmond now found herself at the forefront of the energy transition agenda, working to identify new technologies that Macquarie could invest in as a driver of green infrastructure in the UK and Europe. Her role involved horizon-scanning in search of innovations that were proven commercially and were ready for growth equity.
“I was meeting lots of new start-up companies doing lots of interesting things,” she says, a month after leaving the role in search of a new challenge. “Macquarie owns large infrastructure and utilities and was keen to understand the threats and opportunities of new technologies for those investments, as well as looking for the next big thing to support and drive forward.”
Considering scenarios such as a shift out of gas for residential heating as consumers move to electricity from renewable sources, she also evaluated the landscape for the next generation of wind and solar investments, seeded money into electric vehicles and supported start-ups to drive growth.
Encouraged by the recent appointment of BP’s first entrepreneur-in-residence, she says the challenge underpinning energy transition is finding a way for big energy businesses to genuinely back innovation.
“Some of the big oil majors have been buying up start-ups and integrating them into their businesses,” she says. “But that has the downside of pushing up valuations, and also creates an enormous challenge for the big players in working out how to keep and nurture the talent from those start-ups in a way that continues to foster innovation. There is a real risk of squeezing out innovation by bringing in big corporate processes.”
Which brings her career full-circle, and back to a focus on championing diversity. “A lot of innovation will come from start-ups,” says Redmond, “because those companies are small and nimble, they welcome all ideas and have a real vision of the future. That can be harder to achieve in a major corporate.”
Large oil and gas companies increasingly recognise their challenge when it comes to attracting young and creative talent, who are motivated less by cash remuneration and far more by making a future. “The industry is really crying out for a new business model,” says Redmond, “where the energy majors get much more comfortable with owning other companies, holding them at arms’ length and supporting them as they innovate. While good, solid talent might always gravitate into the oil industry, creative people just will not think about it.”
A passionate advocate of diversity – in gender, race, culture and much more – she says: “To get to where the industry needs to be requires a lot more diverse thinking. We need teams that combine creativity and experience, bringing together the generations to leverage their respective strengths.”
With a leadership career that spans strategy, risk and commercial roles, Redmond sees diversity as much bigger than discussions about the gender pay gap and women in the boardroom. She wants the private sector to take a lead in driving clean technologies and delivering innovative partnerships, and only will that be possible – she says – when groupthink is comprehensively kicked aside.