Paul Barwell will pursue “commercial interests” in the solar sector when he leaves the STA in January after five years as CEO. Image: STA.

The Solar Trade Association (STA) is on the hunt for a new chief executive after announcing that Paul Barwell will step down after five years in the job.

Barwell reportedly notified the STA board of his departure earlier this summer and will stay on until the end of January 2018 and support the association during the recruitment process for his replacement.  

“This was a hard decision. It has been a real privilege to support the growth of a unique & special technology that is so vital for a prosperous future. I've had the pleasure of working with some brilliant colleagues, members and partners, which has meant we punch well above our weight,” he said.

“But there is no doubt the solar industry has faced more challenges than it should given a track record of exceptional achievement.

“It is time for a change for me personally but I won't be going far. I am pursuing some commercial interests that are very much embedded in the solar sector and I hope to remain a part of the STA's extraordinary network as a member in due course.”

Barwell’s tenure since 2012 has seen huge growth and change for the UK solar sector, which has gone from less than 2GW of installed capacity to the ~13GW of solar assets now in operation.

The STA has said many of the “key wins” achieved by the STA in this time have resulted from his leadership, including the softening of the government’s feed-in tariff cuts enacted last year from the original position of an 87% reduction to around 65%.

More recently, the STA secured a concession on business rates meaning systems which export to the grid were spared from rising costs; a 5% rate of VAT for battery storage when bought and installed alongside solar; and growing public awareness of the technology through initiatives like ‘Solar Independence Day’.

Commenting on Barwell’s departure, STA chair Jonathan Selwyn said: “Everyone has seen the great contribution the STA, under Paul's leadership, has made in the public realm to support the growth of solar in the UK.

“What they may not appreciate is the quality of Paul's management and industry engagement behind the scenes which has attracted a membership that is characterised by high standards and which manages around a third of all the solar deployed across the UK today.

“Paul's superb strategic management of the association and his ability to maintain its membership levels against the backdrop of challenging market conditions means that the STA is in its strongest financial position ever. It has also meant the STA has moved successfully into new policy areas such as the storage space where it is already securing early policy wins.

“We are now looking for a new CEO to build on these achievements as solar and storage play an ever more important role at the heart of the UK’s energy transformation.”

Renewables recruiter Igloo3 is leading the search for Barwell’s successor, who will have a proven background of achievement at director level, including in the commercial sector.