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Drax plug in transformational CIO James Robbins

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Energy firm Drax Group has appointed James Robbins as CIO.  Robbins joins after more than five years with utilities organisation Northumbrian Water Group.  

Drax Group employs almost 1,400 people and has three core activities – electricity generation, energy supply, and compressed wood pellet manufacturing for the energy sector.

Drax has the UK’s largest power station, based in North Yorkshire, which produces seven percent of the country’s electricity. Half of the power station has been upgraded to run on sustainable biomass, from coal, making it the largest decarbonisation project in Europe; 70% of the electricity it produces now comes from compressed wood pellets – powering three million households with renewable energy.

Drax recently announced it is expanding its energy supply business. It already provides power to major industrial customers and SMEs through its Haven Power business, based in Ipswich, but with the recent acquisition of business energy retailer Opus Energy, Drax will grow its retail operations in the supply of electricity and gas. The acquisition provides businesses with a route to sell the power they generate but do not need – plus expertise in how they can use energy more efficiently.

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CIO James Robbins has taken on a new mission, joining energy producer Drax which now is also an energy retailer with the acquisition of Opus. Picture by Matt Gore, Icon Photomedia

Robbins told Horizon: “I am delighted to be joining Drax Group. It has a fantastic mix of businesses and with its new strategy and the expansion of the retail business, it is leading the way in the new future of renewable power. 

“Together we can execute an information strategy that will support the Group and help to take innovation to the next level, as we continue to change the way energy is generated, supplied and used for a better future.”

Robbins has been with Northumbrian Water Group, which operates in Suffolk and Essex in East Anglia as well as its namesake county, since June 2011 and has created a leading partnership relationship between the utilities provider and its technology suppliers, both large and small.  Robbins and his team have created a collaborative culture with major suppliers like Oracle and small and medium sized technology providers.  In recent years the CIO, who reports to the CEO, has been introducing Agile working methods and a culture of experimentation to Northumbrian Water Group.

In June 2016 Robbins and his team hosted its fifth innovation conference within the business, (Disclosure: Horizon publisher Icon Business Media was a supplier to this event for Northumbrian Water Group).  Robbins told business leaders at the organisation: “Collections of individuals come together on major projects like billing or asset management. When we create the space and time, we have the capacity to innovate.”

Northumbrian Water and the IS department has adopted design sprint methodologies to build Apps to improve customer service.

Robbins’ moved to Northumbrian Water having been CIO for rail service operator Abellio for two years having been CIO for Northern Rail for three years prior to that and was Director of Transformation at Arena Housing Group from 2004 to 2007. He began his career in information and systems analysis.

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About Mark Chillingworth 224 Articles
Mark Chillingworth has over 20 years of journalism and editing experience across all media platforms including online, live events, print magazines and television.
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