Gaynor Hartnell is to step down as chief executive of the UK’s Renewable Energy Association.

The REA announced today that the search is on for a replacement for Hartnell, who has been with the REA since its formation in 2001 and its chief executive since 2010.

Hartnell said that she is leaving to “explore other opportunities”.

She added: “I will continue to lead the Association until a replacement is found, and thereafter I am pleased to be staying involved on a consultancy basis.”

REA chairman Martin Wright today said it was “with deep regret” that he accepted Hartnell’s resignation.

He added the REA was already looking for someone new to “represent the renewables industry in these economically and politically challenging times”.

Under Hartnell’s leadership, the REA played a key role in shaping the Renewable Heat Incentive, stabilising the Feed-in Tariff following the expansion of solar PV, and kept renewables’ high on the agenda of the UK government’s Energy Bill which is currently passing through Parliament.

Hartnell is the best known face of renewables in the UK alongside Maria McCaffery, her counterpart at trade organisation RenewablesUK, and plays down the fact that she is a high profile woman in the male-dominated energy world.

Her resignation will be a loss not just to the REA but to the renewables sector in Britain as a whole and she leaves some sizeable shoes to fill.