He will be the first person to take the position at the Opportunity Cromarty Firth (OCF) partnership, which includes three Highland ports and Inverness Airport, as well as private and public sector organisations and academic bodies.
Smith held a number of senior management positions at SSE during a career spanning more than 30 years with the Perth-headquartered energy giant. He headed SSE Renewables as its managing director from its creation, in 2018, until his retirement in April this year.
Smith said: “This is an exciting time to be joining Opportunity Cromarty Firth and I am looking forward to working with all the partners that have united behind this important bid.
“The Highlands are going to be at the heart of rapid development of the UK’s offshore wind industry for decades to come and whether the full benefits of that once-in-a-generation opportunity are realised locally and nationally will be determined by the green freeport decision.”
The consortium, launched in 2020, is backed by Inverness Chamber of Commerce and more than a dozen businesses, along with public sector organisations, and academic bodies, including Highland Council and the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI).
OCF submitted its bid for a freeport centred on Inverness and the Cromarty Firth to the Scottish and UK governments last month.
The consortium said the status would be pivotal in attracting more than £2.5 billion of private sector investment and the creation of 25,000 jobs.