Stories

He has his eye on the future. He believes the eagerness of consumers to find their own power supply solutions will affect the entire energy market.

Consumers drive our industry towards making better solutions.

Power markets worldwide are being turned upside down. Still, Jürgen Tzschoppe thinks this is the perfect timing for taking over Statkraft’s Market Operations & IT business area.

We're in the midst of an energy revolution. People with no knowledge of energy production are mounting solar panels on their rooftops and batteries on their walls. The world's solar PV capacity has been multiplied by a factor of 100 in only 14 years. Carmaker Tesla's home battery Powerwall secured an astonishing USD 800 million in sales in just a week.

"There are three main drivers behind the transformation going on in the electricity markets right now," says Jürgen Tzschoppe.

He sounds confident when explaining the transformation of the European power markets.

"First, climate change is triggering the rethinking of people. Second, new solutions have made it possible to choose distributed energy over energy from the grid. Third, consumers are interested in shaping their own solutions."

Jürgen Tzschoppe, Anders Berg-HansenJürgen Tzschoppe, executive vice president of Statkraft's Market Operations & IT business area, in conversation with Statkraft's communication advisor Anders Berg-Hansen, discussing the forces of the energy revolution and being in the midst of it.

Between homes

Tzschoppe knew the German energy shift, Energiewende, from the inside before joining Statkraft in 2002. He is currently the only non-Norwegian member of Statkraft's corporate management. As a German with several years of experience from Düsseldorf, he is well suited to the task. Together with Oslo, Düsseldorf is one of the main hubs in the Statkraft group.Roughly, 200 of the 600 people working in the Market Operations & IT business area have Düsseldorf as their base.

Over the last 10 years, Tzschoppe has been travelling back and forth between Düsseldorf and Oslo. Next summer, his wife and two children will join him to settle down in the Norwegian capital. Until then, he will commute between the two cities.

"My commuting will be somewhat more comfortable now that I have a small apartment in Oslo that I can call my second home," he says. "But I'm really looking forward to moving to Oslo with my family."

PhD in the Energiewende

Tzschoppe took his PhD degree when wind energy was in its infancy and the Energiewende was just beginning. While at university, he helped German farmers get their wind turbines on the grid against the declared interest of system owners. At the same time, he was figuring out how many turbines you could connect before building new lines, and most importantly, how to convince traditional sceptics that this was the right thing to do, or at least to accept it.

"At that time, I worked with energy companies to make them understand that they should accept new technologies into the system," he says. "I learnt a lot about people and how hard it can be to find the right arguments to overcome their resistance to change."

Upside down

Those arguments may be urgently needed today. 'How to lose half a trillion euros' was the headline when The Economist summed up the decline of Europe's utility companies two years ago. To date, Sweden's Vattenfall has written down values of more than EUR 5.5 billion since 2009, and the Düsseldorf-based energy giant E.on reported a 5.4 billion euro writedown just last year. The decline continues, and there is seemingly no recovery in sight.

In these dark times, why does Tzschoppe want to take on the role as Executive Vice President of Market Operations and IT in Statkraft?

"It's an exciting opportunity at a time when the energy world is transforming. In market operations we are combining a lot of excellent work on running business with finding completely new ways in Europe and globally. Market operations and IT jointly have great potential to shape the global energy landscape, and I take a lot of pleasure in working with change and across cultures."

Open up

During his time at Statkraft, he has seen the EU adopt an ambitious climate and energy package (the 20-20-20 targets), Germany boost its Energiewende, and most European countries roll out plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions while increasing the share of renewables.

Many say that utilities now face uncertainty of the same kind that traditional phone companies faced when cell phones emerged. What should companies like Statkraft do?

"This analogy is heavily used but also somewhat misused. I don't think traditional large-scale power generation will be outdated. Within the telecom business we see emerging markets skipping the landline and going straight for mobile phones. In energy, big urban centres will still need to build centralised systems. However, I expect a significant shift towards local solutions. We are in a phase where new business will be hard unless we open up for what the customers want."

Jürgen Tzschoppe

JÜRGEN TZSCHOPPE

AGE: 47

POSITION: Executive Vice President of Market Operations & IT

EXPERIENCE: 13 years in Statkraft, holding several managerial positions within market operations, asset development and construction, chief engineer at the Institute of Power Systems and Power Economics at Aachen University of Technology, one year in power trading at Enron

EDUCATION: PhD in electrical engineering from Aachen University of Technology in Germany

FAMILY: Wife and two children

The age of the customer

In deregulated energy markets with full access to solar panels and batteries, people have a choice. Their thinking is completely different from the traditional top-down rationale of huge utility companies. According to the EVP, it all points in the same direction: more action will be taken at lower levels in the market. The energy system of the future will be less top-down and more bottom-up.

"The future will not be decided by an optimal solution designed by an engineer," says Tzschoppe. "People will get what they want. And this is good. It will give us better products and cheaper hardware. Consumers drive our industry towards making better solutions. Being at the forefront of this will require some transformation from a company that is used to thinking in system dimensions."

Enjoys open feedback

Over the years, he has made some reflections on the differences in business culture between Norway and Germany.

"Germany has a hierarchical culture, though not to an extreme extent," says Tzschoppe. "Still, Germans expect the senior person in the room to take the decision after a discussion. Norway is the extreme opposite direction. Decisions are often made in the corridors after a long period of unofficial consultation. Another aspect is feedback: I really enjoy how in Norway there's a very open and respectful culture of giving feedback and input to each other. In Germany, this is more limited and at times rough, while my Dutch colleagues never hold back an inch. There is no better or worse situation, but I prefer a mix to a single culture. Finally, it is funny how Norwegians transform into hard-nosed competitive animals when they get on a bike. In Oslo, the concept of bicycles as a means of transportation is yet to be developed."

In order not to miss out on corridor talks, Tzschoppe has started Norwegian language training. It now remains to be seen: will the corporate management become slightly more German or will Tzschoppe become Norwegian?

Text: Anders Berg-Hansen
Photo: Jo Michael
Also published in Statkraft's magazine Power & People no. 3/2015