The CEO leans over the office conference table. He always thinks carefully before giving an answer. His words are chosen with an engineer's precision.
"Statkraft has a promising portfolio in renewable energy and a very forward-looking business plan. We have a fantastic starting point in a world that still needs a lot of energy but less carbon."
Ever since he became CEO of Statkraft in 2010, Christian Rynning-Tønnesen has maintained that the world needs more pure energy, and the past five years have seen a formidable growth in renewable energy. Statkraft has contributed to that growth, refined its strategy, built up a solid equity position and taken some big steps into the international energy market.
However, not all the trends are positive. These are challenging times in the European power industry. At the same time as more renewable production capacity is being developed, demand has levelled off and energy prices have fallen. In the Nordic power market, where Statkraft has over 90 per cent of its production, the average electricity price last year was 28 per cent lower than the average for the period 2009-2013.
When he looks back over his first five years as CEO, it is precisely these market changes that Rynning-Tønnesen highlights.
"Even in a demanding market, Statkraft has managed to maintain good earnings, and I'm very satisfied with that. We've worked hard to negotiate new contracts and find new business models, and we've made many new investments, although some of them have had negative returns. In addition, surveys show that our reputation has become much stronger in recent years. I find that politicians, the media and people in general have a greater understanding of and respect for Statkraft."
What is your greatest achievement?
"During my term as CEO, we've received fresh equity from our owner twice, in 2010 and in 2014. This is solid proof of recognition!"
Communication advisor Anders Berg-Hansen (at right) has a conversation with CEO Christian Rynning-Tønnesen about the realignment of the energy industry and visions for the future Statkraft.
Large windows look out onto the Oslo fjord. The office is pleasantly quiet. This is a bonus when sudden interruptions are part of the workday here. This time it is the CFO who opens the door and needs the CEO to look at a presentation of the latest quarterly results. Rynning-Tønnesen handles the interruption with an admirable ability to be highly efficient and focused at the same time.
What is your vision for Statkraft. Where are we heading?
"The vision today is to further develop and become one of the world's leading companies in renewable energy."
And what do we need to do to get there?
"We need to continue to develop renewable power production in the form of hydropower and wind power, and now we will also get involved in solar power. We will continue to develop district heating, mainly based on renewable raw materials and waste, and we will focus on developing renewable biofuels. We will further develop our market operations in Europe, Asia and South America, and we will be active in the global effort against climate change."
Most people who have met the CEO have heard him speak passionately about combatting global climate change. This climate commitment is genuine, and it began with hydropower.
"I was interested in hydropower because it is a renewable resource and has the perspective of eternity. Over time, my commitment has evolved into an interest in all types of renewable energy. I think the world will still need some fossil energy in the future, but far less than today."
When Norway's Crown Princess Mette-Marit walked up the red carpet to Vang Gård in November 2014, it was by personal invitation from Rynning-Tønnesen. It was the second time the CEO gathered international scientists, environmentalists and business leaders in Statkraft's conference centre for the climate symposium Climate Roundtable. The wake-up call for Rynning-Tønnesen himself came in 2010, when he took over as CEO of Statkraft.
"One of the first things I did as CEO was to read a variety of scientific reports on climate change. I was soon convinced that these changes were strongly influenced by the consumption of fossil fuels. I realised that this would affect the entire energy sector."
But not everyone is convinced by facts and figures about climate change, are they?
"I have an engineering background and had ready access to the main report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and other sources. My conclusion when I read the material was that climate change was well documented. I think this subject is so important that anyone who is concerned about the future should familiarise themselves with the main points of these reports."
A common denominator for all of us is that we are motivated by a job that is both technically exciting and very meaningful.
You manage more than 3,700 employees and have met very many of them. Who is a typical Statkraft person?
"First and foremost, I would say there is a consistently high level of expertise among employees in Statkraft. People are highly motivated and willing to contribute. A common denominator for all of us is that we are motivated by a job that is both technically exciting and very meaningful. Our power production and IT solutions are technologically advanced. What I think matters even more to each and every one of us is that we're committed to pure energy."
For the CEO, leadership is about developing good strategies and building an organisation with the ability to carry them through. He also emphasises the importance of communicating the right attitudes throughout the organisation. The visions are grand, and he can clearly envisage Statkraft making a difference in the world.
"The world is facing a major transition," he says.
So what will change for those of us who work here?
"Someone who is recruited by Statkraft today and who will work here for the next 10 years will experience a global transition. New investments in the energy sector will move from fossil to renewable. Everyone in Statkraft works directly or indirectly with pure energy, and therefore all employees have very important role in this transition."
In 2015, it is 120 years since the Norwegian state bought its first waterfall rights in Paulenfoss in Vest-Agder County. This was also the first chapter in Statkraft's history.
The company has a long, proud history. Do you think that history means something today?
"Yes. Today's Statkraft Group is the product of our history. Our long experience with hydropower is deeply rooted within our company and has given us a solid basis on which to expand the company technologically and geographically into new forms of energy and out into the wider world."
"Through 120 years, Statkraft has grown from being a Norwegian hydropower producer to becoming an international player with several technological and commercial business areas. And that is what we will be celebrating this year!"
Text: Anders Berg-Hansen
Photo: Morten Brun, Hans Fredrik Asbjørnsen
Also published in Statkraft's magazine People & Power no. 2/2015
POSITION: CEO, Statkraft
EXPERIENCE: CEO and CFO of Norsk Skog from 2005 to 2010, various positions in Statkraft from 1992 to 2005
EDUCATION: Master of Science from NTH (now Norwegian University of Science and Technology)
FAMILY: Wife and four children
17. Jun. 2015