Essen (energate) – With its subsidiary RWE Renewables, the RWE energy group aims to achieve rapid growth in the renewable energy market. As CEO of Onshore Wind and Solar Europe & Australia, Katja Wunschel will take the lead. As part of the Designer World of Energy 4.0 interview series, I spoke to Thorsten Marquardt, co-partner at Get Ahead Executive Search, about the importance of communication in team leadership and about her personal motivations.
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Energy World 4.0 . designers
moving forward: Mrs. Wunschel, you are also called a sun catcher. Do you like the title?
he wishes: It focuses on the sun and I love it. Photovoltaics play a major role in ensuring the success of energy transmission. The sun is just as important as the wind and it is one of our biggest areas of growth. So the title pretty much reflects my focus. However, energy transformation only works if we succeed as a team – within the company, in business, politics and society. Everyone must work together to tackle the enormous task ahead. RWE is ready to make its contribution. We want to make every renewable energy project possible in Germany.
moving forward: What is innovative about RWE’s wind and solar business model?
he wishes: First of all, we cover everything we need to implement onshore and offshore storage, solar and battery storage. The innovative thing is that we are always looking for new technologies. So far in Solar the so-called floating PV – floating solar systems. We have just delivered our first pilot project in the Netherlands. Or Agri-PV – a concept of dual use of agricultural land. The first areas of development are in Germany, France and Italy. Thanks to our engineering and technical expertise, which we have built up over decades, we can test new technologies ourselves. I find Agri-PV very exciting, but we’re still at an early stage. We are testing three different areas of application in three countries and they compare well. What works best and what do we learn from it? So we can derive the correct starting point if we want to maximize it. In addition to technological development, we are also looking at incremental development. What’s new in the leaves or feet and legs. Because that’s part of it, of course.
moving forward: It has been in the wind and solar energy business for nearly 15 years. What is your personal recipe for success?
he wishes: I am very excited or energetic. I love working with a team. This is the only way to be successful. I love “Go to Gemba” – being on a construction site. I connect this reality check out with the business and its requirements on the inside. Working in the renewable energy industry is just so much fun. You quickly know where you stand with me.
moving forward: What obstacles have you had to overcome as an executive and what advice would you give to others?
he wishes: I was talking less about obstacles and more about what worked and what didn’t. It is important to always have clear goals – not a one-way street, but some option space. You also have to pass this on. Nobody can read minds. Only if you communicate goals and plans can others work with them. And of course a high level of commitment: you must do your best. One thing I always say to my interns and that I’ve also tested myself: If you have a manager who doesn’t share your development viewpoint with you and isn’t expected to share it, leave. I tried it once at the beginning of my professional development. It is often best to take the initiative yourself.
moving forward: Would you describe yourself as successful?
he wishes: It’s important to me that the job is fun and that I can create something. This comes together perfectly now. I enjoy and can design and implement a lot. It’s a luxury in this job where I can create added value. We are actively contributing to Germany’s energy transition. By 2030, we will invest up to 15 billion euros in our green core business in Germany alone.
moving forward: Have you ever reached a low point where you wanted to give up or give up?
he wishes: I’m not the type to quit – more like closing chapters and moving on to the next. Instead, the more difficult and complex it becomes, the more motivated I am to solve and address the problem.
moving forward: How do you deal with failures?
he wishes: My family and team give me energy. If I see a problem, I exchange ideas with colleagues. And when I need to recharge my battery, I spend time with my family and friends. I’m not the type to walk alone in the woods.
moving forward: RWE is on a long and exciting journey. This needs business focus. How do you take people with you to work together?
he wishes: This is a combination of different methods and approaches. I learned a lot from operational excellence. Others also call it the new way of working. Just like good communication, which for me is the key to success. With every other stage of development, I became more and more aware of the importance of good communication. In the sense of listening, this is “Go to Gemba”, always get opinions, feedback and enter into a dialogue. Continuously communicate our goals and expectations. I always have my office door open for team questions.
moving forward: As a group unit, RWE Renewables is relatively recent. How do you plan to prevent your team from falling into corporate stasis?
he wishes: In 2021, we at RWE looked at the renewable energy business together across all technologies and national borders. The potential for growth is huge, but we also have to take into account differences in technology and countries. This led to division into different divisions: on the one hand abroad with its huge and very complex projects and on the other hand in wind, solar and battery storage – in the United States, Chile and Mexico as well as in Europe and Australia. This division is logical, because in Europe we have a lot of projects, with an average of 20-25 MW, which are much smaller than those in the USA. This requires different processes and methods of work and a different mindset. With over 20 years of experience developing, building and operating renewable energy plants, we are in an excellent position in Europe and Australia. We use it and prepare our teams – specifically and at a very local level. Our goal is clear: We will accelerate expansion.
moving forward: What lessons have you learned from the past few years?
he wishes: One cannot communicate with so little. You have to have a strong focus on the team and what’s going on there. You should not lose sight of your goals.
moving forward: What message do you have for the world of Energy 4.0 out there – especially now against the backdrop of very simplistic goals?
he wishes: I’ve always said before that we have to put the turbo. It is a daunting task ahead of us in Germany and Europe. We can only achieve decarbonization or energy transition together. Business, politics and society must come together. With the Easter package, the government continues what it announced in the coalition agreement. Even if the need for adjustment continues, this is a step in the right direction. The task now is to use the momentum to achieve the goal of independent and green energy supplies.
Thorsten Marquardt, co-partner at Get Ahead Executive Search, conducted the interview as part of the “Designer of the Energy World 4.0” series for Energy.