Global Power and Energy Elites: Taking the sector to the next level


The power and energy sector is in flux. Be inspired by snapshots of stories about leaders and projects featured in The Global Power & Energy Elites 2021 that are leading the change and are setting milestones for others to work towards.

CATHERINE VON BURG – Founder and CEO | Simpliphi Power

What are your greatest strengths?

Having and articulating a vision to make a positive impact on the world and building a company with a spirit of innovation toward that goal. I am able to manage crises and make difficult decisions quickly and decisively by maintaining a long-term view as to where we are going.

I do not shy away from dynamic environments or the inquiry that can lead to persistent change, sometimes up-ending previous decisions as new information is ferreted out. Building effective relationships and mirroring back to team members their intrinsic value in all that they do.

I am tenacious and do not accept standard notions of what is possible as I see every roadblock as an opportunity to chart a new path and find a solution. I am detail-oriented but also see how the details connect in support of the core values and mission of the company and can translate these connections into tactics and strategy to achieve our overarching goals.

Founder and CEO | Simpliphi

Which of your leadership skills was the most difficult to develop?

Practising patience and adjusting my communication style to match the styles of other team members. It is a daily practice of personal inquiry, informed by my awareness of how I impact others and how they perceive me. I am very direct in my communication style and tend to ask a lot of detailed questions.

While my intention is to connect and explore, I realise my method of inquiry can be misunderstood. I never want my perspective or ability to articulate it to rob others from sharing theirs. My overriding goal is to build effective relationships with people and understand where they are coming from.

What’s the most important leadership lesson you’ve learned and how has it proven invaluable?

To trust my instincts. Throughout my life I have had an ability to read people and situations based on cues and observations that go beyond what was actually said or done.

At times, I have allowed my rational mind to argue with what I know to be true on an entirely different, visceral level. In hindsight, I recognise that tough decisions I may have delayed because I dismissed my instincts about a person or situation, often led to less than optimal outcomes.

While I would like to claim that I no longer allow my rational mind to dismiss what I know to be true on an instinctive level, or that I do not feel the impulse to apply logic as a pre-emptive strike, I have come to trust this dimension as vital to my decision-making process.

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How BTM technologies will reshape the grid

Behind-the-meter (BTM) technologies have fundamentally shifted the landscape for energy providers and network operators all over the world. Specifically, when it comes to energy forecasting, the uptake of technologies like electric vehicles (EVs) and residential solar photovoltaic (PV) systems have put electricity network operators in an unprecedented position.

They can no longer entirely rely on established demand patterns and conventional, top-down forecasting approaches. This new uncertainty drives network operators to focus on network reliability and efficiency.

European operators have another consideration: The European Green Deal, a sweeping plan to become a climate-neutral continent by 2050. Completing the changes necessary to meet this goal will make accurate energy forecasting far more challenging, while
simultaneously making it increasingly important.

UK-based Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) engaged with Innowatts, an energy SaaS platform, to deliver demand forecasts and scenario analysis for their southern distribution area. Forecasted data generated could inform future price setting and provide more insight into changing load patterns due to the increase in Low Carbon Technologies (LCTs) on the network.

SSEN’s main priority is to provide a safe and reliable supply of electricity to the communities they serve. In doing so, they are preparing for the influx of LCTs coming online and ensuring their network will be able to handle the increase in demand. The community impact of this project was the main driver, as SSEN’s clientele includes about three million homes and businesses across central southern England.

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Kadyrinskaya hydropower plant modernisation

Located in the Tashkent region, Uzbekistan, the Kadyrinskaya Hydropower Plant (Kadyrinskaya HPP-3) forms part of the Chirchik-Bozsuv cascade of 19 hydropower plants. The total capacity of the run of river hydropower plants is 1,275.4MW. It was originally commissioned with a capacity of 13.2MW and during 85 years of operation, four of its hydroelectric units declined inefficiency and required major repair.

Image credit: Kadyrinskaya Hydropower Plant

Following a Presidential Decree in May 2017, the modernisation project was launched in December 2017 with the following objectives: Bring the plant’s level of operations up to a modern standard; improve the reliability and safety of operations; increase electricity generation; automate more processes; and extend the life of equipment. In the third quarter of this year, HPPs have implemented the national and international standard ISO:50001 ‘Energy Efficiency’. In the future, the issue of introducing safety and health regulation standards is being considered.

During the three-year project – concluding in 2020 – a number of sequential activities were carried out, including construction and installation work; assembly and installation of technical equipment; constructing a complete set of spare parts; and landscaping of the site and nearby territory.

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JÜRGEN MAYERHOFER – Co-Founder and Chief Executive | Enspire | Germany

What do you think makes a successful leader?

You have to be authentic. Authenticity is closely related to trust: people have the feeling that what you are telling them is what you believe in. People sense if what you say and what you do is coherent with the values you have and how you tell
your story.

Enthusiasm is also essential. People want to work with leaders that can draw the bigger picture and communicate the path towards this vision of the future, instead of focusing on hurdles and the complexity of the world – this creates trust with your colleagues. As a leader, you don’t need to be involved in all the details: surround yourself with the right people that are great in the execution. Finding the right people is the most crucial thing to take your company to the next level.

Co-Founder and Chief Executive |
Enspire | Germany

What are your and your team’s greatest blind spots and how are you improving these?

Personally, I am struggling with the topic of empathy. I am a business-minded person where my strength and passion lies in producing business plans, being involved in strategy talks and business development with clients. I have to constantly remind myself that I should not only talk business but ask personal questions too; be an active listener in order to build meaningful relationships. I wouldn’t say I am terrible at this, but it’s definitely the skill that has the most room for improvement.

As a team, I don’t think we have a real blind spot. However, I think we can improve our communication now that the team is expanding. In the last couple of months – when working remotely – it has been challenging to rearrange our communication to make it more natural instead of only focusing on tasks at hand. We are trying to improve this by arranging virtual lunches to simulate office habits and have time to chat about personal experiences, your weekend, etc. We will see how this works out, but I think this is the toughest challenge we have.

What’s the most important leadership lesson you’ve learned and how has it proven invaluable?

There are several, but one that comes to mind immediately is that if you have a gut feeling in the recruitment process, it’s most of the time right. Therefore, we always make sure we double-check our gut feelings within the team. I’ve had some situations in the past where we knew there was a better place for a person in another organisation, but we decided to give this person another three months to see if things improved.

However, I realise a good leader can make decisions fast in order not to waste the time and energy of the team. I think a big lesson for me is that you have to detect ‘wrong’ people in your organisation fast, act and give another person the opportunity that is more appropriate for your organisation and culture.

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