One of the most intriguing men in energy, Hans-Joachim Kohlsdorf is a true renaissance man. He has the skills, education, and expertise that comes from working in the business world for many years, but he also has a strong sense of empathy for the underprivileged as well as for our own planet. He is especially active in energy, water, waste management.
Hans Kohlsdorf is a founding Partner at Energy To Market (E2M) an independent trader in the new wholesale electricity market supporting Generators that want to sell their power and Qualified Users that want to optimize their electricity portfolio.
Since the initial phase of the Energy Reform in Mexico Hans has participated actively setting up several deals building on opportunities that come from deregulation. Through his role as Partner at ZIMMA Investment Banking. He is also active in the Private Equity sector and served as Operating Partner at Advent International.
Carolina Rodríguez Hernández (CRH): Can you describe to us a childhood experience, which influenced your business career, especially your relation with energy?
Hans-Joachim Kohlsdorf (HJK): I had a happy childhood and was not thinking about business at all. The strong interest in energy in general was actually born during my time at University and the big crisis created by the oil price boom. Suddenly politics were shaped openly to promote strategic Oil and Gas interests from nations.
CRH: Could you give us an insight into the creative process behind Efficient Ideas, your business venture related with energy and security projects?
HJK: After working as a “hired gun” for Siemens for 30 Years I had many ideas that I wanted now to start working on my own. I joined with three other very interesting partners to open an office together and to start working on a few new projects we had in mind. Our group combined great know how and know who so that we were able to get off to a quick start. Energy as such appeared 4 years later when the electric market was liberalized and opened for private participants.
CRH: Which businessperson has inspired you throughout your career? Why?
HJK: My bosses at Siemens were very inspiring for me, especially Dr. Uriel Sharef, an Israeli Citizen, who was my boss for the largest part of those 30 years. His strong sense for identifying business opportunities and his personal style that made the people around him feel important were what inspired me most.
CRH: What was your experience working with Siemens Latin America?
HJK: Working for a global corporation in highly innovative sectors, technology leader and with a long term strategic view of business draws many parallels to shaping business and public policy in Latin America. You are in a privileged position regarding cooperation with universities, local governments and society in general. Seeing practical opportunities that are good for all of Latin America and not just for a short term corporate goal creates a tremendous opportunity for a manager to really do good and help trying to implement changes that are good for the development of a nation.
CRH: What is a good personal experience in defining Energy To Market (E2M), an energy supplier and trader? What are your challenges?
HJK: My partner, Heiner Röger and Energy to Market co-founder, Diana Sasse are impressive in their support and creativity. From the beginning of our joint adventure we wanted to be the best informed and creative energy group in Mexico. We embraced the energy reform and private sector activities while many other companies were trying to maintain old rules and government subsidies or aim for the government to buy all of their energy generation.
Today’s mayor challenge is to support and implement distributed generation, new battery technologies, smart grids and other innovative technology that are challenging the current traditional energy models. Here I am very active publishing articles, participating as speaker in large industry events and giving seminars to mainly industrial and real estate companies.
CRH: Hans, you have been and still are a Board Member for many companies. Let’s talk about your experience. For 10 years you were the President of the Board of the Trust For the Americas. Can you tell us more about Trust For the Americas, a foundation affiliated with the Organization of American States (OAS) that focuses on educational and economic opportunities for Latin American and the Caribbean?
HJK: I was the president of the board of the probably most interesting NGO in Latin America and the Caribbean. The highly diverse and international team from all the hemisphere was probably the most inspiring and thanks to the role of the OAS, the most effective team to deal with challenges of social inclusion and specially with the challenges of rebuilding the social fabric in large parts of societies or regions that have been subject to high rates of violence.
CRH: Was there a particular human exchange you can describe which inspired you towards taking charitable action regarding the causes you love?
HJK: Meeting the team of the Trust for the Americas and seeing the impact they were generating was exactly this inspiring model that convinced me not only to make donations, but to really dedicate my time so that the Trust could make a difference.
Charitable work is usually awesome, very nice and satisfying, but when you look at the results obtained despite the huge effort, it becomes quite sobering. Uncoordinated actions, administrative expenses sometimes above 20% of total donations, no self-sustaining projects are a challenge that we have to be aware of and that we need to solve all together if we want our projects to have a lasting effect on society.
CRH: You spent 8 years as a Board Member of the most important and international American Mobility Company. Can you tell us about the ADO mobility company and your views regarding the future of electric vehicles?
HJK: As you can see in many parts of Europe, public transportation should continue replacing individuals in their own vehicles. ADO operates internationally and has successfully implemented great public transport opportunities. They are leading electric bus implementation in Spain, while combining public transport with individual (and healthy) short distance transport like bikes. Our societies will have to rethink the whole concept of mobility and ADO is a thought leader in this aspect.
Specifically regarding electric vehicles and please allow me to include hydrogen powered fuel cells also, we are facing a tremendous change. Consumers are already driving this trend, more and more cities and countries are changing the regulations and this transition away from conventional fuel will only accelerate. The rising needs of electricity have also coincided with an important increase in natural gas production. Most notably in North America, but also in areas like the eastern Mediterranean. Fairly clean combined cycles are replacing coal and oil fired power plants and this is also reducing CO2 emissions.
CRH: But how can renewable energy power benefit us all?
HJK: Electric mobility directly supports renewable energy. You take your car to your work or any other activities. Most of the day your car is parked. Solar energy is only generated during the day and you need batteries to store it to be able to use that energy at night. Both technologies are highly complementary, they strengthen each other, they are forming an unstoppable network effect. Renewable energy will be a really cheap energy source that significantly reduces CO2 emissions. Obviously there are always people doubting progress, when I was young we had two examples to prove the point.
Lead in gasoline was really bad for public health so brilliant people invented the catalytic converters to allow the switch to unleaded fuel. A simple and obvious solution accepted by everyone all over the world. But in its time, lots of people older than me thought and publicly said so, that catalytic converters would increase the cost of a car and kill the automotive industry. In hindsight, this opinion almost seems ridiculous.
CRH: Which will be the future of electric cars?
HJK: Electric and hydrogen powered cars will dominate all markets in just a decade.
CRH: What is your message to entrepreneurs who struggle to launch their ideas?
HJK: Never give up unless you find out that you made a big mistake you cannot fix. Then quit this idea and start with the next one.
CRH: What is your greatest hope for the future?
HJK: My greatest hopes are personal, I want my children to be happy and successful in whatever activity they decide to pursue in life. Sorry I am not being more thoughtful about our planet and the people that inhabit it.
CRH: What the Trump administration did right, and what did wrong, in its energy policy?
HJK: It is always difficult for a generation that grew up under certain paradigms to learn that technology got ahead of them. Supporting natural gas was clearly the right thing to do. Expecting old dirty and expensive coal to survive or even strive again was probably just cheap local politics for old folks that remember old times sake. Natural gas is just so much cheaper that it will kill coal fired power plants.
CRH: What do you expect in terms of energy with the Biden government?
HJK: Technology changes rapidly and governments can help companies adapt by issuing regulations that force them to be early adopters and hopefully create a vibrant and global leading corporate sector. Most of the world consumers and countries are shifting to technologies that reduce CO2 emissions. If your industries do not adapt to new technologies, they will simply disappear. I think that within the new government, people that can see the long term impact of adapting now to new technologies will prevail and strengthen US industry.
CRH: What are your expectations regarding energy with the Mexican President?
HJK: The current government has two large dominant but troubled players oriented to the conventional side of energy, a hydrocarbon oriented sector. They are seriously trying to strengthen these technologies and companies. For the sake of Mexico, I just hope it’s not already too late to do so.
Some scientists paint a rather bleak picture of our energy future that it is a case of too little, too late. Even if we started building every wind, solar, algae and natural gas facility we could, it won’t keep pace with the demand from the U.S. and emerging powerhouse economies such as China and India.
CRH: What do you think about renewable energies in the 21st Century?
HJK: Actually the US is one of the very few countries that actually reduced emissions. Like I mentioned above, much cleaner natural gas replaced and is killing coal. But the USA are doing very well on renewables also. Texas alone has more wind power than all renewable power in Latin America put together. Economics are turning solar and storage into a huge success in the USA and through TESLA they are shaping the future of the automotive industry. So no, I am very optimistic regarding CO2 emission reduction and the role of the USA.
For our planet, coal fired power plants in India and China may be the really serious problem. But also there, the people will not tolerate high air pollution. Beijing is a great example. Suffocating in exhaust fumes before the Olympics, they radically changed their regulations and air quality improved tremendously. Allowing for example only electric motorbikes and busses, they not only created a cleaner atmosphere, China is now a world power house in electric bikes and busses. Of the western world does not catch up, we will end up being importers of clean technology and not the world leaders in actually building, manufacturing the products we want to buy in the future.
CRH: What is next for Hans-Joachim Kohlsdorf?
HJK: My plans for the next 10 years is to continue to be one of the leading energy traders. As we will continue to see massive technological improvements I intend to continuously stay up to date and to write articles that are easy to understand and that make technology adoption easier for everyone.