The enablers


Dr. Britta Schacht and Angella Xu, two of the women executives in the TÜV NORD GROUP, are doing their bit to ensure that the energy transition continues to gather momentum. By offering certifications, their teams in Hamburg and Shanghai are working to ensure that increasingly modern plants will reliably, safely and efficiently convert the power of wind and sun into electricity.

The energy transition is a global necessity. If the climate change issue is to be addressed, global society must quickly and efficiently replace fossil fuels with renewable energy sources – an extraordinarily complex undertaking. A major role in this endeavour is being played by the plants that generate this kind of energy, especially from wind and sunshine. These plants need to be equipped with state-of-the-art technologies, and there are also statutory regulations, which vary from country to country.

To ensure that the momentum does not get lost under the weight of such guidelines, newly developed plants need to be quickly and dependably inspected and certified. And it is here that the TÜV NORD GROUP has a key role to play on the global market: With its services, it is helping to ensure that neither speed nor quality are sacrificed as the energy transition takes hold. The responsibility for this within the Group rests with two units, both of which are led by women who are using their clear ideas about leadership to advance the cause of the energy transition.

Dr. Britta Schacht:
Solution-oriented support for the energy transition

Join us on an excursion to Hamburg, where Dr. Britta Schacht, Senior Vice President Certification Renewables, is responsible for all the certifications in the renewable energy sector carried out in the TÜV NORD GROUP, by far the biggest share of which is accounted for by wind energy.

Britta Schacht’s division employs 85 members of staff, divided into five teams, whose job it is to evaluate all the technical aspects of the plants, which as of very recently include the world’s largest wind turbine, designed by Siemens Gamesa. “Our clients generally come to us at an early stage of their project development,” she says. “Our job is to evaluate whether the engineers’ assumptions and calculations are correct.” Just how complex these certifications are is shown by the huge volumes of data that are accumulated in the process. “Load assumption calculations, for instance, which have to do with the external forces operating on the plant, are often so vast in scope that they can’t be transmitted via the ­Internet but have to be sent to us on a hard drive.”

When it comes to the question of the role she and her teams are playing in the energy transition, Britta Schacht, who holds a doctorate in structural physics, barely hesitates before answering: “We see ourselves as enablers.” At the moment, it’s easy to see that the industry is under pressure. “Policymakers and society are clamouring for the manufacturers to realise their projects quickly and increase the output of the plants even more. At the same time, a lot of the contracts were concluded at a time when the costs of raw materials and production were much lower than they are now.” The situation is complicated, in other words – which is why the aspiration Britta Schacht has formulated for her teams is “to work reliably, but also to support our customers in this process.” Here’s a specific example: If there is a hitch in the certification of a particular component in a wind turbine, Britta Schacht and her teams don’t call a halt to the overall process. “Instead, we evaluate as many of the other elements of the wind turbine as we can so that the manufacturers can sort out the problem while continuing to work on prototypes.” Experience has shown Britta Schacht that her clients appreciate this approach. “Most of them don’t see us an institution which is out to cause problems but instead as a partner who offers them another quality loop while supporting the development process.” 

“The momentum of the sector is keeping us on our toes. And that’s why it’s so much fun for everyone who is passionate about the energy transition.”

Dr. Britta Schacht, TÜV NORD EnSys

To help them meet the challenges posed by their stated aims, the project teams have adopted an agile organisational form. “We don’t do standard evaluations,” Britta Schacht explains. “Technical innovations are constantly coming onto the market, for example floating foundations for offshore wind farms that open the way for power generation from deeper waters.” The legal guidelines and market conditions are also constantly changing, and, in the form of green hydrogen, a new key technology for the energy transition is poised to make a breakthrough. “There’s no doubt that this momentum is keeping us on our toes,” says ­Britta Schacht, 50 years old with 20 years of experience in the TÜV NORD GROUP. “And that’s why it’s so much fun. Not just for me, but also for the many young people in my teams who are passionate about the energy transition.” To make sure that she is an attractive employer for such sought-after talents at a time when specialists are in short supply, Britta Schacht has developed a team culture based on personal and technical development. “I believe in the principle of swarm intelligence,” she says. “Every bit of dialogue brings the whole team on. I see it as a key leadership task to both insist on and encourage this kind of communication.”

Angella Xu:
An open culture brings efficiency

From Hamburg we travel to Shanghai to meet Angella Xu who, as Senior Vice President Renewables, works in the ­Chinese industrial metropolis and is responsible for the TÜV NORD GROUP’s photovoltaic business.

With her team, Angella Xu certifies solar systems, especially those made in China, for the global market. She joined the TÜV NORD GROUP twelve years ago, at a time when her current field was still in its infancy. “The management in Germany entrusted me early on with the task of building up and developing this sector,” she relates. She quickly found her feet in the diverse Chinese photovoltaic market and put together a highly effective team. What helped her was the freedom to act as she saw fit without having to involve the management in every decision. “This allowed us to concentrate fully on our work,” says Angella Xu. 

The focus of the work in Shanghai is on the certification of products made in China for the international market. “For these producers, our certification is the entry ticket for global trade,” she explains. The principal challenge is to maintain an overview of the wide-ranging and constantly changing international guidelines, she continues. “Each country moves at its own speed and makes different demands.” Manufacturers who want to export their products are confronted by a confusing thicket of regulations. With its 50 members of staff, Angella Xu’s team boils global diversity down to a single pithy utterance. “If you adhere to our standards,” she stresses,” then the doors to the global market are open to you.”

In this area, TÜV NORD China not only offers product testing for photovoltaic modules, inverters and certifications for manufacturers, but also supports Chinese investors in their international photovoltaic projects. TÜV NORD’s clients in Shanghai include many of the major Chinese producers. Her team does more than just validate the information provided by the manufacturer, however: In a laboratory, the experts also use a sunlight simulator to test a solar panel’s actual power output. “These data are interesting for clients, of course, because they don’t generally have their own test laboratory for this purpose.”

“For producers of solar power systems, our certification is the entry ticket for global trade.”

Angella Xu, TÜV NORD China

Angella Xu was born in 1979 – making her the oldest member of her very young team. “As soon as I start talking to people, I get a gut feeling about them,” she says. This has allowed her to develop a leadership style that combines care and efficiency. “My idea of teamwork is that we trust and respect each other – but also that we don’t make things unnecessarily complicated.” In every project there is a phase in which the team comes together to work out a strategy and draft a plan. “That’s the occasion to have your input, air your concerns or ask for support.” Once the implementation phase begins, her expectation as a manager is for everyone to do their job. “If any problems arise, I want to hear about them. After all, efficiency is only possible if you have a culture of openness. Anyone who keeps their troubles to themselves will act as a brake on the project – and that’s something we don’t have the luxury of in this business.” 

At the end of the interview, Angella Xu offers an insight into how she manages to keep reflecting on her own behaviour: “At night, before I go to sleep, I get my thoughts in order. I ask myself at what points I was satisfied with my own performance during the day – and when I wasn’t. Late night thoughts like these don’t lead her into a state of ruminative sleeplessness – quite the reverse: “They give me a good feeling for the following day with its new challenges.”