Each month, one person from our Expert Community will be showcased in an article highlighting their background and experiences during their time with the Solar Impulse Foundation. The Expert of the Month award places a spotlight on an Expert who has gone above and beyond in their role to help label sustainable and profitable Solutions.
The Expert of the Month award for April goes to Rainer Notter! Rainer joined the Expert Community in July 2020, and he is working as Executive Partner for n:lead in the Zurich area. He has more than 20 years of experience in business consulting for energy suppliers. A big thank you to Rainer for all his work since joining as an Expert!
Please tell us a little about yourself!
I live with my wife and my three-year-old son near Zurich. I grew up in southwest Germany, where I also studied chemistry. Before I moved to Switzerland, I lived in Aachen, Hamburg, and Vienna. Continuous learning on fields like organizational development, project management and business economics help me to work with a general management approach today.
Would you tell us more about your area of expertise and profession?
Since the liberalization of the energy markets in Europe end of the 1990's, I help to build and optimize strategy, structure, and culture of energy suppliers. Finding the right combination of product and marketing approach, of automation and IT systems and of individualism and leadership is crucial to my work. Having worked in quite different environments as a software developer, as a consultant or as general manager, I founded my own energy supply start-up in 2012 to show what’s possible with minimum resources and to try out certain innovations.
You work for n:lead as Executive Partner. Would you share with us a few things about your work with n:lead and how it relates to sustainability?
I founded the company together with my wife Sarah to have a platform for various consultancy and interim management projects. We combine her legal and public administration know-how and my in-depth knowledge of the energy market with the aim of making the world a better place. This includes, on the one hand, supporting ecosystems that offer a sustainable environment for people's self-realization and, on the other hand, radically changing the energy supply to 100% renewable energy.
What are some of the exciting projects or themes that you have worked on, at the moment or in the past?
In the past I have had the privilege of working on numerous projects that have pushed boundaries or broken new ground. From setting up a new division for a software company in the energy market to a project launched in 2012 for the production and feeding of hydrogen from excess wind power into the gas distribution network to make fluctuating power generation storable. I am currently supporting a fast-growing Norwegian digital energy supply start up in scaling up in the German market.
In your consulting experience, how do you perceive the approach of companies to sustainability?
For most the companies I worked with in the past 10 - 15 years, sustainability has been built into their DNA. Their original business model, their main product, was characterized by creating sustainable solutions for energy supply. In recent years, the focus has shifted more to a holistic view of the value creation process. Involving all stakeholders and capitals in the assessment of sustainability is becoming more important. Orientation when selecting a sustainability framework or transparency when assessing and comparing individual elements are still not available enough. There are numerous concepts such as the Economy for the Common Good or the Integrated Reporting of the IIRC or the GRI Framework. Key financial figures can now be output from an ERP system at the push of a button and then compared with those of other companies. In the case of sustainability information, such a possibility is still largely lacking. As part of my business studies, I therefore recently chose "Consolidation of sustainability information at group level" as the topic of my bachelor thesis.
You joined the Expert Community in July 2020 and you have completed 15 Assessments! What kinds of Solutions have you assessed, and which stand out as the most impactful?
The various solutions that I analyzed and evaluated were all exciting in their own way. Entrepreneurial spirit and the will to change something were always clearly noticeable. Among them were ideas from large corporations and small start-ups. The solutions that inspire me the most are the ones that are simple, that combine what already exists into something new, more valuable, and that are easy to understand. The solution from eTanker for storing energy impressed me the most. It's simple, scalable, and leverages existing resources and technology to offer a popular product at more affordable rates. At the same time, disadvantages of alternative technologies such as Li-Ion batteries are avoided.
What are your hopes for the Labeled Solutions, and the Solar Impulse Foundation more widely?
I hope that at some point there will be a label on every product that reliably creates transparency about environmental impacts in the broadest sense for the buyer, so that informed decisions can be made. Today, many products in stores are labeled with the effects on physical health, such as fat, sugar, etc. Finding out whether a solution is good for the environment, especially in the B2B sector, is still a very complex undertaking. The Solar Impulse Foundation is one great example of taking responsibility to move into this direction. I could well imagine that additional advantages for the buyer could be derived from such a label, such as tax advantages, etc.
Anything else you would like to share?
Thanks to Bertrand Piccard for being such an inspirational person and for building this project with an amazing team.
Are you interested in joining the Expert Community? Find out more about becoming an Expert here.