Interview with Dieter Ortmann – CEO of maxx-solar & energy in Germany
Dieter Ortmann, CEO of maxx-solar & energy in Waltershausen, Germany.
He founded the company in 2008 and has been very successful ever since. In the new year 2021, let's interview the maxx CEO and tap into his knowledge.
True to maxx-solar's solgan: Let's talk about it:
How was 2020 for you?
Incredibly "moving." Never in the history of photovoltaics in Germany has there ever been so much "movement" in the industry. The topic of climate change is pushing everything what is related to renewable energy in a very positive direction - even despite Corona.
What did Corona do to maxx-solar?
Nevertheless, Corona there was a break in the take-up of solar after all. Not in relation to the "movement" towards renewable energy, but rather in the funding structures that existed. Due to the general Corona Aid, all forces were withdrawn from PV promotion and no permits were issued for 6 months. Any power outage in South Africa is more helpful than a government support program, which can be turned on and off.
What do you see as the biggest challenge for 2021?
There is significantly more PV being built in Europe and around the world. We're taking the highest backlog we've ever had into 2021. PV is by far the cheapest form of energy worldwide, even in cold Germany. Our biggest challenge is getting enough skilled workers to keep up. A real issue that will also affect South Africa is the availability and price of solar panels. China has passed a huge new solar program, Europe is moving ahead, and Joe Biden wants to re-join the Paris Climate Agreement immediately after taking office and he wants to accelerate the advancement of renewable energy (RE) in the US. There will be a huge demand for modules and inverters!
Will Corona play a role for maxx in Germany?
Hopefully less in the future. The stimulus programs are pro renewable energy, people's willingness to invest in PV is high. If the vaccinations shows positive effects and the infection numbers go down, it will be more of an economic accelerator.
What are you most looking forward to in 2021?
Full order books and possible trips to South Africa. Furthermore, we are progressing with the maxx-online-academy. And if everything goes as planned, we will be able to offer the first online trainings on a completely new level in the first half of the year! Stay curious! ;-)
What was the biggest innovation/coolest invention in PV for you in 2020?
A new cell developed in Germany with extremely high efficiency and the rapid development in battery cells.
What do you think will be the biggest innovations / coolest inventions / improvements in PV in 2021?
The speed will increase, especially in battery development! However, it is quite important that solar companies, craftsmen and planners continue to develop at the same pace. From my own experience, this is where the highest potential lies, especially in digitalization!
Maxx- solar & energie was elected TOP Innovation Champion in 2020. Innovation and digitalization are increasingly on everyone's lips today. How are digitalization and the solar industry related?
They are connected very, very closely! With battery storage and, above all, the e-car, it is no longer possible without digitalization. Everything has to do with everything and it is becoming very complex! Learning is the key for a good further development of solar companies.
What skills do young people need in today's job market in the PV industry and especially in the future- what is your assessment and observation?
On the one hand, it needs the really good craftsmen who are able to "think along". On the other hand, electrotechnical and digital knowledge that goes far beyond "basic knowledge" will become elementary. You also need people in the company who are familiar with the electricity market and its models. With e-mobility and flexible electricity tariffs, the topic of smart homes is becoming increasingly present. A well-known journalist wrote in 2020 that there will soon be only 2 "classes" of employees in Germany - the unaffordable and the superfluous.... the topic of AI will accelerate this forecast extremely. Education and the drive to educate oneself is the key.
Future viability of the industry: your assessment - is it worth pursuing a career here?
Absolutely! International economists predict that the transformation of the energy system and the grids will require more skilled workers than are currently employed in the automotive industry. Getting involved and choosing RE is clearly a very good decision!
What do you think about mentoring and when should people look for a mentor?
Always! Mentors have accompanied me my entire working life and I have enjoyed the exchange. It doesn't have to be an external mentor. It can be the partner, the boss, the colleague. Mentoring only works with openness and curiosity!
If you had to gather a mentoring team of three people around you (you can chose who ever you want! anything is possible), which three would you choose?
My first boss, a Benedictine monk and an extremely successful master craftsman who knows about processes, organization and structures.
What is maxx-solar planning in Germany for 2021? Surprise? Major projects?
No, rather less. We are struggling to process all orders orderly. We will build more than ever before, which will push us to our limits. Improve the topic of digitalization of processes and bring it to a really high level, and train new people. If everything works out, we'll build one of the biggest rooftop plants in Thuringia!
Something you'd like to share with us?
South Africa has the advantage of looking at how PV is developing elsewhere. Many mistakes can be avoided by observing others closely. We will also share these learning curves in the maxx academy. Invest in training and digitalization in good time. Stay cautious and healthy!