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When Helle Østergaard Kristiansen joined the Danish vitality dealer Danske Commodities a decade in the past, the manager admits it was one thing of a distinct world.

“To begin with, the vitality market was not as liberalized as it’s at the moment. The manufacturing facet was very, very completely different,” she says. “As a result of we didn’t have the renewable combine now we have at the moment.”

Margins had been increased, as a result of the competitors was decrease. The buying and selling was completely different: extra typical, much less digital. Now, she says, nearly all of the buying and selling on the 16-year-old firm is automated.

The workers has modified, too—away from typical merchants, and in direction of PhDs in software program engineering. A 3rd of the corporate is in IT, Kristiansen says, and the typical age is 33. And what was then a small firm within the coastal metropolis of Aarhus is now a part of the Norwegian vitality large Equinor.

That acquisition occurred in February 2019, Kristiansen’s first 12 months as CEO. She is now spending her second 12 months within the midst of a pandemic and an financial disaster.

Regardless of the challenges of the pandemic, Equinor has been busy. The corporate turned one of many first legacy oil giants to aim for near net-zero emissions by 2050, and formally mentioned they’d intention for internet zero earlier this month. It’s a dedication different European majors, together with BP and Shell, have additionally made this 12 months.

Danske Commodities, which trades fuel and renewables markets throughout 39 markets, together with the U.S. and Australia however largely in Europe, is now within the ever-evolving enterprise of buying and selling a deeply advanced, finely balanced energy market, with all of the fluctuations of wind and solar energy that entails, throughout a whole continent.

It additionally expanded to the U.S. final 12 months, with a brand new workplace in Stamford, Conn. to facilitate its enlargement into buying and selling in U.S. vitality markets.

Because the votes had been tallied for the U.S. election and Europe went again into lockdown, Kristiansen spoke to Fortune about managing by means of a disaster; how lockdowns form vitality patterns; and the way U.S. politics will—and gained’t—have an effect on the enlargement of renewable vitality.

This interview has been condensed and edited for readability.

What has stunned you this 12 months about easy methods to lead an organization by means of a worldwide pandemic?

In a constructive manner, it has stunned me how a lot we will function from a distance. That has been going surprisingly properly. We haven’t seen a slowdown in our actions. It’s common to do 14,000 trades in a day. And once we despatched folks house, I requested to have that statistic on a regular basis on what number of trades we’re doing—simply to have an outline—and I may see that nothing modified there.

After all, one of many issues that now we have to adapt to is, how do you innovate while you’re not collectively? How do you collaborate? And so one of many issues I’ve performed is that I’ve insisted on enterprise as ordinary, but additionally accepting that there are issues we have to do otherwise. And likewise, as a administration group—talk clearly, and in addition present that you simply care. And positively present that you simply attempt. I believe it’s okay to fail so long as you present that you’ve tried.

Earlier this 12 months, the nationwide grid within the UK advised Fortune in regards to the radical shifts in vitality consumption they skilled within the early days of the pandemic. How have you ever seen vitality consumption patterns shift this 12 months?

Our enterprise mannequin may be very a lot about prediction of manufacturing and consumption, after which now we have varied fashions and merchandise round these two components.

Usually, consumption has been pretty straightforward to foretell as a result of you understand the historical past, the consumption patterns—you understand how a traditional Tuesday is in Germany, for instance. The manufacturing facet, with all of the renewables coming into the market, is more and more tough to foretell. And that’s the place now we have our aggressive edge—with analytics, scientists, methodologists—which can be superb at predicting climate patterns, and the way it’s shifting into the manufacturing.

However with this pandemic, it’s all of the sudden the consumption facet that altering rather a lot. We will, for instance, see {that a} regular Tuesday in Germany all of the sudden has a consumption like a Sunday—we at the very least noticed that within the first close-down. We noticed that it modified very, very quick—the consumption facet—after which we noticed [in the summer] that it stabilized. After which getting back from the summer season trip, it elevated quickly, sooner than we had predicted, and now we see that it’s taking place once more, because the international locations are closing down.

If Biden wins, what does this imply for your corporation mannequin, and in your capability to develop within the U.S.?

For us, it’s good if there’s a inexperienced agenda. Investments in renewables could be good for our enterprise mannequin. In that context, it might, in fact, be good if it was Biden that gained the election. I’d, nonetheless, say—and now we have seen that additionally the final 4 years—that it’s extra the states which have their very own agenda. And I consider that it doesn’t matter what, that can even be the case sooner or later… So, the states are additionally driving their very own inexperienced agenda, [regardless of who] is the president.

Will non-U.S. firms be those pouncing on these alternatives?

This market has grown to be very, very aggressive. And that additionally signifies that in case you’re ranging from zero now, you must put in an enormous funding to be on par. So I believe the competitors within the U.S. will probably be worldwide.

You’ve an enormous presence within the U.Ok. in offshore wind. How will a post-Brexit world influence your organization?

We’ve got ready for it in any manner we will. So [that means] dealer agreements, clearing banks. We’ve got gas setups, bilateral counter-parties. We made certain that we will act [either] beneath a tough Brexit, or no. After which there’s the final half the place you’re making an attempt to arrange for the unknown unknown. As a result of the problem is, for instance, round how do you transport energy between the continent and the U.Ok.? We all know that it could possibly’t be the present guidelines, however nobody has determined the longer term guidelines.

So right here you’re getting ready. You understand that one thing goes to occur, however you don’t know what. However on the identical time, we additionally consider that that might give us some alternatives. It’s not good for market effectivity. However at the very least for a buying and selling firm—I can’t say that it gained’t give alternatives. However in fact, it’s unusual to be in a state of affairs very, very near a possible arduous Brexit, the place you don’t know important issues like that.

Are there dangers to the safety—or the steadiness even—of the U.Ok.’s vitality provide because of this?

I don’t assume we can have that state of affairs. I believe it’s extra fascinating for us— what would be the funding urge for food for renewables within the U.Ok. sooner or later, if they’re standing alone? What is going to the subsidy schemes be? How will the funding urge for food be, and issues like that? And that’s extra long run.

At this level, are politics even a risk to the adoption of renewables?

I believe years in the past, they had been very, very weak to political choices, since you wanted subsidies to make them worthwhile. I believe at the moment, the motion is there—as a result of it could possibly compete with different [kinds of] manufacturing. That manner it should proceed now—regardless of political agendas. 

The press have been fast to say you’re one of many few ladies within the government ranks of vitality buying and selling. What do you anticipate for the way forward for ladies in your trade?

Truthfully, I don’t assume it has modified rather a lot. It has by no means been a problem to me to be a girl within the vitality sector, however I believe I’ve additionally been in very, superb firm. This dialogue about ladies within the vitality sector may be very a lot about expertise. I believe we are going to, over time, compete with different sectors as we have gotten increasingly more digital, and so forth. I noticed a survey from Boston Consulting saying that worldwide, the vitality sector only has 22% female employees. For us as a sector that’s a problem—that we don’t faucet into the entire pool of capabilities and qualification, and solely part of it.

It’s, in fact, a spotlight for me. I wish to have entry to the very best expertise—the entire expertise pool—that’s for certain. We attempt to do rather a lot in DC [Danske Commodities] to enhance this. As one instance, now we have launched paid parental depart [for both men and women]. And that’s not low-cost in an organization with a median age of 33, and 78% males. But it surely is part of recognizing that in case you sit in entrance of ladies or males, it shouldn’t matter. You’re not afraid that they’d go on maternity or paternity depart.

We are also very a lot targeted on our job advertisements. As a result of beforehand, it has very a lot been within the wordings, like “doing what it takes,” “go the additional mile.” Which isn’t possibly very interesting to a feminine dealer. Now we focus far more on describing what {qualifications} they want. That’s truly the incredible a part of being a part of a buying and selling firm. It’s very a lot about qualification, and also you’re measured in your outcomes, nothing else. For feminine candidates, it must be an fascinating sector to affix: you’re a part of the vitality sector that’s transferring so quick, it’s so essential for the way forward for each one among us.

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