A TES Tale: Meet Jens Schmidt, CTO at TES
How did you get into the renewable energy sector?
I used to work in the chemical industry, which was largely energy focused, for over 20 years. Energy efficiency and reducing power consumption was always the focus in my previous roles as the chemical industries have been looking into decarbonization through renewables, carbon capture use etc for many years. I was fortunate to lead those efforts for a big Fortune 500 company, which is why a big part of my professional focus has been on this subject for the last few years already.
Why did you apply to work at TES?
They headhunted me, I never applied! At the time I was happy like a fish in the water in my previous company when TES reached out.
The thing that intrigued me about TES was the ability of the company to move fast. When you’re working for big multinational companies, they have a lot of resources but it takes a while to make changes and you need to take baby steps.
I feel that the necessity to implement green technologies fast is something that can be best done by small agile companies because the larger companies move too slowly on these things. So that's what made me move to TES.
In addition to that, the founders behind the company are simply amazing, the business model and management team they put together are all great which made it very easy to jump from my previous role.
Describe your day-to-day role at TES and what skills do you find most important in your job?
First of all, no day is like the other in TES and I love that. I wear many hats within my role, on the one hand, I have a short-term focus where I work on the day-to-day activities that come with being the CTO - like solving technical questions and resolving issues that come up.
And then on a different timeline, I look after the long-term strategy, which is equally important, and involves optimizing the whole TES cycle. It’s an interesting job with multiple facets, but it makes it really enjoyable.
What’s the most exciting part of your role at TES?
It’s the combination of the speed at which we can move and at the same time really being able to make an impact and work on something meaningful. I’m lucky in my role that I have a significant say in how we implement technology. This gives me a lot of degrees of freedom in picking a great team and putting everything into place.
Helping to build the TES cycle is super exciting and since we will be successful, it’s going to have a real impact on climate change and working on something like that is thrilling.
How does TES do things differently in the energy industry?
The real differentiator is again the speed and the agility at which we can work and implement changes because there are a lot fewer company politics and policies which the larger companies have, so we can move faster.
We also don't have to cater to old business models and prior investors. If you make a transition as a big company, you always have to make sure that you're not jumping ship completely because the investors get nervous which is understandable as what happens to all the billions of assets invested before? So TES started with a clean slate of paper, and we can really do what's right from day one.
What’s the biggest challenge within your role?
There are definitely a few. It's mostly keeping up with the pace of new projects because of the whole dynamic of external factors like climate change mitigation or green energy, the Ukraine war, and the energy security situation, which has increased the pace at which we can implement things.
On the other hand, there is not a day when not 3 or 4 new innovations and start-ups enter the space, and you can’t afford to ignore them. I have to take a glimpse at understanding which are the hidden champions that will be game changers in the future and which are not worth pursuing - luckily I have a fantastic team around me to help with all these tasks.
At the same time while striving for iinnovative solutions, you have to satisfy the lower-risk, long-term strategy. As an engineer, you may find something game-changing and fascinating, but it doesn’t mean everyone is ready to put money towards that.
What’s a current project you are working on that you feel will be a game changer?
Really the whole TES cycle is amazing and a game-changer. We have the Wilhelmshaven Green Energy Hub project progressing and now the recent partnership announced with TotalEnergies as well as our first upstream module identified and are making huge steps toward reaching FID.
I think the combination of these two projects - building the first plant that produces e-ng from renewables, having an import facility and converting it back in the energy park and establishing the CO2 closed loop infrastructure - is going to be game-changing because it will prove the cycle works and that we really have a solution here for decarbonization.
What part of TES’s values - We are PURPOSEFUL in winning the climate race. We are BOLD and CONFIDENT in our trajectory. We are ENTREPRENEURIAL with a heart and take ownership for doing the right things. We SUCCEED IN PARTNERSHIPS, along the whole value chain, with transparency and respect. - most resonates with you and why?
First of all, I think they're all equally important, if you are not any of those you will not succeed in your overall ambitions. But coming from a technology angle, I would say success in partnerships resonates with me as we are not inventing new technology, we’re assembling existing technological elements. And in order to do that you need successful partnerships with those that have developed and own these technological elements.
So for me, having those partnerships and finding the best available technology and creating a trustful relationship with the suppliers so we can gain the best insights for our TES cycle is the most important part.
What is the one thing you want everyone to know about electric natural gas?
What people should realize is that this is the fastest solution for large-scale decarbonization out there because it uses existing infrastructure and technology, it's just a matter of ‘go do’ and that is what makes it unique.
What’s the one thing that people might find surprising about TES?
People might look at TES from the outside and see a very young start-up-like company. But if you actually work in TES and see the people we have brought in to work here, it feels like a mature company that’s been trimmed down this fast-paced model that we need.
It’s a start-up mixed with people who have been within the energy industry for years and bring with them expertise and knowledge that makes it feel like a large mature company, which is the one thing people don’t anticipate.
When looking at the path to decarbonizing the planet, it can seem overwhelming and perhaps even impossible, how do you validate your work in the face of naysayers?
If the 'naysayers' are engineers I run them through the numbers and they will get it. If they are not, it can take a bit of persuasion.
Part of my skills as CTO is to be able to translate between the technology world and the management world. One of my roles is to make sure that I can transfer all these technical terms and details into a language that non-technical people understand. It helps a lot of these discussions if you can draw from analogies when you explain to people where CO2 comes from, how it’s moved and why it makes green energy transportable.
So the short answer is that you need to bring it away from an emotional discussion and address their concerns with facts and data because this is easiest when both are correct. Then it’s just a matter of explaining it in detail and the technology behind it.