Interview with Jens Peter Saul, CEO, Ramboll

Interview with Jens Peter Saul, CEO, Ramboll


Please provide an overview of Ramboll’s key services and assets. How does its Danish operations fit within its larger global portfolio?

We are an independent engineering consulting firm founded in 1945 in Denmark, a country which took on an early focus in green energy transition and sustainability. This national focus provided us with a unique advantage. Being in Denmark – a laboratory for new technologies – allowed us to be involved from the beginning in the development of the first offshore wind farms, serving as the foundation for expanding our global footprint.

Our operations span sectors in 35 countries, including transport, energy, environment, construction, health, water, management consulting and architecture. This diverse portfolio significantly contributes not only to the field of green energy transition and decarbonization but, with our staff of over 18,500 experts, also to urbanization, the circular economy and biodiversity.

Our success story has seen us averaging around 10% growth per year over the past decade and our revenue stands at over €2.2 billion. Rooted in our Danish and Nordic experiences, we have evolved from a local player to a global industry leader, becoming the largest Danish engineering consultancy.

With a substantial 21% market share in the Danish engineering consultancy market, a feat rare for an engineering consultant in other countries, we attribute this achievement to our diverse offering, scale and accumulated experience. As a key player in Denmark’s journey toward green energy transition, we have played a pivotal role in numerous global wind farm projects, leveraging our knowledge and expertise. We have been involved from the first offshore wind farm around 30 years ago and are now the global leader in that field.

Ramboll has not only contributed to offshore wind farms but has also played a crucial role, for example, in developing the decarbonization strategy for the city of Copenhagen. Our involvement extends beyond strategy development to implementation, including the planning of the capital’s infrastructure, transport and energy supply.

Having evolved from a small Danish player to a dominant Scandinavian player, we started taking on projects in the rest of the world. Our decision to internationalize has been very successful, with the US standing out as one of our strongest markets.

Worthy of note is that Ramboll’s projects include the 2.6GW Dominion Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (CVOW) project, the establishment of a joint venture with Wien Energie in Austria, a framework agreement with Statnett in Norway, and strategic partnerships across the entire value chain of sustainable energy.


Please share details of your company’s current flagship projects and partnerships. What sort of impact will these initiatives have on their respective markets?

We have the ambition to be a partner for sustainable change, a commitment rooted in our past collaborations, such as our work with the city of Copenhagen. In partnership with them, we aided in developing their strategy and its implementation. Copenhagen now stands as one of the most successful capitals in this transition, maintaining economic success as the foundation for change.

The projects we have chosen to highlight in our portfolio exemplify our commitment to this partnership. For instance, our joint venture with Wien Energie in Austria was undertaken despite our limited presence in the country at the time. Wien Energie, Vienna’s largest energy utility, looked at our global footprint, our competencies, and our proven track record in delivering sustainable transformation. Selecting us as their exclusive partner, they recognized our role in facilitating their vision to become carbon neutral. We take immense pride in contributing our global competence to support Wien Energie, the largest utility company in Austria, in the sustainable transition of Vienna.

Another notable project is the CVOW. We were involved in the very first offshore wind projects when it was considered a small niche, several decades ago. Despite scepticism, we built on our experience from supporting 70% of offshore wind farms constructed globally, and when the US aimed to build its offshore wind farm, we were the obvious choice. Our reputation as a global champion in renewable energy positioned us as the ideal partner for Dominion.

Similarly, our involvement with Statnett in Norway demonstrates our commitment to supporting work on transforming their energy transmission system. This involves transitioning towards a more sustainable future and converting the Norwegian energy grid to rely more on renewable sources.

These projects, characterized not only by their scale but also by our approach, showcase the impact of our collaboration with clients. Connecting back to your initial question about our development and growth, offshore wind serves as a prime example. This is mainly thanks to the market conditions of Denmark; we were part of a unique environment – I call it the “Danish Lab” – fostering innovation and early adoption of technologies. The waste to energy station Amager Bakke, an engineering masterpiece in the heart of the city converting waste to sustainable energy, exemplifies this innovation. Not is it only one of the world’s biggest waste to energy station, it is also the cleanest and an architectural showcase. We are now engaged in its trial for carbon capture and storage to reduce CO2.

Being based in Denmark, we experience an open society ready for innovation, allowing us to try out and adopt new technologies early. As a result, we can bring these learnings to the rest of the world. Our extensive experience means that when other cities, like Vienna, or companies like Dominion, express their desire to embark on projects, we have been there before. We’ve learned from those experiences and are well-equipped to guide and implement similar projects globally.


What are the reasons Denmark is a lead market for offshore wind technologies? What is Ramboll doing to advance local projects and export Denmark’s offshore wind capabilities to international markets?

As I mentioned earlier, Denmark has consistently been forward-thinking, placing a very early focus on sustainability. Notably, sustainability is not as politicized in Denmark as it is in the US. There is a consensus around science and a recognition across the entire political spectrum that we must adopt more sustainable practices to secure a future for our children. This broad agreement fosters greater societal support for facilitating projects. Cities like Copenhagen recognized this early on, even when it was a relatively modest city.

Copenhagen, despite its past as a less affluent city, made strategic investments in liveability, transforming itself into an attractive hub that drew talent. The city learned that sustainability and economic success are not necessarily conflicting goals. This consensus, coupled with a strong openness to innovation and experimentation in the Danish Lab allowed new technologies to flourish. Offshore wind, for example, emerged as one such innovation, with pioneering companies originating from Denmark, such as the first offshore wind power supplier.

This approach enabled testing on a smaller scale and built on it. Denmark, though limited in space and resources, found offshore wind to be a viable solution. Comparatively, neighbouring Germany, despite being 15 times larger in terms of energy needs, has only a third of Denmark’s coastal space. Denmark’s approach has proven successful in reducing environmental impact, making it a crucial journey for the nation.

This success extends not only to the Danish wind industry but also to investors like Oersted and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (CIP), showcasing their international growth. For Ramboll, our energy business is a major contributor, experiencing above 20% organic growth in 2022, with our wind business leading the way thanks to our prominent position in the sector.


Where does Denmark stand in the race to create a substantial hydrogen market, and what is Ramboll doing to help build a significant hydrogen sector in Europe and beyond?

Denmark has astutely recognized the potential of green hydrogen, thanks to its companies with offshore wind competence, technological expertise, and experience in the offshore wind sector. Our success in significant offshore wind projects has laid a strong foundation. Additionally, having one of the largest future consumers of hydrogen, German industry, nearby enhances our advantage, considering their increasing future demand.

Denmark possesses competence not only in offshore wind but also in hydrogen technology, with some leading players originating from our country. We are setting the stage for Denmark to emerge as a global leader in the green hydrogen space, akin to the trajectory of offshore wind development. The scalability of this is notable.

Despite current setbacks common to infrastructure and major investments – such as rising material prices and higher interest rates – Denmark’s pragmatic approach in politics will overcome these challenges. Denmark is poised to be a first mover in large-scale deployment, providing benefits to our industry and suppliers. At Ramboll, we anticipate being among the first to construct these stations globally, mirroring the early adaptation strategy that proved successful in the offshore wind sector.

A few years ago, when we perceived the significant potential of hydrogen, we made a strategic decision. Despite being a niche player in oil and gas, particularly serving the North Sea and Baltic Sea, we chose to pivot our resources toward hydrogen. This shift, made around two and a half years ago, has been remarkably successful. Currently, 70% of our workforce within that former oil and gas business is now dedicated to hydrogen projects, a substantial shift from our previous focus on fossil fuels. Importantly, this is not limited to Denmark but extends to international projects.

We’ve been integral to some of the first large-scale hydrogen projects, and our optimism is high for further growth, solidifying our position as a leading player. The US is Denmark’s largest export market outside of Europe and stands as a key growth market for Danish companies globally, emphasizing the international impact of our endeavors.


How significant of a market is the US for Ramboll and what kind of synergies are being created in sustainable sectors through a close partnership with Denmark?

First and foremost, the US is our second-largest market, closely following Denmark, and it competes with Denmark to be the most significant contributor to our overall profitability. Our journey in the US began in 2015 with a strategic acquisition, marking a pivotal move in our international expansion. Starting as a team of two almost a decade ago, we have now grown to a workforce of 2,000 in four countries across the Americas, the vast majority in the US.

Our international expansion strategy involves making strategic acquisitions and then investing in those entities. The US holds a special place in our global journey, and we consciously prioritized it as the most important market during our initial foray into internationalization. This decision was driven by the anticipation that our knowledge and expertise could give us a competitive advantage in the US market.

Since then, our experience in the US has been nothing short of fantastic. I firmly believe that, in a short time, it will become our largest market. This growth journey in the US aligns seamlessly with our leading global competencies, especially in the areas of green energy transition. Our expertise extends beyond energy generation, encompassing sectors such as offshore wind and energy-intensive industries.

The US, with its vast opportunities, taps into numerous areas where we possess leading global competencies. Our involvement spans the entire spectrum of the green energy transition, making the US a pivotal and promising market for our company.


How are you boosting the sustainability of your operations in the US while remaining market competitive?

I can use the example of our focus on water supply and our competencies in this domain. We have actively assisted the state of California in managing and mapping its water resources to achieve a more sustainable water supply. This aligns seamlessly with our strengths as a global player, complementing investment programs aimed at enhancing water infrastructure.

Our strategic direction involves not only in providing international competences but also transferring knowledge into the country. Building local competence is crucial for sustained growth. Despite potential setbacks in the journey, particularly in the US, we anticipate a significant demand for our expertise. We are committed to developing local knowledge, ensuring long-term revenue and contributing to the local workforce.

This strategic approach positions the US to potentially become our largest market in the near future.


What are your top personal goals as CEO of Ramboll and what long-term vision do you have for the company beyond 2023?

We have formulated an ambitious strategy that mirrors my vision for the company – to become a preferred partner for sustainable change globally. Our aim is to be recognized as a leader in sustainability, particularly in the green energy transition, solidifying our position as a global champion in this field. This involves showcasing our expertise across a broad sustainability portfolio while emphasizing our excellence in the green energy sector.

Our commitment to this strategy is evident in partnerships such as the one with Wien Energie, where we are positioned as their trusted partner for the green energy transition. This signifies our alignment with the right path.

In line with our strategy, we will further invest in international expansion, with a special focus on the US and Germany. The priority is particularly high in the field of green energy. Notably, our unique setup as the Ramboll Foundation sets us apart. The foundation, with the sole purpose of ensuring Ramboll’s existence for eternity, reinvests all earnings back into the company. While employees can be shareholders, the majority ownership lies with the foundation. This distinctive structure is unfamiliar to many in the Americas but proves advantageous, especially when engaging with employee-owned companies in the US facing ownership transitions.

Our long-term perspective, people-focused approach and purpose-driven ethos make us an attractive home for companies considering their future. In the competitive landscape where small employee-owned firms contemplate their options, Ramboll emerges as a compelling alternative. Our success in acquiring such companies globally, particularly in the US, is evident. Our ambition is not only to retain top talent but also to attract it, both through hiring and acquiring companies owned by others. This strategy has been pivotal to our success in the US, especially in the ESG environment, where employee-owned companies chose to join Ramboll due to our foundation-owned structure and long-term, value-driven focus.


What is your final message to readers?

We are pleased to witness the increasing focus on a more sustainable future in the US, which, as the largest emitter, plays a crucial role. Despite occasional politicization, we remain hopeful that this journey will persist. This shift, boosted by the large support schemes in the US such as the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), makes the US more attractive for international investors like us.

Our commitment is reflected in substantial investments in the US, particularly in renewable energy, but also in other areas like water, environment and urbanization. We continue to bolster local expertise as a direct outcome of this commitment. With confidence, we anticipate a successful and collaborative journey with the US as their dedicated partner in advancing sustainability.





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