“I took a right turn into renewables and never looked back”

An interview with freshly appointed Scatec CEO Terje Pilskog.

Get to know the man behind Scatec’s mission to bring affordable and reliable renewable energy to places where it’s needed most.

There’s a certain energy that jumps off the video screen when talking to Terje Pilskog on Teams. He speaks quickly, excitedly, and openly, a friendly figure perfectly illuminated against a digital backdrop featuring the very company that captured that passion and put it in their chief seat: Scatec.

Terje has been CEO of Scatec for all of two months. But his enthusiasm for the job isn’t that of a new executive in his honeymoon phase with the company. He has been a part of Scatec since 2012, when he joined as a member of their executive team. It’s been a decade-long love affair with the Oslo-based renewable energy leader, and the freshly appointed CEO is eager to continue what he describes as a “fantastic journey”.

His story isn’t a classic tale of fulfilling one’s childhood ambitions. If you asked 20-year-old Terje what he wanted to do with his life, he probably would have given the expected answer of “something in business”.

He was always ambitious and in pursuit of achievement, he reflects, but he wasn’t one to deviate from the mainstream. Business school, a stint in the military, followed by a job at McKinsey – a well sodden and safe trail that he stuck to well into adulthood. But something changed for Terje in 2005, when an emerging industry suddenly struck a chord within him, and he decided to make a values-based decision that changed the course of his career.

When I chose to join a renewable energy company in 2005, it was probably the first time that I really stepped out of what had been the direct path for me,” reflects Terje.

At that point my life I knew I needed to do something completely different, and so I took a right turn into renewables, and I never looked back. I had suddenly jumped into a completely new world that was still in its early days.”

A job in renewables before ‘green’ was a thing

Terje joined a new renewable energy company called REC. It was not exactly a logical decision for him at the time. It was a start-up. It was a significant drop in salary. And it was still an early stage of the industry’s development. The world had not yet embraced its “green” phase, and Terje admits that it was a risk at the time. But his interest and curiosity got the better of him, and a climate awareness was ignited.

At REC we had a fantastic mission and starting point. We managed to build out a lot of solar power capacity. We later expanded from Norway to Germany, and my family and I relocated to Munich so that I could take on large-scale solar projects there.”

His adventure with REC lasted until 2012, when Terje’s time in Munich ended, and he moved back to Norway. Upon his return, he got a call from then-Scatec CEO Raymond Carlsen.  It was a moment of serendipity, Terje recalls, having only met Raymond twice before by pure coincidence. But somehow the two connected again and Terje found his next renewable energy adventure, this time as part of Scatec.

When I started, Scatec was much smaller. But I got to be a part of its growth, and for much of the latter part of my career, I held the responsibility for product development,” he explains.

It wasn’t necessarily the direction he expected, but it was the direction for which he was destined. Terje jumped wholeheartedly into Scatec, and with it, traveled the world and experienced different countries and cultures. He’s quick to stress the importance of immersing oneself in the local culture and believes this has been essential to his own development and has shaped him into the leader he is today.

I didn’t leave Norway until I was 15 years old. But once I started working, the traveling just exploded. I think it’s been an important part of my career, helping me maintain a more global perspective and not just a Norwegian one. This is something that I bring into my role today.

In Terje’s first few weeks as CEO, he hit the ground running, visiting Scatec’s offices, and meeting its people beyond the Norwegian headquarters. It was his top priority to listen and understand the realities of the business directly from the people who spend their days bringing the energy transition to life.

In Scatec, we are lucky to have such a clear and strong purpose. This is about the climate crisis and the fact that the green shift is going too slowly to meet our goals to limit global warming. As part of the private sector, we must focus on capturing opportunities and driving the required change. We are key to making the change happen, which makes our jobs essential and creates value for our shareholders,” Terje asserts.

Scatec is on a mission that will never stop. They are driven by a larger purpose, in an industry that’s essential to securing a sustainable future for humanity and our planet. It’s hard to beat that when it comes to inspiring lines of work. But inspiration for Terje also comes in the form of his family. He describes them as “international at heart”, a perspective that he and his wife made sure to impart on their kids.

Leading by example

As a many good leaders know, it’s important to take a break now and then, no matter how critical the mission. During his summer holiday, Terjes promises to leave the reading material on ‘how to succeed as CEO’ behind in Oslo, and instead turn his attention to the twists and turns of Jo Nesbø or John Le Carré, for a slight change of pace.

This summer I also have an ambition to get through a French book, most likely one by Marc Levy, so that I can keep up with the rest of my family and their French skills,” he says with pride.

As the Teams five-minute warning flashes, it’s time for Terje to move on to the next task of the day. Packed calendars, rigorous travel schedules and a planet in crisis await. He’s a man on a mission, a mission bigger than himself, his company or even his country. It’s about our future and the incredible transition on which we are now embarking. We’ll need all Terje’s energy and more to succeed.