Engineering a greener tomorrow, Raoul Kubitschek works to shape the future of offshore wind in Taiwan and beyond

Raoul Kubitschek Profile RAK 01

For Raoul, a well-rounded leader and dedicated team are the very things that could spell the difference between the success of a new market and its failure.

The early 2000s saw Taiwan’s offshore wind sector take its first steps. Developments happened gradually at a local level, and there was barely any talk of wind turbines at the harbour, a site that is generally key to the construction and maintenance of these massive energy-generating devices. 

But over the next decade, from housing a fledgling offshore wind sector, Taiwan emerged as a major player in the Asia-Pacific region – and Raoul Kubitschek, NIRAS Taiwan’s Country Director, was there to witness this transformation. His presence has been so constant, in fact, that Angela Oung, founding editor of the podcast Offshore Wind Unredacted, described Raoul as someone who bore the most lore in Taiwan’s offshore wind history during an episode featuring Raoul as a guest.

Raoul Kubitschek Orein Support NIRAS Taiwan Floating Wind

“I’ve been in Taiwan’s offshore wind sector from the very beginning, and this has helped me get to know a lot of the players and understand the country’s business culture and policies,” Raoul said during an interview. “In 2012, there were only a handful of people engaged in the sector, and now there are thousands. Suddenly, besides Europe, everybody is talking about Taiwan when it comes to offshore wind.”

In the backdrop of this boom, the leader of NIRAS Taiwan continues to nurture a dynamic team of well-rounded experts that can easily work with suppliers, as well as meet the engineering needs of clients. And for him, well-roundedness involves not only understanding the potential implications of a project but also diving deep into the genuine needs of offshore wind stakeholders. 

The ongoing quest to transition to renewable energy, and the leadership needed to get there 

In 2018, Raoul established a boutique consulting firm called petawatt. It specialised in offering offshore wind and photovoltaic expertise and served two major offshore wind developers in Taiwan as well as several foreign companies. “That was basically my own baby,” he said. Using the experience he had gained over the years in bilateral trade, he helped both new and established players enter the market. 

However, as a newcomer in a still-budding industry, petawatt ceased its operations after a little over a year. “It’s a capital-intensive industry,” Raoul shared. Many clients deemed small suppliers in offshore wind to be too a high a risk to bet on, and this led to the firm’s eventual closing. “But it was still satisfying because I worked with two multinationals and helped them understand the market — one already left Taiwan — and I had the pleasure of serving them because I could bring them up to speed. It would have taken them longer without the support they had.”

I think, often, people only see the engineering part in environment work, but there's the social science aspect to it as well.

Raoul Kubitschek, NIRAS Taiwan's Managing Director

A couple of years later, he would again be doing the same — empowering offshore wind developers, managing a dynamic team of experts and ensuring projects deliver clients’ expectations. But this time, it is with NIRAS. 

“NIRAS is a strong organisation, and in Taiwan I already found a very strong team,” Raoul said, adding that since it is also a bigger one, there is greater support both from the client and the team in terms of project execution. This makes working with NIRAS all the more fulfilling, he says: not only are offshore wind projects seeing the light of day, but they are also, and even more importantly, contributing to the sustainable development goal of making clean, renewable energy accessible.

Raoul Kubitschek Profile OSW Manila 01

Since he has taken the helm, NIRAS's offshore wind team in Taiwan has won several major projects in the country and Asia-Pacific through the years, expanding today to the Philippines as the archipelagic nation is gearing up for a future focussed on renewable energy. And to Raoul, these wins are a result of good team effort.

A native of Germany, Raoul knows a good leader is someone who does not only lead by example; they must also purposefully convey a vision to their team. “Because working at NIRAS means working with experts, who are all smart, smarter than me, for example, I always ask myself, ‘How do I elevate them so that they can really do their day-to-day work right?’” Raoul shared. “A good leader elevates and supports the team in delivering their tasks, so he or she makes sure that all the tools are in place and that the support of the organisation is there.”

In offshore wind, just as important as technical knowledge is human insight 

When Raoul became involved in offshore wind, his mindset was this: grow into it. He had graduated with a Master's in Chinese Studies and Economics from Heidelberg University in Germany and then moved to Taiwan to start working for the German Trade Office in Taipei, particularly in the renewable energy market. There, he quickly progressed from project assistant to a managerial role.

As a professional in renewable energy, Raoul promoted Germany’s innovations and technologies to Taiwan until, eventually, he began specialising in offshore wind and general project development. 

“Having studied a new language and living overseas, I've developed a strong sensitivity towards cultural differences and learned how to work with them,” he said.  

All this to say, Raoul attributes his success in part to his background in humanities, which sharpened his ability to adapt to a sector that had grown out of necessity. For years, Taiwan’s bid to power its world-leading semiconductor industry with renewable energy, accompanied by the strong winds constantly blowing through the country, has only increased its number of offshore wind projects.

Raoul Kubitschek Profile 20221207 130615036 Ios

But as with many large-scale construction projects, communities can be affected along the way. Wind turbines and substations are only two of the imposing, life-changing structures required to power a fully functional offshore wind system. In the process, farmers, fishers, and locals in the area of development may have to grapple with a loss of livelihood. 

“Sometimes, they might be worried that they're left behind because [the work and value creation] get concentrated in areas outside of where the windfarm will be built,” Raoul said. "In offshore wind, we participate in supporting livelihood restoration plans together with our clients, especially on fisheries. Then, in the environmental impact assessment, as well as in environmental and social impact studies for our clients, we also do public consultations,” he added.  

The resulting process is marked by lengthy discussions, but one that is necessary to protect the interests and safety of the public. “I think, often, people only see the engineering part in environment work, but there's the social science aspect to it as well,” Raoul said, highlighting the fact that engineering projects bear as much weight on their intended outcomes as they do on the context in which they are built.

Raoul Kubitschek Danish Pavilion

What it means to be in the development sector 

As a seasoned professional in infrastructure development, Raoul knows what it is like to work in the sector for years. And if he could offer a piece of advice to someone starting out, it would be to pick a specialisation.  

“Do not be afraid to specialise,” he said. “Sometimes, people read job descriptions and realise it’s all very detailed. They begin to think, ‘Oh god, there’s so much I can never do!’ But just do it. Be aware that there is a challenge, but these requirements likely describe what you already do every day; you just never thought about it. And for the ones you don’t cover, get ready to grow into them.”

Fresh out of college, Raoul understood what being a part of the industry entailed. He worked towards his future and made it his mission to deliver the best he could, leading him to where he is today. Over the years, however, his mission in life has significantly changed. If back then, his goal was to make sure he lives a good and stable life, today he is working on the very same thing for his family. 

“What's my mission in life? I'm the father of four,” he said. “That's my mission in life — to create a better environment for my children.”

Raoul Kubitschek

Raoul Kubitschek

Managing Director

Taipei, Taiwan