Wieland off after Desertec clash

Paul van Son has come out on top of the acrimonious power struggle at the top of the Desertec Industrial Initiative, with DII confirming that his adversary, Aglaia Wieland, will leave the organisation.

No timetable was given for the departure of Wieland, formerly a principal at the Boston Consulting Group.

Van Son was named chief executive of DII at its inception in 2009. The following year Wieland, who has extensive experience in the Middle East, joined DII as director of strategy, with responsibility for formulating group’s long-term rollout plan.

Last year Wieland joined van Son atop DII’s two-person management board, setting in motion the personality clash which led to today’s announcement. Some see DII – with a few dozen employees – as simply having been too small for two directors.

The drama was apparently brought to a head by news last week that the Desertec Foundation – a separate and well-regarded not-for-profit organisation, which helped to launch DII and lent its name – had cancelled its membership within the group, citing the “management crisis” at DII.

“The dispute at the management level has already led to resentment among the partners of the Desertec Foundation, and it negatively affects our reputation and trust,” the Foundation said.

In addition to concerns about the clash between van Son and Wieland, and how it was playing out in the media, the Heidelberg-based Desertec Foundation is understood to have objected to the Munich-based DII’s pivot towards a heavier focused on localised solar and wind projects in Africa and the Middle East, while downgrading its expectations of exports to Europe.

The Foundation, in contrast, remains committed to a large-scale exportation to Europe.

A number of challenges, such as Spain’s lack of enthusiasm about having more renewable power flowed onto its already saturated grid, have materialised for the broad interconnection strategy since DII was launched. Many of its shareholders may be most concerned with cracking into emerging markets for renewable energy.

Sensing the peril of continued rot at the top, DII, whose shareholders include ABB, First Solar and E.ON, today announced an organisational reset under the “single management” of Paul van Son.

Van Son, a Dutch native with considerable experience in Germany, joined DII after a long career in the energy and consulting world including directorships at the utility Essent and the bankrupt renewables developer Econcern.

DII says its shareholders have “revalidated” its direction of travel, with no major strategic tweaks announced alongside the departure of Wieland.

“Desert power from solar and wind will play a crucial role in covering the rapidly growing demand in the Middle East and North Africa,” says DII.

“The resources [will] also allow a steadily growing export of inexpensive and environmentally-friendly desert power to Europe within the coming decades.”