‘Moving to Berlin was one of the best decisions I’ve made'

Wild Geese: Eoin keane fell in love with the vibrancy and energy of the city

Eoin Keane  took a role as sales director for Rolls-Royce solutions in Berlin

Eoin Keane took a role as sales director for Rolls-Royce solutions in Berlin

 

Before our changing climate became indisputable and the call to replace fossil fuels unyielding, business and engineering professional Eoin Keane decided to forge a career in renewable energy.

Originally from Galway city, Keane moved to Abbeyknockmoy aged 11, attending secondary school at St Jarlath’s in Tuam. While studying mathematics and English at NUI Galway, he got to spend time in Malta during his Erasmus year, which give him his first taste of life abroad.

“After completing my degree in 2008, I became interested in renewable energy, which was still a nascent industry at that time.” He decided to pursue a master’s programme in Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh to study renewable energy engineering.

“The MsC programme consisted of project-oriented modules pertaining to solar, wind, hydro, wave, tidal and biomass technologies.

“As it was around the time of the financial crisis, job opportunities were quite slim on the ground but I found a position as a renewable energy consultant in a company called Tiptoe Richmond Ltd in north Yorkshire, where I moved after I graduated in 2010. The company provided turnkey renewable energy solutions and project management for a range of technologies including solar PV, solar thermal, wind, heat pumps and biomass.”

After a short spell in London, working as a sustainability adviser, Keane was offered a job in Berlin developing wind and solar projects across Germany and he relocated there in early 2013.

“I had previously been to Berlin to run the marathon and loved the vibrancy and energy of the city. When I had the opportunity to move there, I didn’t hesitate and it ended up being one of the best decisions I’ve made.”

In 2014, Keane took a position in international business development for Qinous, an energy storage manufacturer and early user of hybrid energy solutions.

“I worked on the commercial side of the business as a sales manager, which saw me work on deals in South America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East and Europe. Traveling to far-flung locations to meet project partners and work on the Peruvian Amazon, Guadeloupe, Nigeria and Kenya were perks of the job.”

In 2018, Qinous was acquired by the UK engineering company Rolls Royce Power Systems and, in 2020, Keane took a role as sales director for Rolls-Royce solutions, working in key account management and project development for utility scale energy storage.

Outside of his working life, Keane enjoys living in one of the world’s trendiest cities. “I have no shortage of year-round visitors from home.”

Despite the fact that, geographically, culturally and socially, the city has become a must-visit location with buzzing nightlife, diverse creativity and rich history, it has become a victim of its own popularity. “The cost of living has increased, which has affected its many artists and creatives.

“By becoming a start-up and tech hub over the past few years, Berlin has also attracted a wave of highly educated young people. They breathed life into the city, supporting the creation of new restaurants, bars and creative spaces. But on the other hand, the influx of people comes at a price, making the city less affordable for people not a part of those new industries,” he says.

In response to demand to lower rental prices in Berlin, and create more spaces, Berliners backed an initiative to try to force the city’s government to buy units owned by corporate landlords. In total, 240,000 properties come under the terms of the initiative, which secured support in a recent ballot. Though the vote isn’t legally binding, it could have a major impact on housing struggles in other cities.

Covid-19

Keane, who spent much of the Covid-19 restrictions in Berlin, says Germany handled Covid-19 quite well.

“Germany lay somewhere in the middle regarding severity. I thought it was well handled. You got the sense that the government was trying to minimise the impact on people’s lives, while following the science.

“Like in many countries, small business was hit hard and I do feel that the city’s cultural diversity was harmed. As a result of lengthy lockdowns, many small bars, clubs and restaurants have closed or been bought out.”

On the plus side, because of Covid-19, remote working has been beneficial for Keane and many other people living abroad. “It meant that I could come back home for a couple of months since March 2020, which is a lot better than the few weeks here and there I managed before. But who knows how it will pan out in the future.”

Despite increased living costs and rental shortages, Keane says that, after eight years, he is very much at home in Berlin. “I don’t have any plans to move now. I’m also lucky enough to have a few friends from my Galway times living here in Berlin.

“In general, things have changed in Berlin over the time I’ve been here, but a lot of the core reasons that made it so interesting when I arrived are still true today.”

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