What about the baseload?

I get asked this question a lot; by the people operating power systems, by the Oil & Gas industry, and the traditional old school bankers. They also ask about price of intermittent renewable energy plus energy storage; and when that will reach grid parity. Essentially, they are saying that the new innovations cannot replace the current technologies because the cost don’t stack.

I’m not sure those are the right conversations to have or the right questions to ask. Economics do drive a lot of systems and considerations but they probably should not be hijacking our priorities and our realities. Climate change is real; and if we are to put our best foot forward to make the difference, we are not going to make it. Putting our best foot forward is about using our minds, engaging our hands and changing our lives.

Yes, baseload power will be changed, energy prices will increase, perhaps our spaces, our wealth will have to be sacrificed. But our earth can remain a sanctuary for life, and our world can remain intact; if only we are putting our best foot forward. Not dragging our feet, not trying to maintain status quo. Not trying to exercise malicious obedience.

Talking to bosses

In my career-coaching, I often encounter cases of communication challenges from employees or staff especially in conveying messages or ideas to the bosses. Part of the problem is probably culture and the strange imbalance of power with bosses, particularly in larger organisations. There is a lot more filtering of information with complex intentions:

  • Staff might be trying to simplify things for bosses in order to get information across fast but end up obscuring some information
  • Staff may also be trying to manage their bosses’ perception of them and hence try to be focused on delivering more good news than bad
  • Information might be mixed with remarks incorporated for bootlicking purposes

All of these we learnt through a combination of poor workplace culture, bad upbringing with parents hiding lots of different things here and there. There are much better ways to be able to bring truth to the table without having to flinch at the expected responses.

  1. Highlight the context and the objectives of the company or project, and gain affirmation first
  2. Bring up how the objectives are not being met
  3. Define the problem clearly and how it connects to the objectives not being met
  4. Provide some options; each of which justified either by expert or external opinions, past experience from the team and other parties
  5. Request for a decision to be made

If the boss sits on the decision and don’t make it; you may need to be more persistent in highlighting the issue. Then you can start bringing the consequences and laying alongside the costs of the options so that doing nothing would clearly be more costly.

This approach is also useful for sales but perhaps that’s for another day.

Solar as Future of Energy

The Economist ran a couple of stories about Solar Energy in the latest issue (16 April 2016); mainly touting the trends the industry has been facing in the recent years:

  1. Falling cost of panels
  2. Increasing interest, attention and commitment (in the form of Feed-in Tariffs)
  3. Falling levels of subsidy support and FiTs
  4. Increased avenues of financing and ambitious solar farm projects

Quite a couple of bottlenecks to the growth of solar still awaits solutions; and in the recent years, competition in this industry will be shifting into solving some of these problems holding back the development of solar energy.

  1. Land intensity of PV solar farms (need to improve efficiency and quality of PV cells) – land is an issue because of potential competition with arable land (plants need sunshine too) in certain places
  2. Intermittency of Solar power (a large dark cloud moving over a PV farm by can reduce generation significantly and abruptly – need for energy storage and some sort of balancing mechanism)
  3. Grid curtailment issues; inability of the grid to take in the power generated when at the peak generation capacity (especially with wind power thrown into the vicinity).

As a result, I believe these issues are going to drive the growth of this few industries/businesses:

  1. Data analytics combining weather/cloud forecasting with energy storage smart systems to optimise the operations of large scale solar farms
  2. Market platforms that helps with cost-balancing and electricity trading in order to smoothen demand and supply fluctuations from solar/wind power
  3. Improvements in both energy storage technologies as well as PV cell technologies.
  4. Further financial innovation in financing solar power deployments – including leasing of panels, leasing of rooftop space, usage-fee-purchase model, etc.