Renewable energy

I’m starting a second thread after my frist one about remote work. Topics of “Next big thing” are the most rewarding trends and future technologies, so the best business opportunities.

The first story is not really a ‘next’. It’s an ‘already here’. The de-carbonisation of the energy sector. Climate change is real and we have to start dealing with the outcomes. The CO2 levels are far too high and we raised the pollution level in 2018 instead of lowering it.

The efforts are very different around the world. Germany started scaling photovoltaics 20 years ago and is in the middle of the ‘Energiewende’, the complete shift to clean energy. The US is falling behind after some good approaches by the Obama administration. China and India are investing in PV but cannot generate the power for there economic growth without an increasing number of coal plants. And Australia, geographically one of the best spots for PV and power generation by wind is deep in there ‘cheap’ coal.

The actual calculations are that PV and wind are cheaper than coal and gas, around the world! This came with the fast decline of the cost of PV modules produced in China. It is now everywhere more cost-efficient to install PV and use the free energy from the sun than to build and maintain a coal plant and extract the fossil from the ground – so no excuses left.

This is a good example that everything is easier if it pays for itself. Very few people pay more ‘for the climate’, most are buying the cheapest offer. And here comes what governments should do to avoid the worst outcomes from climate change: install carbon taxes. Only if all operations with fossils are much higher taxed, there will be a be a fair competition. The catastrophe relief which is needed because of severe weather have to be paid by the governments, so the responsibles have to be taxed, even if this means more expensive gas and air travel for us.

This will also fasten the electrification of the transport sector. There are still some people who think hybrids or hydrogen cars are the future. For me it is crystal clear that cheap renewable power generation and battery electric vehicles (BEV) are the future. This is applicable for cars, trunks, semis, trains, ships and even planes. The last one will be the hardest to scale to big planes, but small electric planes are already flying. If you live in Asia you also witness how electric scooters are replacing the gas ancestors.

But back to the power generation: there are all the highly competitive renewable solutions available:

  • Photovoltaics, everywhere, less efficient in the north and south third of the earth
  • Thermal Solar Power Generation, best in deserts, advantage: heat storage
  • Wind Power, on-shore and off-shore, best at all shorelines
  • Hydropower, where mountains and enough water is
  • Biomass, best with waste, bad if corn or grain will only be grown for this

The only disadvantage with most of the above is that the generation is linked to the time of the day or season and the weather. To meet the demand you can install impressive power lines, which is a big discussion in Germany right now with resistance of their new neighbors. Or we have to install much more power storages at home and/or the scaled variant in the grid. The easiest way to store electricity is still pumping water onto mountains, but the learning curve with batteries based on metals and chemicals is still starting.

There are a lot technical solutions proposed to fight the already too high CO2 in the athmosphere. An easy but mostly overlooked idea is to use nature as CO2 sinks, like proposed by the campain natural climate solutions.

And we have a lot of promising stories. Take Mike Cannon-Brooks, CEO of Australian software company Atlassian, who has enough time (or a dedication) to start the campain ‘Fair Dinkum Power’ to transfer Australian power generation to Renewables after getting mad about the fossil-loving actual Australian politicans. He challenged Elon Musk back in 2017 via Twitter, if Tesla can build a 100 MW battery as grid stabilizer in 100 days, after South Australia suffered major blackouts. Tesla not only achieved this, the battery avoided power outages and paid itself already with earnings out of the grid stabilizing.

So all I can say is look for jobs or begin a startup in photovoltaics, wind power, intelligent power distribution, electric cars and everything else adjacent to the topic. Clear, you cannot start producing PV modules or electric cars – but for sure you can install or maintain PV or start an e-car rental business. You will have a bright future with knowledge in this areas and will help fighting climate change.

Please tell us your experience in the field and your thoughts in the comments.

Tackle remote works biggest obstacle

What is remote works biggest obstacle? Viable internet connection? Video conferencing hardware? Collaboration software? Recruiting? No, it is trust in employees and team members!

Normally we blame managers that they are not allowing remote work because their lack of trust. But please try to turn your perspective around. I did, as I became a project manager some years ago and as becoming head of project management with a small team of project managers later on.

You can read more in my older post at: Trust is the key for successful remote work

It is really not easy letting your team members go out of sight if your are used to work in the same office. Even if you know their competencies and all the advantages of the home office and all the disadvantages of the office work. Read about the Pros and Cons here: The Ultimate List of Remote Work Pros and Cons

People are used to collaborate in the personal way. We are just not trained to work and trust over the distance. And this is not a miracle, because we all grew up in a world without real time video conferencing around the world for free. But even in the future kids will be raised by personal interaction – for good reasons. So we all have to learn trusting our remote collegues and team members first.

How to build trust with remote workers

This is a collection of methods and ideas to gain that trust and overcome this major obstacle of remote working:

  • do a lot of communication, i.e. short daily video conferencing
  • do video conferencing instead of phone or written communication as often as possible
  • set up regular work demonstrations, a great possibility to show your appreciation
  • even interesting is, that this enhances trust in the team, because most of the technical people rank their peers on their work results
  • if communication and demonstrations are frequently, it feels less like monitoring
  • try to avoid changes of the team members in a project and even over similar projects, because the team members are getting used to each other
  • plan enough time at the projects start for newly mixed teams that they have the possibility to get to know each other
  • do regular team retreats if you are fully remote, because having fun together is building easily good connections
  • do off work activities even if you are co-located, to connect better to each other
  • provide pictures of your home office or home stories in your employees magazin or collaboration tool
  • talk about family and hobbies – it is always surprising what off work talents you have in your team

Conclusion

All our business ventures, companies and other undertakings could be so much more successful if we can strengthen the partnerships to our remote collegues which is possible with the above mentioned methods.

What is your experience? Missing trust is not the biggest obstacle? What else helps you in your daily work? Please let us know in the comment section!

Remote Work does not work… completely by itself

Even if the technical preconditions, available work and willingly remote workers are distributed everywhere, remote work runs not by itself.

Distractions

Most critics are complaining the possible distractions you can have at home or at the coworking space. Distractions are possible, but by far most of the remote workers would have more distractions in the office environment than at home. My actual job is 4 days onsite and 1 day at home. The home office day is the ‘work day’ the 4 others are the organizing stuff days, packed with meetings and 1-to-1 discussions, regarding my work as project manager. Reading specifications and do longer planning sessions is only possible at home.

Off-topic work

Another problem of remote work is the content, meaning what tasks will be performed. If the project information and tasks are not properly distributed over the team, people tend to perform task they like most and not the ones which are needed most. This can only be faced by good project management. Be it agile or more traditional the core points are:

  • have the necessary information at the right time at the people who are needing it
  • provide a clear overall picture to all stakeholders
  • have a clear structure in your project
  • trust your team members (clear point but often missing) – see also ‘Trust is the key for successful remote work
  • transfer responsibility to your team members, but monitor the results
  • make agreements about delivery times not orders

Failure at remote working situation is rarely based on the people, but mostly about bad communication and bad project management.

Self-motivation

Anyway you need a good portion of self-motivation. Most people need a good environment for that. You can achieve that with a good company culture which is even effective for remote workers or, if you are working for your own, by a good coworking space. I’m referring here not only to the fancy, busy spaces in big cities, but primarily all that small office spaces which are available in your direct neighborhood. And this unspectacular place to work together with other remote workers is a thing that hopefully will spread further in the near future.

Here are some more points, ‘Why Remote Work has Not Exploded yet‘ and here is my ‘The Ultimate List of Remote Work Pros and Cons‘.

What is your experience about the success factors of remote work? Let us know in the comment section!

Australia, Please Move Over to Remote Work!

Dear Australia, I have seen your wonderful country now for the second time. It is so beautiful! Great landscape everywhere, beautiful animals, tasty food, free BBQs in every park and very friendly, lovely people.

But you have one big problem. You are destroying your beautiful nature in a rapid speed. You changed the positive meaning of the forward-thinking word ‚development‘ to the cruel synonyme for logging very old woods, which are full of species and building houses, industrial areas, extra-wide highways or yet another shopping mall.

I’m not saying that you should not develop! But it is definitely wrong how it is going on now. You are selling your nature to international and national companies for a few hundred job here and a few hundred there.

You let the Indian company Adani build worlds biggest coal mine in the hinterland of Cairns with a new railway to the coast and yet another coal port for huge ships in the Great Barrier Reef. Just a few month ago, they got a way too small fine for the spill of contaminated water into the wetlands next to their actual smaller operation up there.

Without any care about koalas, you are ‚developing‘ thought the east coast. The complex habitates of male and female wild koalas are even not fully researched, but cutting their food trees for ‚land clearing‘ is permitted everywhere. You are literally killing your iconic animal. The newly build freeway no. 1 between Brisbane and Sydney is getting tiny horizontal ladders 150 meters actross the road (maybe used by possums, but never by koalas) and special tunnels under the road to let the koalas cross underneath. Nobody knows if they will be used sometime. The fences along the road are only to prevent the cars from kangaroo damage – koala will easily climb over them.

Airlie Beach is a nice touristic destination at the Great Barrier Reef south of Cairns. It was developed from a small fisher village to a medium sized town. That is enough! You do not have to put concrete over every grass halm between the town and the highway in the hinterland. The building signs for exactly that are already standing – this time backed by Chinese money for huge casino resorts!

Australia, I know you need jobs – you just need a better plan than betting on fossil fuels, mining and tourism.

You are the remote country! Dive into remote work!

You have a tradition in very remote mining operations and very remote farming. You are the remote country, you are even the remote continent! On the other hand you are highly urbanized – the percentage of your population, which lives in cities rankes right next after the city countries like Singapore – and this is not good for a right balance with nature and the health of your people. I have already written a post about that at the beginning of this year: How remote work supports the health of our planet .

Get prepared for the actual form of remote work which means working over the internet. This means mostly getting highspeed internet in every populated corner of your country – I know Telstra did a good job with that, even with over-the-air-wifi in cities, but it is still hard to get good internet in smaller towns.

Then educate your workers for this kind of work, which is new to most. I even found a New South Wales agency for that: Pointer. All the remote work pros and cons are here: The Ultimate List of Remote Work Pros and Cons. Jumping into remote work would have two major impacts: 1. you don’t have to run after everyone who want to create a few jobs and allows him ruining your country for that. 2. enabling the people to work wherever they are would reduce the pressure on the cities – especially the koala inhabitating east and southeast coast and your biggest cities Sydney and Melbourne where you already cannot afford the tiniest houses.

To see what other benefits it will have for your residents, even mentally: What Remote Work is Doing with You.

And there is the big trend of spreading sustainable energy. Your geography is perfect for solar power generation – in big and small scale. You can go completly off-grid with the ongoining reduction in battery prizes – great in every remote area. Nice that you purchased a huge Tesla battery for he stability of the South Australian power net.

Boost your jobs for PV and battery installing electricians and put money in battery research. And switch from coal to PV power generation in the big scale quickly and let the coal in the ground – that would be a enourmous contrubution for reducing the outcomes of the climate change. Your PM want to extend the time of the coal Liddel power station (Link), despite its operator AGL will not?

Australia, please wake up, before it is too late!

In Remote Dubois, a Quiet Revolution

From guest author Lois Wingerson

RodeoGrounds4This is a story of loss, and the signs of renewal.

In the late 1980s, the last sawmill in Dubois, Wyoming, closed, plunging the town into economic crisis. (In this image, the site as it looks today.)

Possibly that same year–I’ve lost track of the exact date–we came with our toddler son to a dude ranch near Dubois, to enjoy a getaway from two stressful jobs in the big city.

That was back when Bernard and Leota Didier owned the Lazy L&B, two owners and most of a lifetime ago.

LazyL&BHorses

I was awestruck by vistas I had never imagined, let alone seen. I focused on trying to stay mounted on my horse, having never ridden before, while the wranglers loped easily over the endless range ahead.

A tourist enjoying a brief getaway, I had no idea about what was happening in the town nearby. Nor, at the time, did I care.

Dubois had thrived on logging since the turn of the last century, and the tie hacks hewed railroad ties for the transport network that was uniting the country (although the railroad itself never came near Dubois). Now, the industry had abandoned the town, due to a change in logging policy at the US Forest Service and economic realities that eroded its profit.

LazyLB_editedDubois quickly set about trying to re-invent itself. The town sponsored several community projects, hiring consultants who led self-examinations and assessments of the town’s potential.

My favorite of these assessments was a freelance project. In 1992–exactly a quarter-century ago–an economics professor named John Murdock, who had retired to Dubois, completed an independent analysis of how the town might recover from its devastating loss.

He considered the potential of minerals, oil, and gas (virtually none in that region) and small manufacturing (nil, because of the distance to market).

Murdock concluded that the town’s only hope for economic revival was two sources who would arrive bringing their own income: (1) retirees and (2) people who would work here remotely, using the Internet.

The Internet didn’t yet really exist. This was two years before the creation of the World Wide Web Consortium that would set international standards so that computers on different systems could share information.

CemeteryView1_042917

Dubois waited. Retirees always arrived, but predictably, some would leave to be closer to family and others due to failing health.

In the meantime, its lifeline was tourism. The goal has been to attract people like us who wanted a brief escape from “civilization,” and to entice part of the horde bound for Yellowstone to stop here long enough to experience Dubois’ unique, enchanting qualities.

The problem with tourism (which is now the second largest industry in Wyoming) is that it can’t form the basis of a year-round economy in a location like Dubois. In the periods between the snow and the summer, the revenue stops.

We were far away as all this was evolving, and I was experiencing industrial challenges of my own, as publishing began to shift to the Internet. I had to learn how to code content for CD-ROMs meant to be read on a computer. Then I was hired to manage a “webzine” about science. I ran an online news service, and had to learn more coding. Later, I helped create a search engine.

My team was based in New York and London. We communicated by email and video conference. At my last job, my boss was based in Denver, with my coworkers in Baltimore, Boston, and San Francisco.

The writing was on the wall–as was a poster of the image below, which I had taken years earlier at the Lazy L&B and moved from office to office. Sometimes, looking up from the screen, I would rest my thoughts on Dubois.

Luckily, my last employer was unconcerned about where I was located while I worked. Eventually, when the time was right for us, Dubois called us back.

LazyLBDrawAs we returned, the old sawmill site was being transformed. The EPA now cites it as a case study of environmental remediation.

Cleaned up with help from the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, the location now houses a medical clinic, a fitness center, and an assisted living facility. A fishing pond for children should be completed soon.

In my absence, Dubois had been laying the tracks for a new kind of transcontinental network: high-speed Internet. I quickly learned that it was more reliable in Dubois than in the city, where I often had to close my laptop and reboot in a library or cafe when my signal suddenly went down.

When we first moved to Dubois, I met a few other individuals who were making their living here on the Internet. Gradually I met others, but I don’t know them all by any means.

I have encountered several other telecommuters–a computer coder, a software architect, and a marketing expert–who have newly relocated to the area. All of them chose Dubois in order to enjoy Nature and solitude while earning a good living at their keyboards. Two of them have children they don’t want to raise anywhere near a city.

DTECoils2The economy that Murdock foresaw 25 years ago is in its birth pangs at this very moment. According to a recent report in Forbes, about 40% of employees are now working “remotely” most or all of the time. About 80-90% of employees surveyed say they would like to work from home.

On Twitter, I’ve discovered a thriving separate industry of “remote workers” complete with vendors of supplies and services, support networks, employment recruiters, and professional conferences. A recent article on a jobs site for telecommuters predicts that the new industry will boost employment in rural areas.

Some high-skilled technology workers who work as consultants describe themselves as “digital nomads.” They migrate from one exotic location to another, wherever there is good broadband, enjoying a combination of travel and work as their day-to-day lifestyle. There are travel agents who specialize in serving this market.

The cost of commercial real estate, combined with the exploding cost of living in major cities and long commute times to affordable areas, makes it Downtown3almost impractical to insist that employees who work largely online must come in to an office–especially if the best candidate for an online job doesn’t live anywhere nearby.

Many employees want to live in urban areas anyway. But surely some want to be in a place like Dubois, for exactly the reasons we love it: It’s small, it’s isolated, it’s placid.

The new year-round economic base of Dubois is emerging slowly, one by one and two by two. Like Dubois itself, it is clean, quiet, and tucked away in the wilderness.

© Lois Wingerson, 2017

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