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.

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!

Remote Work Will Save Small Towns

The struggling small towns, which lost so many people, first and foremost the young talented ones, to the big cities, will be thriving again with the already started wave of remote work.

Status quo

The entire world is in a long phase of urbanization (see also these UN report: 2014 Revision of World Urbanization Prospects from my post How remote work supports the health of our planet). But it is not only the movement from rural landscapes to cities – it is especially the skilled people, who have to move from small towns to the big cities to get proper jobs. That is the same in the US, North and Latin America, Europe, Asia, Australia and even Africa. And there are also some decreasing metropolitan areas; to name only two examples: the Rust Belt in the US and the Ruhr area in Germany, which were strong in coal mining and steel industry.

You can see the same pattern everywhere: Young people move away from home after finishing high school or studying to find higher education and work in big cities. And everywhere you see the big travel movement for christmas, chinese new year or the other big holiday breaks, when singles, couples and young families are travelling to their families to be together for a few days.

Future

But why will that change? Because of the advent of remote work. I am explaining the rise of remote work in all my other posts, but take this as summary: The Ultimate List of Remote Work Pros and Cons. Because it effects so many parts of our lifes, we should name it a new industry. With so many known advantages, it is clear that the remote industry will introduce itself even faster than the digital revolution.

Everyone with a location independed job can choose a place to live and work. There will be people, who want to live at their home town, at the place where relatives live (if it is not the same) or they will choose a ‘nice’ spot. Some will stay in big cities, because of amenities like good travel connections or cultural offerings. But the big movement will go from overcrowded cities where housing is expensive, the air is polluted and traffic is a nightmare to small towns, while some of them are already looking like ghost towns.

Home towns

We all need communities, and nearly all of us love the community of family, friends and neighbours where we grew up. So it is easy to guess, that a lot of people will move back to their home towns. And the returning inhabitants bring demand for services and spending capacity which will not only keep some dying small community alive, these towns will be literally reinvigorated.

Imagine the young high potential graduate who can still take care of an elderly family member and start a significant job from home. Or imagine a young family with remote working mom and dad, who are enabled to live in their small home town, neighbouring parents and other relatives to give their children the same feeling of ‘home’ like they experienced years before.

Vacation spots

All the others, who are not tied or not tied yet will choose a nice spot, which is affordable, has good weather and other amenities like security. In general that will be the holiday regions. There will also be much movement between these areas, because the migration will start again when the locations get crowded, which ends the quite and also rises living costs and traffic.

The vacation spots will get nomads, who are passing by on the one hand and new residents, who are settling down, on the other hand. It is important to grow the infrastructure to handle them in a balance with minimal destruction of the nature to keep the place attractive.

Responsibility of towns

The towns have to stop trying to attract big companies or manufactoring jobs. That will be a waste of time and money. Fred Perrotta explains it well with an US example here: No Jobs are Coming: How Remote Work Can Save Small Towns. Also the comments by Kristi E. DePaul, Michael DeHart and Deb Dutton are very well said.

The better way is attracting remote workers to move (back) to the town and reorganizing the infrastructure for the new situation. There will be an increase in service jobs if the population is growing again. But the actual residents should not rely on only that. They should be trained in the use of remote work tools and how to get a digital job with their capabilities.

Responsibility of big cities

First of all, the cities have to take it seriously. Lots of them are highly dependent on a few big companies (be it blue or white collar jobs), which is very dangerous. Germany has a number of cities which are highly dependent on big car manufacturers. Take Wolfsburg with Volkswagen for example. The treasurer of Wolfsburg declared a spending freeze at the day ‘Dieselgate’ went public, because they knew that VW whould not pay extensive taxes anymore.  They will have to deal with unemployment soon, because of the radical shift to electric cars, where Volkswagen will loose market share and lots of employees.

It is way better for cities to have a huge bulk of remote employees which work for many companies in different industries and even different countries. That is the best insurance against economic risk. Cities are still attracting big companies to get new jobs, but soon they will try to attract remote workers.

Big cities have to reinvent themself to keep a meaning. They have to take care of air pollution, traffic, security and they have to spend a lot for green infrastructure, parks and entertainment to be attractive in a very new competition.

If you are able to choose: Do you want to live in a big city or in a town? Let us know in the comments section!

The Ultimate List of Remote Work Pros and Cons

No matter who you want to convince, your boss, your employees, your partner or just yourself, here are the ultimate arguments for remote work.

For Employees

pros

  • no time for commuting
  • no money for commuting (fuel, car, insurance, parking, train tickets)
  • lower stress and reduced possibity of accidents while commuting
  • improved health due to lower stress through commuting and busy city centers
  • more productive work in less time
  • no distractions by collegues and loudly cubical farms
  • no long water cooler talks
  • no useless face-to-face meetings
  • work where and when you are most productive
  • you are managing your schedule, that is not done by your manager
  • you are measured by accomplished work and not hours spend at the office
  • you can’t be micro-managed by your manager
  • more time for family and hobbies
  • time and flexibility to take care for family members (the young, old or disabled)

cons

  • risk of loneliness and isolation
  • the need for self-motivation (which is easier if your job fits to you and hard if not)
  • sometimes lack of good communication tools
  • no short water cooler talks
For Employers

pros

  • infinite talent pool / higher qualified employees and saved time while hiring
  • the skill shortage in your region will not slow your business down
  • you will get self-motivated people instead of bored 9-to-5-staff
  • good employees will most likely not relocate if you are a startup or a small company
  • you are getting work done by the employees and not hours spend at your office
  • your employees are spread over lots of different markets – so you get a lot of market information and trail opportunities for your products
  • relaxed employees, because they have no commuting or office stress and better work flexibility (for collecting kids, doctors appointments, dog walks, etc.)
  • more productive work in less time
  • possibility of an easy around the clock customer service
  • save cost on office space, furniture, energy, cleaning service, janitor
  • availability of divers cultures which can be respected at creating products
  • availability of native speakers of different languages while finding a name for your product or creating user documents
  • products are better specified and documented, because the remote work requires it
  • you are disaster ready: you are still online, if there is an internet or power blackout, flooding, snow storm or flu season at one location

cons

  • work in different time zones need to be managed
  • misunderstandings because of too less or bad communication
  • you need good remote project managers to create a successful product or service
For the Environment

pros

  • no pollution through commuting
  • less demand for new freeways and railroads

cons

  • pollution from travelling of digital nomads

So it is no surprise that the remote movement is unstoppable. My personal opinion is, that it will even accelerate and that we will find empty office towers in big cities and flourishing small towns and co-working hubs spreaded all over the counties. That will increase companies efficiency and our all quality of life.

Please let me know what pro or con I have missed in the comment section. Thanks!

How remote work supports the health of our planet

There are different aspects of reducing our footprint on our planet with remote work. I will go through them and will also highlight, that there are two points where remote work stresses the environment.

Commuting

We all know that commuting is a bad thing. Not only for commuters and the productivity, it’s at first bad for the environment. For sure it’s better to take bus, train or ferry (i.e. in Vancouver or Sydney) then your car, but in any case you have a significant amount of air pollution and climate gases forcing climate change. If you power your electric car by photovoltaics, you are the extreme rare exception.

Lot’s of cities are now looking closely at their pollution data, maybe a little more since VWs scandal. Some are calculating how many death per year are caused by traffic pollution and some are even banning cities temporarily for diesel cars (“Oslo temporarily bans diesel cars to combat pollution” by TheGuardian).

Now it’s very clear what a big impact working from home has for the health of the environment and the health of the people. And we are not starting to discuss the saving on gas, car loans, parking or train tickets or the danger of accidents in this article.

Less commuting results in less demand for new or wider freeways, streets and railroads. That is a direct impact to longer untouched nature or the possibility for more parkland.

De-Urbanisation

Today, urbanisation is still a mega trend in developped and developping countries. This study (2014 Revision of World Urbanization Prospects) of the United Nations shows it well and is also projecting this till 2030.

But the rise of remote work will slow this process down and I’m pretty sure, it will reverse that trend someday in the midterm future. The reason is clear, without the need to life in a city for work, lot’s of people will seek a place with more nature und less leases (however many will stay in the city, which is ok because actual infrastructure is more than enough for them).

The de-urbanisation, caused by the fact that you are able to live in a quieter, cheaper and cleaner environment, will have a big impact on the environment. Huge areas in metropol regions can be converted into parks or can be completely recultivated. That’s adding large potential space for plants and animals and will increase the air quality to name only one big benefit.

This decentralisation of living will fit perfectly with the new general way of power generation through solar and wind. The power will be generated and consumed decentralised, without the need of increasing the number of huge power plants to feed the demand of the cities or to build new power lines.

Downside

But there is, like always, a downside with remote work and the environment. If you are a digital nomad, you like to travel much, including flying a lot with planes and use all the other transporting possibilities. It depends on the commute, that you would do at your home town and it depends heavily on the frequency and lenght of your travelling, if you want to calculate what of both is worse.

But in any case you should consider to reduce your carbon footprint as digital nomad. There are lots of possibilities, donating for forestation projects or volunteering (for sure online) for nonprofits are only two of them.

The other downside will come from the wish to life and work at beautiful places (i.e. in the near of nice beaches). That will bring a pressure on that communities to enlarge their size into untouched nature. Hopefully we can cope that with a modern approach of coexistance of people and nature with as less impact as needed.

What are your thoughts on remote work and our environment? Please let us know in the comment section!