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.

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