Baseload, Bioenergy, Energy Efficiency, Geothermal, Hydropower, Solar, Storage, Wind Power

The Big Question: What Is the Most Frustrating Part about Working in Renewable Energy?

Issue 3 and Volume 18.

Every industry has its challenges and misunderstandings. Sometimes the obstacles we face in simply trying to do our jobs can be very frustrating. This month, we went to our social media audience, posing our Big Question to our LinkedIn groups (Renewable Energy World Conference, North America and RenewableEnergyWorld.com). We got some excellent responses, many of which present business opportunities for savvy entrepreneurs. Since this is social media, we’re also linking to our respondents profiles so you can connect with them should their words speak to you as well.

Read the comments below to gain insight on this issue’s big question: What Is the Most Frustrating Part about Working in Renewable Energy?

Kendra Hubbard, MBA, Sales Professional for Renewable Energy and Cleantech Industries
Lack of other women in sales and operations roles.

Michael Swan, Vice President, SunCore Corp
Overcoming all the poor-performing renewable energy products that have come before us and left a bad taste in consumers’ mouths. I have spent the last year and a half re-educating buyers, OEMS and consumers on how to properly evaluate solar products to determine if they will meet their power needs. You can’t take the same technology on your roof and put it on a cell phone and expect it to work, nor can you expect the same technology that powered your solar calculator for the last 20 years keep up with the power needs of today’s devices.

Alexander Richter, Principal, ThinkGeoEnergy
The lack of knowledge and misconception about geothermal energy. There simply is no understanding about geothermal opportunities. It is only seen as a minor part in the renewable energy sector. However, there is a misconception in our industry, as well. Acceptance and support will not arrive on its own simply because we provide baseload power or heat. We need to do more in promotion and public outreach to get attention, which we as an industry need and deserve.

Leonardo Valencia, Consultant, Eurus Energy America Corporation
The most frustrating part, by far, is dealing with the classical paradigms: “Oh!, wind power! But what happens when the wind is not blowing?,” or “Solar and wind? Great! Where do you install the batteries?”

James M. Dryden, Jr., Wind Resource Associate/Meteorologist, EDP Renováveis
The lack of long-term tax subsidies for renewables. It makes it very difficult to efficiently plan development activities over several years.

Michael Campbell, CEO, RA POWER & LIGHT Inc.
The imbalance in federal subsidies vs. big oil.

Nigel Morris, Director/Principal Consultant, SolarBusinessServices
Lies from government. In Australia we have seen a proliferation of outright lies and manipulation of the facts to make renewable energy look like the main driver of electricity price rises, but the opposite of the truth. The second is a lack of leadership and courage when it comes to electricity reform. Change is never easy but it is 100 percent inevitable, so it’s a huge waste of time and money to not just get on and evolve the system.

Scott Phipps, President and CEO, Clean Development Group Inc.
Two primary issues concern me working in the renewable sector: First, the pervasive, and what should be illegal, misinformation campaigns against renewables that are well funded by the oil, gas, and coal industries. Second, the inappropriate level of subsidies, at all levels of government and in most nations, for renewable energy. Renewables are not just superior in every way to fossil fuels, they have already declined in price and continue to do so, they create 7 times the employment that fossil fuels do, and yet they only get 1/10th the subsidies of the fossil fuel sector. Such imbalance has to change.

Evelyn Carpenter, President, Solas Energy Consulting US, Inc.
In the U.S. – the PTC. Make it permanent already.

Marc Van Dongen, GRC Officer for CEE & CIS, SAP
What massively irritates me are the frequent and often completely illogical ROI comparisons I read on many blogs. Too often these comparisons lack any foundation, and set a clear and negative tone. My best guess is that the ambassadors of the old world are continuously pushing their dinosaur industries. Fossil fuel reserves are depleting and global warming is a given. If we don’t start the transition today, we’ll be in for a rough future!

Mike Reynolds, Executive Director, M7M
The most frustrating part is trying to convince central government that marine renewable energy has got huge potential and deserves some real capital funding support so we can create a new industry in the UK (England). I don’t think the Scots have this problem!

Aur J Beck, Chief Tech, Advanced Energy Solutions
Being a techie but having to figure out ways to sell solar. Completely outside my comfort zone.

Gordon Stogre, Independent Energy Efficiency Consultant
The most frustrating problem I experience is overcoming deeply seated ideas that renewables are very expensive. Many just close their mind upon hearing “renewable energy.”

Greg Smith, Senior Technical Trainer, SMA America
On the solar side, there are a lot of misconceptions that installers and homeowners have about module-level electronics, i.e. micro inverters and optimizers. It is a fun endeavor for me to educate them.

Axel Raven, Manager, Ilaanga
Finances are the biggest obstacle at the moment.

Juan Pablo Vargas Bautista, Professor & Researcher, Universidad Privada Boliviana – Fundación Educativa
In Bolivia the problem is the lack of information, human resources in the area, regulations and misconceptions. For example, we observed that some engineers presented renewable projects in industries but they were deficient and poor in technical and economical aspects, so now some industries think that renewable energy is not feasible. Another obstacle is the price of fossil fuels, since Bolivia has a lot of natural gas for its consumption, this resource is very cheap $2-4 US/MMBtu and also electricity $0.14 US/MMBtu so people here don’t use them efficiently and the worst thing is that a lot of factories don’t care about sustainability and energy efficiency because of lack of laws and regulations in this field.

Michelle Arenson, Regional Director, Wind Generation and Operations, Alliant Energy
The renewable sector is full of challenges, possibilities and unknowns. Will the PTC be renewed? What is the next technology that will peak? How do we know the useful life of assets? These are exciting issues to tackle along with the education of our companies, stakeholders and constituents – all in an ever-changing environment. It is a tall order, sometimes frustrating but always a thrill. The need for energy policy is paramount. We must be able to plan for the long-term in order to best serve the consumer.

Steven Andrews, Inventor, IQEnergy1
I am an inventor and have a U.S. patent for wind turbines, but one of my very difficult and frustrating problems is precisely the fact that so many start-ups claim unrealistic and unproven efficiencies, costs, etc. I have come to realize that when I start to describe my patented wind turbine I find it difficult to convince people of the potential of my turbine because there are so many misleading claims by “the competition.” As I still don’t have a working prototype, I have preferred to wait until I have substantial data to back up my claims. I really hope others in my shoes understand the importance of being truthful and “down to earth” with our claims and present real information or expectations.

Bhaskar Valluri, Thermal and Renewable Energy Professional
In India, with biomass-based power plants, sometimes there is surplus biomass available at favorable prices to obtain financial approvals, loans etc. for feasibility reports. After implementation, however, when we reach the operation and maintenance stage, we find that the availability of biomass is lower and prices higher than originally projected. Then, we must appeal to the government, showing it that the higher cost of generation justifies an increase in the tariff. In this process, plants are kept shut down or run at lower loads, thus compounding the financial worries. As a result, old players are not much interested in taking up new projects and new players spend some time and money on studying the existing plants and then give up. This is very frustrating for the developers, employees and also for financial institutions.

Alistair Marsden, Commercial Manager, Dulas Ltd
The large imbalance of subsidies and the lack of reports on the subject. The last report I could comfortably quote was $523 Billion on Fossil Fuels vs. $88 on Renewables (International Energy Agency, 2011). Although the IMF [International Monetary Fund] puts it closer to $1.8 trillion on fossil fuels or 2.7 percent GDP. Due to the above, the perpetuation of NIMBYism and the resultant use of renewables as a political football.

Weronica Ekholm, Project Manager, wpd Scandinavia AB
In Sweden, there is a municipal veto against wind power, which means that projects can be denied permission for any reason or existing cause. There are no regulations regarding the timeline on this veto decision, and the veto decision cannot be appealed! This is the most stupid and counterproductive rule ever made, by a government with high ambitions for renewables. This is the reason why so many groups spread misinformation (and lies) about wind power impacts, because they are sometimes successful. And in Sweden there is also a national version of EU-directive 92/43/EEG about protected species, which says that if there is a risk that ONE single eagle can be hurt (note: NOT population) by a turbine, you won’t get permission. One bird can stop the production of 1 TWh of renewable electricity, how crazy can it get? These two issues drain 90 percent of the positive energy to work with renewables in Sweden. It’s a miracle that anyone still loves this work!

Debotosh Mahato, Freelance Research Consultant, Rural Spark
First, villagers who need electricity sometimes lack patience. After conducting a feasibility study for village electrification I received many calls from villagers regarding the installation of a solar electrification grid who worried that I was no longer focused on it because it wasn’t happening fast enough. Second, corrupt officers from the customs department often stop our goods and demand money. Third, sometimes the product is not delivered on a timely basis even after villagers have deposited money. Fourth, sometimes, even in liaison with a government agency, low-quality product is provided and the product will not work within one month.

Hanush Ravindran, Intern, SgurrEnergy
Countries irrespective of investments are dedicated to the theory of decarbonization as it is the sole requirement for sustainable growth. As every system has a disadvantage, renewable energy generation systems have the drawback over intermittency. Energy storage is the solution and government policies have to be designed to promote the market and resolve the price distortion conditions for energy storage.

Sithembile Nyirenda, Regional Coordinator, Community Energy Malawi
It pains me a lot here in Malawi to see a tobacco farmer struggle for six months to save enough money from farming in order to light up his/her home just to end up buying fake products. Six months later, the battery is gone, charge controller burnt, etc. This makes people believe that renewable energy technologies are not part of the solution to their energy needs.

Amitava Sengupta, Independent Financial, Investment & Management Consultant, Kolkata, India
Even though associations like the CTI PFAN (Climate Technology Initiative Private Financing Advisory Network) and others are making a commendable effort educating manufacturers to prepare a successful business plan for investors and financiers, financing options are still very limited. Lack of third-party standard certifications in many countries make buyers and financier skeptical of manufacturers’ claims. Sadly, the lack of standards also allows ordinary technology pushers to make tall claims, which often fall flat soon after operations start, which then leaders to more skepticism. Reluctance of insurance companies to insure technology in most countries is another issue. If we recall, automobile sale in developing countries sky-rocketed after viable and multiple finance options became available to buyers. We have to work hard toward creating viable financing options for the renewable sector.

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