on September 9th, 2012

Dear Colleague,

A few years ago, I was somewhat surprised when we (and indeed others) launched an extensive range of renewable energy courses focussing on solar and wind power and found that the Interest wasn’t particularly high. In reading the newspapers and government rhetoric, one thought that everyone was ‘doing renewable energy’. The truth is obviously that most of us aren’t directly involved in building some exotic wind and solar energy installation. We continue to work in our traditional engineering jobs.

And a lot of the manufacture of solar panels (interestingly, often made at a great loss as with China) and wind turbines have often moved offshore. But the amount of activity in putting installations together down the road from you is steadily growing.

An Opportunity to Green yourself
However, we do have an extraordinary opportunity today to green our existing jobs and work. Whether you believe in climate change and the impact of CO2 (I do!); you can definitely improve the environment in a myriad of other ways and prepare the world (and your kids) for when the fossil fuels are perhaps not as widely available.

In fact, being green is a key part of your job. No matter what you do – it doesn’t have to be directly connected to the solar and wind turbine business. Producing things which are cheaper, more efficient (esp. lower energy usage), have lower CO2 emissions and are kind to the environment should be our mantra these days.  And being green doesn’t have to cost more than the traditional approach.

One Intriguing Approach
Examples of changing to more efficient processes are myriad. One particularly intriguing one was a company that wanted to provide cloud computing storage and backup services but decided not to go the traditional route of an energy intensive data center but to encrypt the data and store it in fragments on other users’ hard drives – meaning no dedicated data centers and thus a significant saving in energy.

It has to come from the top
The message of innovating and going green has to come from the top with ongoing management support and encouragement. And indeed, similarly client support and encouragement as well.

It won’t hit the Press and you will be an invisible green
The approach of going green with everything you do is unlikely to hit the press in the way that electric cars, photovoltaic cells and wind turbines attract attention from the public. Being green here will be somewhat invisible to the public. But this will arguably be even more critical to your long term career, your company’s success and that of the sustainability of the planet. And you are likely to break a few traditional business models as well as creating new processes.

Thanks to John R. Platt of the IEEE for a thought provoking article.

Although she wrote this 300 years ago, Abigail Adams is of course right when she says: We have too many high sounding words, and too few actions that correspond with them.

Yours in engineering learning,


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