Category Archives: Systems Thinking

What Happens When You Produce Your Own Energy?

The model included below has been perculating in my mind for a while.

screenshot-2017-02-25-14-26-42Soon after arriving in Australia we were away in Maroochydore on the Sunshine Coast, north of Brisbane. I caught a radio show talking about how a local council was using renewable energy to meet is its own energy needs.

Off the bat this sounds reasonable. Why would a council, business, or home not want to do that?

Then to my surprise the Federal Government complained. I can’t remember the specific objections. My impression was one of discouragement. They seemed intent on discouraging more of these types of developments.

When I got over myself, my systems mind kicked into gear. I started to think it through and wonder if they had a point.

So here is part 1, from the Federal Governments perspective.

Follow the presentation below to see how it plays out, and use the comments section to let me know share your thoughts.

screenshot-2017-02-26-11-22-45

 

Have you followed the presentation?

Ok. Great.

I bounded that model on energy production and supply from utility companies. There is more to the overall model. But this is the model we had.

That seems like as good a place as any to start.

I will expand, in part 2, to think about the impact of battery storage in homes (something the Australian government seem to want to make difficult), and what the mode would look like when everyone is an energy producers and can share their excess production.

What do I take away from this model?

Two points worth remembering or considering stand out.

Local Renewables vs Central Renewables

When I say the word ‘renewable’ what is the firs thought that comes to mind?

Is it of the solar panels on your house? Or, is it a wind farm out in the country somewhere?

Here in Australia where many houses have solar, and where many more want solar, the tendency is to imagine something local.

The same is true for some businesses. Google, Apple, and Facebook have data centers that are run on renewable energy.

That is only partly true. Utility companies are also investing in renewable energy. Indeed those links to Google etc above refer to deals those companies have done with providers. But they have also built, or plan to build, their own facilities.

Renewable energy produced by a utility company disrupts the current model less than locally produced renewable energy does.

We Still Need Infrastructure

As the technology improves it will become less and less necessary to draw power from the grid, most of the time. We will get to a point where energy can be stored cheaply and effectively.

However, not everyone will be producing their own energy, and energy demand fluctuates.

This means that we need a way to supply other homes and businesses with energy. We need infrastructure to do that.

When there is a peak in demand for energy, where will that come from? For example during a heat wave where the use of air-conditioning increases, who supplies that extra power?

We need ways to share energy production, and provide on-demand energy when required. 

Energy is central to our economy. It powers nearly everything. We can’t go far when it fails.

How does that work in a new model? Who pays, and who gets paid? Who is responsible for the infrastructure?

 

What do you think? How do you see this playing out?

Handpicked: Classifications, A Listening Politician, Grown Men Cry and Leceister City

Articles I Saved

Intertwingled Book Excerpt

Benchley’s Law – there are two kinds of people in the world, those who believe there are two kinds of people in the world, and those who don’t – points us in the right direction. To collaborate, we must admit ambiguity and complexity, and avoid premature classification.

41bj3omn05l-_sx332_bo1204203200_Intertwingled is in my top 10 non-fiction books. I enjoyed it enough to have read it twice within 12 months.

This article is one of a series of excerpt that Peter Morville, the author, has been writing from his books.

This article covers one of the core messages in the book, classification.

I am intrigued by the idea of how we classify things. It influences our conversation and the way we see the world. Many of the difficult topics are in some sense bounded by their classification; race, religion, equality, feminism etc. are all forms of grouping. We like to believe that there are clear boundaries, but the truth is never that binary. Things are never that clear.

The real world is grey. Everything is grey. We think it’s not. That is just an illusion.

It all depends on where you start from. If you can change the way a person classifies what they see, you change how they see, and therefore how they think about it.

I work with ambiguity all day. As a business analyst you have to be comfortable with ambiguity and complexity, because that is where the truth is. Continue reading Handpicked: Classifications, A Listening Politician, Grown Men Cry and Leceister City

The Exam Question: Home Ownership

He likes to ask his teams ‘What is the Exam Question?‘.

Muktesh Ghatak was my Project Manager on a Finance Transformation project in 2008 while I was at IBM Global Business Services.

When team meetings and other conversations would get mired in confusion and ambiguity he would ask us ‘What is the Exam Question?’.

It was a great question. Great at pulling you back from the detail. Great for re-orientating your perspective. Great at reminding you to get back to why you are here in the first place.

When you are stuck in the middle of it. When it is too confusing and ambiguous, remind yourself what you are trying to do.

What problem are you trying to solve?

Why are you here?

Where are you trying to get to?

That is the exam question. A question specific to the current situation and context.

Now keep that in mind and as I dive headfirst into a political and generational minefield.

Continue reading The Exam Question: Home Ownership

Systems Thinking

I started reading a book by Peter Senge this week called the Fifth Discipline. I feel like its opened my eyes to an areas of research and thinking I have been looking for. It’s basically about Systems Thinking. In a way it’s about the ‘big picture’.

Before starting this book I think I always believed that the big picture was about vision. I have felt I was suited to this type of thinking. But reading about systems thinking I realise its more nuanced than that. It’s about the influence parts have on each other, to create a whole, that is more than the sum of those individual parts.

It’s opened my mind.

I recall a train of thought or blog post a while back arguing that reductionist thinking was no effective. Breaking things into smaller pieces to understand and correct and then put back together does not work. I recall objecting to this view. I like to chunk things up and talk about them that way.

But as I start to understand what systems thinking is I realise that the view above is correct. I also realise why chunking things up into parts causes me problems. I often feel overwhelmed by all the parts.

I am starting to believe that the reason for that is that I am a natural systems thinker. I can’t view each piece without worrying about its relationship with the parts upstream and downstream. This means I can never break it down and just focus like I was thinking I should.

But as I learn more i realise I am not supposed to. I am supposed to worry about the relationships between parts. I am supposed to think about how one thing influences another. This is what I do. This is what helps me identify issues in workshops. I am working between the gaps. That is my role as an architect.

What I need is the vocabulary to talk about this. I am keen to learn more. Mix this with psychology and it should be a powerful combination.