The energy transition needs to happen faster. There is much focus on developing projects in current markets and innovative new technologies. There is typically less interest in fringe, emerging market areas and technology applications. Perhaps this is because they are so risky, but they are essential to broaden the potential and speed with which decarbonisation can happen. The first projects in a new area establish a pathway forward and can encourage competitors to develop more new projects, enabling a market or a technology to emerge and establish itself.
In recent years I have been fortunate to work with visionary entrepreneurs and engineers, establishing floating wind projects in Italy. With Pepe Carnevale at 7 Seas Wind Power and technical project architects, Nice Technology, led by Luigi and Alessandro Severini, we are developing a 2.5GW pipeline in the waters off this southern European country.
The consequential wave of interest in this market should accelerate the energy transition, which was the original objective of the team. Some general comments on the process and the journey to follow, which might apply to your general area of expertise:
“Risk” usually signals “stop!” But in the energy transition, if there is no risk, others will probably be doing the same thing. If it can’t potentially fail, it will likely soon happen anyway, so let somebody else do it. Focus effort where you can have the greatest impact. Break new ground!
Challenges must be sufficiently difficult to trigger real creativity. Unless the objective seems a bit crazy, then it is probably not hard enough. Audacity is essential to successfully execute in areas that expand the foundation of what is possible, enabling others to learn, follow, and grow.
The best solutions are usually simple, but they are really the easiest or least risky way forward. Incremental thinking often leads to less optimal outcomes, and rarely opens innovative spaces. Be direct. Decide what would be good if it was done, and then get started. You learn how to do it by trying to do it, and the mistakes you make along the way propel you forward.
Be ‘too early’
A critical parameter for entering new market areas and technologies is that something should be possible one day, but that it is still too early. ‘Too early’ is exactly where you need to be. Waiting for the right weather to set sail invariably means delays and you can create your own tailwind by the force of will and persistence.
Belief in the cause is essential to all substantial achievements, and one way or another, we all work with a team. Because individuals are usually focused on their own individual priorities and managing their career, talking about the importance of team, shared goals and values is more common than believing this and acting on it. For the energy transition to accelerate faster, working with teammates who share the same goals and values is absolutely fundamental.
Creativity and risk taking can be difficult within a large organisational structure. Dedicate a portion of your time to people and projects which are ‘futuristic’. The future can be closer than we think – and you don’t know unless you try. There is probably a project you can positively affect, so get involved with or even directly sponsor it, as this can have a bigger, faster impact because of your input. Encourage entrepreneurship!
Theo Botha is a partner at floating wind developer 7 Seas Wind Power. He was also the co-founder of Blade Dynamics, an innovative modular blade technology originator acquired by General Electric in 2015. Since 2018, he works with the former CEO of Blade Dynamics, Pepe Carnevale, at 7 Seas Wind Power, developing 2.5GW of floating offshore wind projects in Italy in partnership with technical project architects, Nice Technology, led by Luigi and Alessandro Severini. These projects are now majority owned by Green IT (Eni Plenitude, CDP) and CIP.