The inconvenient truth behind every engineer

I’d like to say I’m wrong about this. But I know I’m not.

There is nothing worse than an engineer. To be more precise: the worst thing in this world is an engineer that thinks he or she is right.

Seriously. I have been working around a few very confident ones before. It’s terrible. Let me tell you why. Because usually the confident ones – they are wrong.

What makes things even worse is, that I am no exception or immune to this dreadful state myself. I can remember the feeling. That dull know-it-all feeling with that simple smile creeping onto my face.  Get it off me!

Still, one thing we engineers know for sure. We are the ones that will save this planet.

Who else would have the skills and persistence to solve the spectrum of challenges that we are facing? Climate change? Surely no one! The transition towards carbon neutral economy is difficult and pretty surely darn long task. But we are up for the challenge.

Just think about what has happened recently. In just a few decades the information technology has transformed our lives. As an example: It has never been easier or faster to make your friends jealous instantly after pulling that huge salmon from the river. Just take a photo with your phone and choose from one of the zillion applications how to share that with the world.

I’m sure this new technology could be used for something else as well, but haven’t figured that one out yet. All the important stuff has of course been taken into use first.

But to be serious: the energy transition is possible, it is inevitable, and the majority of nations have joined in to the climate change battle. Now it’s time for us engineers to make things work. Let’s solve the puzzle.

I’ll give you another example. A Finnish citizens campaign ”Energiaremontti” (meaning Energy transition) is pushing for a 100 % renewables energized Finland by 2050. At first this might sound like some ideological nonsense that has nothing to do with proper engineering principles. Why on earth would we want to do that? Finland and the Nordic countries are using one of the purest electricity in the world!

I agree that this is not the simplest way to build an energy system. But status quo is not an option. Things have to change.

But we engineers are not by definition interested in ideology. We are worried about facts.

The CEO of Finland’s national grid Fingrid Mr Jukka Ruusunen made a very strong note at WEC Finland’s event recently. He said among other things “If Finland would run out of electricity, politicians would be the ones to blame”.

To make the story short Mr Ruusunen blamed renewable energy incentives that have destroyed the market price of electricity. Mr Ruusunen (holding a PhD in technology) is an engineer – and he was right.

I trust no sane person has ever argued that the energy transition wouldn’t be difficult! It is an underestimation and poor judgment to claim that transforming the entire way our world works would be easy!

But there are already technical solutions to most of the problems. The Nordic and Baltic countries already form a well functioning electricity market. This makes it less likely that we would run out of electricity. Back-up power plants are available already today. They are extra cost for the system – true – but as said, we cannot continue pouring emissions to the atmosphere.

Want to make the system as efficient as possible? Want to take up a real engineering challenge? Demand response cuts down need for peak power. It means less back-up power needed.

Want to be the superhero of our time? Take some of the multiple available solutions for energy storage and make it the next big thing. Batteries, power-to-gas or plain and simple heat storage in our district heating systems are examples of energy storage technologies that we have available.

All we need now is engineers. We need engineers eager to develop new but persistent to keep on going even if we fail in the beginning.

We need engineers bold enough to push towards our vision despite what other people say, but humble enough to understand that even an engineer doesn’t know everything.

We need engineers to participate in the public discussion. You, join now. The public debate needs you.

 

This is my last blog before Vaasa Energyweek takes place. It’s less than week to go.

While waiting for the Monday 14th please tell me I’m wrong.  Is the energy transition impossible? Am I missing something?

Throw your contribution to the discussion. You can do that in Twitter with hashtag #energyweek or at EnergyVaasa’s Facebook page.

Love to have you onboard. See you on Monday!