PRODUCTHEAD: The plummeting price of power
PRODUCTHEAD is a regular newsletter of product management goodness,
curated by Jock Busuttil.
product falling into place #
There’s something interesting going on in the alternative energy and renewables markets. Electricity generated from solar, tidal and wind is getting cheaper. A lot cheaper.
And with that, the markets are becoming more attractive to investors seeing reduced costs as a pathway to increased returns on their investments. It’s looking increasingly like the battle to replace fossil fuels with cleaner sources of energy will be won not from environmental concerns alone, but from investors seeking to make more money, more quickly.
What’s driving this change? Well, as with anything to do with market forces, it’s going to be a complex confluence of many causes. So this week, I’ve brought together a few recent articles that highlight the surprisingly rapid progress being made and some of the reasons why.
It can’t hurt that the darlings of tech investors – Google, Amazon and Tesla – have all been working hard to move public sentiment and rehabilitate the image of green energy in the eyes of investors. They’re doing this through corporate sustainability commitments, which in turn mean greater demand for renewable energy, and headline-grabbing projects, such as Tesla’s successful bet to build a 100MW battery facility in Hornsdale, South Australia in under 100 days (they did it in 60).
Unless you work in these industries, breakthroughs in sustainable power generation will be of perhaps only tangential relevance to the products you manage. But if you work in software, it’s hopefully good to know that that the main providers of your cloud-based computing are embracing renewable energy.
Speak to you soon,
Scientists have solved a problem preventing the commercial production of more efficient solar panels
Solar generated electricity is now cheaper than fossil fuels
Tesla’s South Australia battery farm is saving tens of millions of dollars
South Australia spent an hour powered solely by solar, 77% of which came from consumers’ home panels
The cost of US battery farm projects has dropped 70% in 3 years
Tesla’s battery innovations would result in cost dropping by half, capacity increasing by half
The convergence of green technologies would lead to explosive growth
what to think about this week #
In 2017, scientists discovered “a miracle material” called perovskite that could dramatically increase the sunlight-to-energy efficiency of photovoltaic cells from 3% to 20%. The slight snag was that it was thought at the time that commercialising the discovery could take another 10 years.
This article explains how scientists made an unexpected breakthrough that means we’ll be seeing this in commercial solar panels much more quickly than expected.
Recently the International Energy Agency (IEA) declared solar generation to be the cheapest form of electricity for utility companies to build. It’s down to solar panel technology becoming more efficient and prices for basic panels continuing to fall, while at the same time investors are getting better and better financing deals to build solar power plants.
In 2017 Elon Musk bet co-founder of Atlassian Mike Cannon-Brookes (in a tweet, no less) that Tesla could deploy a 100MW battery array (the largest at the time) to stabilise the power grid in South Australia in 100 days. If Musk lost the bet, he’d foot the bill, but if he succeeded, then Cannon-Brookes would fund it. Three years on, the Hornsdale Power Reserve is saving Australia tens of millions of dollars.
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In related news, for an hour on 11 October 2020, all of South Australia’s power came from solar energy generation alone for the first time. Impressively 77% of the total power was coming from consumers’ household solar panels feeding excess power generated back into the grid.
To cope a greater influx of renewable energy, national power grids need to adapt to deal with fluctuations in supply from different providers. Tesla’s massive battery farm in Hornsdale, South Australia (see above) is one example of a system designed to store and supply power when needed to stabilise the grid. In the US, the costs of similar grid-scale battery project have come down by 70% over the last few years.
While distracted by Elon Musk’s other little venture for neural implants, you might have missed Tesla’s ‘battery day’ at the end of September.
During the presentations, Tesla revealed a suite of innovations to the construction and chemistries of their various battery types (from long life to long range to high workload). Over the coming three years, together these would result in a 56% reduction in the cost of battery production and a 54% improvement in vehicle range, making a sub-$25,000 electric vehicle possible.
If you were in charge, would you rather pay £160 million or £22.5 billion for a new power plant?
In this article for BBC News, Justin Rowlatt compares the convergence of technologies that led to the dominance of the affordable smartphone with similar developments in green technology. Renewable energy generation is becoming so desirable for investors that private companies may soon be paying the UK for access to its continental shelf.
recent posts #
In government, product is borne out of transparency, quite a lot of cake and a fanatical desire to serve the needs of users.
In this recent video for ProdPad’s webinar series, I talk about the acute challenges of culture clash. You’ll also discover what can be achieved by highly motivated, principled and capable people when they set an example for the rest of an organisation – or the entire Civil Service – to follow.
[I MANAGE PRODUCTS]
34% of product managers surveyed said they left their previous role because there were no opportunities to grow.
In this video, Lucie McLean (Zalando) discusses growth and career progression for product managers with Jock Busuttil (Product People Limited) and Daniil Pavliuchkov (Tier).
[I MANAGE PRODUCTS]
Product managers are sometimes referred to as the conductor of the orchestra. Some people think that the conductor’s job is to direct the players, to lead them through the music. That would be to misunderstand the relationship. Instead, here’s a different take.
[I MANAGE PRODUCTS]
PRODUCTHEAD is a newsletter for product people of all varieties, and is lovingly crafted from spent nuclear fuel rods.