Friday, 28 November 2008

State of the Ice Technology

Phillip Clement and the rest of the EcoSearch team attended an event on Tuesday to meet the Ice Team of the upcoming Catlin Arctic Survey. Phillip takes a trip down memory lane to gives his thoughts on the technology needed for such a vitally important scientific mission.

My first proper job after leaving college was with a small and not very well known radio telecommunications company called RACAL (soon to evolve into Vodafone). As a fresh-faced wet behind the ears engineer, but a wannabe Gordon Geckko (Wall Street 1987) I began my career as a mobile telecommunications Account Executive.

As part of the package, along with a shiny brief-case that opened up – James Bond style - into a rather snazzy presenter that aided the complex explanation of a seven cell repeat pattern, followed by the “FAB’s” of mobile communications (that’s features advantages and benefits, for those of you that didn’t attend the rather corny 1980’s school of selling, delivered by an ex-double glazing salesman sporting a pale grey suite and pink socks) and the keys to a Ford Mondeo complete with a hanger in the back for my new, big shouldered Moss Bros suite jacket and screwed unceremoniously to the dashboard was my mobile phone! I’d arrived!

But it got better, much better! When I wasn’t in the car driving in the ‘fast lane’ of the M4 to Newbury (actually it was the middle lane, so that people passing me in the outside lane could see that I was on the phone) I could ‘do lunch’ and in the evenings I would frequent a highly popular wine-bar in Guildford, where I could rub shoulders with other shoulder padded jacket wearing, slick backed haired “dealers”. Only I went one better. I would park the Mondeo somewhere obvious, remove the handset of my car phone from its utilitarian (Russian tank utilitarian) clamp and go to the boot where I would unscrew, unclip, disconnect, slide, pull and twist a metal box from another utilitarian clamp, connect this to the handset that I had removed earlier and then attach a leatherette carry strap – I was now in “portable mode”! When this piece of hi-tech, high fashion was on the bar next to me I was truly a woman magnet and all the guys wanted one too. It’s amazing now that if you even appear to have the slightest bulge in your pocket for a mobile phone then you’re just not with it.

It was at the recent launch of the Catlin Arctic Survey, to which I am proud to say I am an Honorary Advisor, that made me recall those heady Sauvignon Blanc fuelled days of the very early mobile phones and how much we now take for granted without a thought for the technology that we carry around in our pockets. In a piece of equipment that is smaller than a pack of JPS (John Player Specials) I can call anyone, anywhere in the world, from anywhere in the world, e-mail from multiple e-mail addresses, edit documents, watch TV and video, have video conferencing with my team, check my location using GPS, take photographs and send them to people anywhere in the world and book a table at The Ivy!

Immage Copyright Martin Hartley

So, with all this technology at our finger-tips, it becomes really hard for the Arctic Technical Team to impress when they tell us that they will be streaming millions of readings from the North Pole, sending live video from one of the remotest places on Earth and updating progress on a website from the floating sea ice at minus fifty degrees. The task to impress becomes even greater, when we find out that the equipment necessary to achieve this will weigh more than 10 stone and need to be dragged behind one of the Arctic Team on a seven foot sledge! But as an engineer dating from the early days of wireless technology, I can tell you that what the Arctic Technical team have accomplished is a brilliant piece of engineering genius, enabling them to collect and transmit groundbreaking information that will change our thinking on global warming.

My advice is, tune in.

The Ice Team will be setting off on the Arctic Survey in February 2009. You can find their latest Newsletter on the EcoSearch Facebook Page.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Will the Credit Crunch positively affect demands on Supply Chain in the Wind Energy sector?

Frost and Sullivan have just released a survey entitled Strategic Assessment of the European Wind Energy Market: Value Chain Analysis which provides an interesting insight into the various supply issues that have been facing the Wind Turbine Generator (WTG) manufacturing industry in the past three or four years, and the implications of the current global financial crisis.

The demand for crucial components such as gear-boxes, bearings etc have been so heavily in demand that many WTG manufacturers have been fighting for their right to secure an ongoing supply. In turn, wind farm owners and developers have been competing aggressively to procure Wind Turbines, and in many cases have been faced with expensive long-term framework agreements, and with a six month (or even one year) lead time. The wind energy industry has been experiencing a double-digit growth rate that the supply chain could simply not keep up with. Six months ago, that trend was set to continue for at least another couple of years.

However, the economic down trend, according to Frost and Sullivan, could curiously affect the supply chain challenge. Nervous about the financial climate, some of the major players in the industry have reduced their aggressive development targets. This, in turn, should lead to a supply and demand equilibrium, which will open up the market and ultimately make Wind Turbine’s more available and accessible on the market. Dramatic falls in the cost of raw materials such as steel and copper, and a reduction in prices for construction services, will see increased competition between WTG suppliers again.

So ultimately this slow down (whilst not forgetting that global government incentives have not shifted despite economic challenges) may just strengthen the wind energy industry, allowing it some respite from dramatically increasing costs and re-vitalising competition between the key players. Read more in this Frost and Sullivan press release.

By Clare Buxton
Wind Energy Sector Lead

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Do you still need Headhunters in an economic down turn?

If we at EcoSearch compare our specialist headhunt service to that of standard database recruiters on any given day, the pool of available candidates might look something like this:

The headhunt side on the left is populated with all those people currently working in the renewable energy field that would be relevant to your vacancy. These are the people we would contact about filling your vacancy first.

The database recruiter area on the right shows the active candidates that are relevant to your job at any given time. These represent those that a standard database recruiter would contact.

It might be easier to attract those active candidates, but the picture changes dramatically when the economy takes a turn for the worse:

As you can see, there has been a massive influx of applications to your job from outside of the Renewable Energy industry. Not everyone will be relevant, or even have any transferable skills that might benefit your business.

The database recruiter now has a lot more ground to cover as they sort the relevant applications from those without the skills you require.

For the headhunters, business in the largely unaffected Renewable Energy sector remains the same. It is business as usual.

So when other industries start experiencing job cuts, it is important to know that your recruitment process will not be slowed. It is vital that you can rely on the service you expect from your talent acquisition partners.

What's your view?

Friday, 7 November 2008

What a week in wind!

Clare Buxton gives her thoughts after a busy week...

Image by

It has been a hectic week in the Wind Energy sector this week. I am quite exhausted just from hearing about it…

Most of the news is positive, and highlights the buoyancy of this sector at present. The general atmosphere and tone of everyone I am speaking to is that there is much more still to come. This is an industry still in its infancy, where R&D has a lot more to offer in terms of minimising costs of wind energy production and maximising efficiency, the manufacturing process will be able to cut down lead times dramatically with the right processes and resources in gear (excuse the pun) and the consenting and planning process will (must) improve.

In a week which saw the United States embrace change wholeheartedly, and Obama announced his ambitious new “green” targets, the future looks positive, the future looks “green”!

Here are just a few of the headlines from this week:

Bad news for our British colleagues in BP Alternative Energy, it seems. The multinational oil company has announced they are withdrawing from Wind power in the UK, as the USA becomes a more attractive and profitable proposition for them. They are also withdrawing from the competition to set up a carbon capture and storage plant in the UK. Read more here...

E.ON completed installation of its first offshore wind turbine (Vestas V90) at Robin Rigg offshore wind farm in the Solway Firth. The first step on a long journey! Read more here...

With Shanghai Wind Power conference only just drawn to an end, China continues to move into the lime light – putting in an order with Vestas for 116 V52-850 kW turbines. Vestas was the first turbine manufacturer into China, and continues to grow its presence rapidly. When will the home-ground companies start to challenge seriously? Read more here...

Vestas (again, sorry – come on everybody else!) have announced record third-quarter revenue of 1,759 million Euro against 1,150 million Euros in the third quarter of 2007. They are now estimating annual revenue of 7.2 billion Euros! Read more here...

PowerWind GmbH has signed a contact for 36 MW in Italy. The contract will provide 40 PowerWind 56 wind energy converters to be installed at different sites in the region of Apulia, which is one of the windiest regions in Italy. The installation should be completed in 2010! Read more here...

I could go on…

If you think I’ve missed anything else, let us know. I can be contacted via email or simply leave your comment below.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

The credit crunch… where is it impacting?

Debby Lloyd, MD at EcoSearch gives her thoughts on the credit crunch and where it is impacting investment, Cleantech and Renewables as well as recruitment.

Image by Tatjana Krstic

Has the appetite changed?
Well – no … except the deal landscape has – deals in the “investor in- trays are now being super scrutinized” – IRR/NPV/WACC etc are all being looked at in detail. To coin a phrase from one investor this week:

“2 months ago it was 20% business plan and 80% vision – now its 80% business plan and 20% vision”

Debt funded projects – well there is evidence that these are being reviewed and are being impacted, there are suggestions that, for example in the wind turbine space, lead times have come down – is this indicative of projects being shelved or put on ice temporarily? – It could well be.

What’s the recruiting landscape like?
This is usually a really good measure of things to come. EcoSearch has seen casualties amongst the recruitment organisations (the recent demise of Ellis Fairbank for example). Has EcoSearch seen a downturn and cancellation in headcount? None whatsoever (touch wood, long may this continue) compared with mainstream business (ie. non Cleantech and renewables). We checked with our international network and it’s looking pretty dire in some places. Mainstream construction is being seriously hit. Asia is experiencing general nervousness and some headcount freezing, a backing down on general construction. Dubai is also seeing general nervousness. UK & Europe – FMCG hit, Financial Services hit.

What are the challenges for today’s Cleantech employers?
Those competing for talent in the global pool (as opposed to just UK National pool) could face an uphill struggle. As we seek to relocate people from overseas the current housing market in the UK is a huge factor in the decision making process (arguably now is the best time to buy – it can only go up from here surely?).
Many talented candidates are in a situation where they would rather “stick” than “twist” on a career move until the markets settle down a little – the general nervousness is causing people to think hard before jumping.
Start-ups competing for talent (and some to a certain extent further funding!) need to make sure they pitch themselves really well – the safe houses, i.e. well funded utilities and infrastructure based organisations are holding out strong in the current market; the risk versus return situation needs careful managing.

If you have any thoughts on these points, whatever your perspective, feel free to discuss in the comments.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Without once mentioning the word “poo”!

Everyone at EcoSearch would like to extend a big thank you to our first guest blogger. An Energy Consultant placed by Steven Rogers earlier this year gives her thoughts on getting into the industry.


When considering a change of job, it is definitely worth having a chat with someone about what you consider to be your transferrable skills. Those of us that are “Green Collar Workers” (whoever came up with that phrase has a fantastic sense of humour!) are in the enviable position of being in a minority – i.e. there is a gap in the market for professionals who have a number of years experience in the energy industry. We can therefore have a long hard think about what we’d like from a job, and if our current job is not fulfilling that, what skills do we have that will facilitate a move in the direction we want to be heading. We certainly don’t have to sit within the same area of the energy industry, just because that is where we have our core practical skills.

For example, I had been working as an energy analyst for eight years, I’d been given the opportunity to stretch my wings as much as the job had allowed, however I didn’t feel that things were moving at a pace that was right for me, or in a direction that I really wanted to be headed.

I had spent the majority of my eight years behind a desk, running reports & answering queries to do with site energy consumption. I am now rarely in the office – in fact, it’s a strange week if I’m behind my desk for more than a couple of days! I’m clambering up on roofs, all round plant rooms, talking to all sorts of different people at all sorts of levels within different organisations. My week is divided between high level meetings with financial & facilities managers and driving all over the place in my jeans, polo shirt & tool belt. It’s not something I’d have thought I’d be doing this time last year, that’s for sure!

Going back to the subject of transferrable skills, mine were being a bit of a spreadsheet whizz, being articulate (something to do with being able to explain how electricity is generated from sewage, without once mentioning the word “poo”!), and having an enthusiasm for the subject of energy consumption that possibly borders on the nerdy. None of the transferrable skills I’ve mentioned above are what one would consider to be “taught” skills; however, I’m also lucky as part of my degree was energy studies.

So, what is the point of this rambling blog (bear with me, it’s the only one I’ve ever written!)?

Think not just about your roles & responsibilities when you are putting a CV together, think about finding a way of highlighting your transferrable skills.

A new Monster is coming...

Monster is launching its all new site on 10th January 2009. Debby Lloyd and I have been invited to a launch breakfast in London on December 1st 2008.

As the one of the initial players in the online recruitment game, it is ok for them to change the rules.

But what exactly are they planning to make online job hunting a better experience? A more personalised and customised service for job seekers is the main focus.

I am excited to find out exactly what this will mean for EcoSearch and for those seeking Green Jobs.

Look out for more news on the new Monster as soon as we get it.

Katharine Robinson,
Research Associate