I’m Hans. Born, raised & educated in upstate NY, USA. After university (Bachelor’s degree in engineering & sciences), I moved to California and worked with several of the largest electric utilities;(PG&E, SDG&E and SPPC/Nevada Power) in the country. Not as an electrician or engineer, but rather within their USD $100m/yr, or more, vegetation management programs; learning and patrolling 1000s of miles of overhead power lines, experiencing generation schemes and customer needs first hand.
Outside training my fellow foresters, I broke new ground and developed protocols for system-wide implementation based on the simple concept of bringing all interested parties together and forging mutually beneficial agreements for all. They worked, very well. After I left, I was asked back on several occasions to assist during critical program milestones.
After chasing personal interests throughout the American West, living in Colorado, I settled in Oregon, building a residential tree pruning/removal start-up as a financial backstop to pursuing a nursing degree. I loved biology and chemistry, thrive under the demands of making life & death decisions quickly, and wanted to travel the world as a nurse in an ER/ICU capacity.
The business was a success, getting a slot into the nursing program more difficult than the full courseload I was acing. Marrying an Argentine national during this time, maybe not the best decision, and long story short… a few years later, I walked away from an economically successful business experiencing more growth than I could tackle, and my marriage to returned to Colorado. Selling the rights to the business, not possible given its success was based on the reputation I had established and ensured. I have few doubts it would have weathered the U.S. Great Recession with continued profitability had I not walked away.
For several years I partnered with a small, innovative renewable energy company as a project manager and intimately involved in new product and system design. Primarily focused on mid-scale solar thermal for municipal customers, we broke grown in pre-fabricated systems, wind and grid-connected as well as off-grid projects. Even though our thermal systems turned off natural gas (NG) boilers year round for Olympic-sized swimming pools, the US Shale Gas Boom hurt the bottom line ROI, which was already better than that of fledgling solar PV installs. Arguably, the hype of residential PV, the US Recovery Act funding dynamics and falling NG prices, stopped advanced solar thermal in its tracks.
Personal poor choices, a DUI, ended my work affiliation and effectively my freedom as I knew it. So I consciously decided to actively change the things in my life on a personal nature I did not like and could use improvement. Learning about Southern Africa, its history, cultures, current development and needs became a stabilizing force during this time, far enough away that I could neither alter its course, nor could it directly effect my life. I was burnt out from the politics, geopolitical meddling and general BS happening in the US, and Africa was my “safe zone” from which I could still remain mentally engaged in personal/professional interests.
As I pursued joining MSF [Doctors without Borders], hoping to be placed in Africa, a unique opportunity arose I could not pass up. I was hired on to a small family owned company in Colorado that had been doing business around the world for 40 years. Their patented technology, based on engineered application of natural physics, was deployed at Oil & Gas facilities, offshore, factories, data centers, Telecom towers, power plants, electric substations, etc., globally to protect critical infrastructure from lightning termination (strikes). And the best part, they would pay me to do what I love, travel.
Over 4 years, I was fortunate to collaborate with multinationals and small businesses alike, and I was always keeping an eye open towards energy infrastructure and developments. During down time, I mapped over 500 of our installations around the world, and data-mined 1000s of other potential customers, most of which were energy infrastructure related. I effectively expanded my internal knowledge base of energy assets and natural resources plays on a global perspective.
Technically, the company’s product was not complex, my role, usually as an adviser to local crews and plant managers, but I was physically on the ground or 100m off the deck, experiencing what is usually just conceptualized and represented in numbers and charts. I was always curious and asking questions about X, Y and Z company’s position and significance within the global energy landscape, and incorporating each asset into the larger picture. Through this approach and working across all energy sectors, I organically developed into what I refer to myself as, a Global Energy Distribution Expert.
Unfortunately, this ‘perfect job’ eroded as I increasing discovered the business ethics of the company were far removed from those of mine, or those of our valuable customer base. There were reasons a company with a global presence; over 30 years alone in the Niger Delta at every O&G facility; that was partnered with Asian heavy industry giant Hitachi, that had a defunct history with global oil majors and nationally-owned energy parastatals alike; that their best year ever was USD 12mil in revenue, and we were down far below that regardless that every industry we had worked with experienced consistent growth. They treated their customers like garbage; were completely out of touch with global industry trends, their lackluster success over the long term didn’t match the customer base, even within an evolving global markets and boiled down to an internal arrogance that manifest over the decades. In contrast to expanding customer loyalty and repeat business, I was constantly tasked with putting out fires and smoothing over relationships once given face-time with our customers.
The best and most difficult professional decision I have ever made, was the decision to walk away, but a year later, any reservations I may have held in leaving proved unnecessary.
And now, a year later having spent 4 months exploring the changing energy infrastructure and integration policies, both successes and pitfalls within the European Union and Eurasia, the same within the US, and in particular in Texas….
I have turned my attention to the details and realities within the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) energy landscape, more out of a ‘labor of love’ than anything else. I believe I have identified key barriers and friction points within the Southern Africa Power Pool (SAPP) environment, that are limiting the system from providing reliable energy delivery, with cost effective and self-sustaining revenue models.
My primary intention is to build a social enterprise based on a proven model of bringing all parties to the table, to construct advanced vertically integrated, cross energy sector, technologically integration schemes. Where providers and consumers alike may benefit, and the energy platforms are the nuclei for economic growth centers that can expand outward, interconnect and function effectively as a responsive, artificial spider’s web. The end goal, a region of the world, long experiencing endemic energy scarcity will enter a new phase where local accessibility becomes a reality, not just a far off dream.
The only potential barrier that I can see currently is securing legal live/work status within a SADC country, albeit, Namibia may be the best starting point.
In the time available between moving to Southern Africa and now, I am focusing my efforts along two objectives.
The first, in establishing and building from the ground roots a social enterprise within the global energy sector. Making the decision to take the plunge into uncharted water feels a bit like taking the first bite out of the blue whale I have been pursuing this past year. But my personality and ambitions would have it no other way.
And secondly, advancing the success of the Energy Africa Conference at the end of October, here in my home state of Colorado.