All posts by mikebostan

A citizen of the world.

PROMO: Energy MBA in Bucharest

The MBA in Energy at the Academy of Economic Studies (ASE) in Bucharest starts the registrations for prospective candidates between 23-25 July 2018.

Organized by the Faculty of Business Administration in Foreign Languages (FABIZ), the Energy Master is the best in Romania and is done in collaboration with representatives of the energy business environment (OMV Petrom, Siemens, CEZ, Electrica, Transgaz etc.).

Join the new challenges and be a part of the Energy Business!

The programme is open to all bachelor degree graduates, but candidates need one year experience in energy. Of course, a good command of English is required, as it is taught in English.

It is a flexible MBA, held during weekends, for 4 semesters. The courses range from “EU Policy in Energy” to “Energy Trading”. The professors and experts’ team is excellent, including one of Romania’s best energy professionals, Corina Popescu.

Please find below the brochure of the programme.

Brosura_MBA-Energie_6.2018

More information also at the following link: mba-energie.ase.ro.

The Great Acceleration: How the World is Getting Faster, Faster – Robert Colvile

The greatest impact will be felt in the east. Today, there are 28 cities with a population of more than ten million people. By 2030, the UN predicts there will be 41 – and more than half of them will be in Asia. In India, as ambition pulls and poverty pushes, urban populations will almost double over the next 20 years, with some 240 million people moving from country to city. China recently announced a plan to build another mega-city around Beijing, containing a third as many people as in the entire United States. In just a decade’s time, China will have 221 cities of more than a million people. There are only 35 such cities in the EU today.

The book discusses the changes in society, considering them increasingly fast. The author, Robert Colvile,  divides the book in several chapters that analyze separately the evolving human society: friendships and relationships, news, logistics, politics, culminating with environment.

Colvile argues that humans are more impatient, news are faster, sometimes lacking substance, logistics are incredibly well-timed, politics focus more on the news cycle rather than long-term strategies, cities are growing and become the nodal societal points, and we slowly damaging the environment.

The book is extremely entertaining, well-written, full of quoted studies and gems of wisdom. The arguments are purposely well-balanced, rather on the optimistic side of technology. It is generally highly recommended by readers of all tastes.

Robert Colvile is a journalist, writing for various US and UK newspapers, such as Politico, Financial times or The Wire. He was previously news director at BuzzFeed and comment editor at the Daily Telegraph.

Overall, it’s a good book, entertaining, well-written, exploring the current societal trends. A nice book to have in a train or on a beach.

Coal: A Human History – Barbara Freese

Some saw in the mines scientific proof of biblical flood. Some credited coal with protecting people from the bubonic plague; others accused it of promoting baldness, tooth decay, sordid murders, caustic speech and fuzzy thinking.More recently many of us believed we could burn vast amounts of coal without disrupting the natural balance of the planet. No doubt we have still much to learn about coal, but at least we’ve been able to dispel many of the old myths.

The book talks about the history of coal, since Roman times to modern day. Barbara Freese talks about both the good and the bad sides of the mineral. As the author is an environmental lawyer, the book slightly tips on the bad side of coal, however the research is deep, insightful and entertaining.

Coal is appreciated by Ms Freese as the basis of the Industrial revolution and the rock that made the British Empire and the United States. It significantly improved living standards by increasing on a massive scale the efficiency of industrial processes.

On the other side, the bad environmental effects were constant, from the fumes and hard working conditions to current greenhouse gas problems.

The message of the book is that coal was never popular, but always useful. The author finishes the book on a positive note, such as using coal for in plastics and other alternative uses.

The Art of Manliness – Brett McKay and Kate McKay

Wanted, a man who is larger than his calling, who considers it a low estimate of his occupation to value it merely as a means of getting a living. Wanted, a man who sees self-development, education and culture, discipline and drill, character and manhood, in his occupation. Wanted, a man of courage who is not a coward in any part of his nature. Wanted, a man who is symmetrical, and not one-sided in his development, who has not sent all the energies of his being into one narrow specialty and allowed all the other branches of his life to wither and die. Wanted, a man who is broad, who does not take half views of things; a man who mixes common sense with his theories, who does not let a college education spoil him for practical, every-day life; a man who prefers substance to show, and one who regards his good name as a priceless treasure.

The book is a collection of texts: stories, letters, poems, speeches, aiming to teach a series of virtues in life. The volume is called The Art of Manliness, but the virtues presented can be actually  applied to anyone.

The seven virtues hailed for good life are: manliness, courage, industry, resolution, self-reliance, discipline and honour. For each, several texts of great persons, writers, adventurers, are presented, in order to explain and stimulate.

The Art of Manliness is largely a motivational book, showing past examples, stories, ideas, words of great men, to inspire the reader to be a better man. It draws from Greek and Roman writers, American founding fathers, Arctic and American Far-west explorers and thinkers of the 19th century,

The book is a great opportunity to be exposed to the classical literature, particularly to poems. It includes one of the very few poems I like, The Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred Lord Tennyson. How much courage and discipline those people had! I quote some of it:

Theirs not to make reply,

Theirs not to reason why,

Theirs but to do and die:

Into the valley of Death

Rode the six hundred.

Overall, while not exceptional, the book is useful for inspiration, something to look up to, and, generally, as a compass of life. I took my time to read it.

How the electricity system works

The electricity market – a very peculiar market

Economic interactions regarding electricity are designed as a market, like any other commodity. Therefore electricity prices follow demand and supply rules. However, they have some very specific characteristics, at consumer level.

Firstly, demand is relatively inelastic in the short-term, particularly for small consumers, less so for large ones. Secondly, there is limited customer storage options. While there is the option of batteries for small consumers, the storage capability is small (Tesla Powerwalls, for example, have a storage of 7kWh and a power of 2kWh; while average daily household consumption in the UK is about 11kWh). This limits significantly consumers’ response to price fluctuations. Thirdly, consumers have limited if any, substitutes for electricity. They can invest in long term demand-response measures (for example, investing in more energy-efficient appliances), but the basic need for the product remains. Fourthly, the entire society is based on electricity as energy carrier. The use of electricity cannot be avoided by consumers. Because of very inflexible demand and limited storage options, the supply has to match and follow the demand at all times. Various ways to organize the electricity market were used, reflecting competing public policies, for example non-for-profit utilities or regulated monopolies. Electricity markets have retail and wholesale markets. Retail markets involve the sale of electricity to end consumers, while wholesale markets involve the selling of electricity to distributors by electric utilities.

How wholesale electricity markets work

The wholesale market is where the commodity, electricity, is traded (bought and sold) by the electricity producers, the electricity suppliers (who subsequently sell it to end consumers) and brokers or traders. Trading can be via direct agreement – directly between producer and supplier, via broker – brokered mutual agreement, or on electricity stock exchanges.

On electricity stock exchanges (also called power exchanges), like any other stock exchanges, transactions may be either financial (speculating for a better price) or may lead to a physical supply. Products can be spot (purchased for delivery on the same day or following day) or forward products (purchased for delivery sometime in the future). This is very similar to any stock exchange, with the exception that the market did not evolve yet to derivative products.

A particularity of the power exchange is that the commodity follows consumption patterns, so the products can also be base (the minimum consumption of electricity) or peak (supply from 8 morning until 20 from Monday to Friday). Finally, spot products can be day-ahead, weekend or hourly-reference products (half an hour, an hour or blocks of several hours). Therefore, a product sold on the exchange can be, for example, base spot or forward weekend. Key is the day-ahead spot price because it is the reference price for the spot trade.

The power of the regulating authority, usually the Transmission System Operator, on power exchanges is significant, because it has the ultimate responsibility to keep the system in balance. Because the electricity system has to be in balance at all times, the grid manager can take balancing actions, procuring more electricity, stopping someone to supply or asking large consumers to limit usage.

The merit order

A model often used by traders and brokers on electricity markets to describe the electricity generators, their production and costs is the merit order. This ranks power generators (mostly power stations and wind farms) by increasingly short-run marginal costs of production and capacity. Power generators with costs below the demand curve (also known as electricity load) will produce, while those above load will wait for a peak. The last power generator “called” to fill the needed load “sets” the price.

While the model has its limits, such as ignoring energy storage and ramp rates, it still shows that electricity produced by the plants with the lowest cost is dispatched first, minimizing the cost for consumers. The difference between the dispatched power plant cost and the load price is called infra-marginal rent.

For peaking units, the costs are covered by scarcity rents, created when load is very high (peaking). Spread is called the difference between electricity prices and the production cost of the plant (mainly involving fuel costs). Clean spread is the difference between electricity prices and the production cost of the plant, including taxes (such as the CO2 price or the carbon floor in the UK). The main competition is between coal and gas, called clean dark spread and clean spark spread, respectively.

How electricity wholesale markets work in EU28

In 2015, there were several bidding zones, but the purpose of the European policymakers is to make an European Energy Market, with one central market. A bidding zone is the largest geographical area where bidders can exchange energy without constraint . The bidding zones are CWE (France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Luxembourg), NordPoolSpot (Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Norway), Apennine (Italy), Iberia (Spain and Portugal), CEE, also known as PXE (Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Romania), and Greece. Other couplings were constructed between countries, but they do not significantly affect price differentials.

Some of those bidding areas are now further integrated to form an even larger European power exchange, limited only by the level of interconnection between systems. National power markets still exist, such Romania’s OPCOM, Portugal’s OMIP or Spain’s OMEL, which creates some overlap.

Those bidding zones or power exchanges, including national power exchanges, work as a genuine exchange, trading electricity like any other commodity. NordpoolSpot, the leading European power market, for example offers day-ahead and intraday spot contracts for Nordic, Baltic and UK’s N2EX markets and intra-day spot contracts for the German market. The European Energy Exchange (EEX) and EPEX Spot, a joint venture between Germany’s EEX and France’s PowerNext, offer day-ahead and intraday spot contracts for Germany, Austria, France and day-ahead spot contracts for Switzerland. In addition, EEX has also future contracts, varying from day to year futures, for about all Western countries.

Morning Star (Red Rising saga: Book 3) – Pierce Brown

My name is Felicia au…” I feint a whip at her face. She brings her blade up, and Victra goes diagonal and impales her at the belly button. I finish her off with a neat decapitation. “Bye, Felicia.” Victra spits, turning to the last Praetorian.

[…]

No child in my family watches holos before the age of twelve. We all have nature and nurture to shape us. She can watch other people’s opinions when she has opinions of her own, and no sooner. We’re not digital creatures. We’re flesh and blood. Better she learns that before the world finds her.

Morning Star is the third and final part of the Red Rising saga. A lot grittier, grey and bitter than the first two books, the volume concludes the story of Darrow. The protagonist, born in the Red low-cast, raised through ranks through deception and skill to be part of the Gold high-class. He then challenged the entire Society’s cast-based structure, by the force of his ideas and outstanding moral compass.

The book was more about Darrow’s friends and allies than his actions. The reader still sees the world through the protagonist’s eyes, but he is no longer in absolute control. Many of the main decisions and actions are taken by others. He is a lot more reactive in this book and depending a lot more on the will of others.

Final chapter in the Red Rising saga, one of the most popular sci-fi space operas in recent years.

The plot is still outstanding, the pace of action superb and the characters that are introduced are memorable. However, the quality of writing is a bit down, a bit struggling. It is still head and shoulders above most scifi literature, but just a little below the world class writing that were the first two books. The author, Pierce Brown, admits that he struggled with the third book. He knew where to arrive with the story, but he did not know how to get there.

The saga could have had a better vocabulary, more precise wording. More technical research would have made it a hard scifi, a difficult task considering the time horizon, 700 years in the future.

Overall, this is top-class trilogy, certainly among the best in scifi literature. The writing is superb, solid storyline, the plot is tight, full of action, the pace is perfect, numerous creative ideas for a far away future, explanations of why things are as they are, well-developed supporting characters, great balance between simplicity and psychological and moral dilemmas, excellent world immersion, strong moral messages and, above all, entertaining and unexpected developments.

[Features picture: ESA, NASA and L. Calçada (ESO)]

Golden Son (Red Rising saga: Book 2)- Pierce Brown

That’s what Society does–spread the blame so there is no villain, so it’s futile to even begin to find a villain, to find justice. It’s just machinery. Processes.

[…]

Rose petals of a thousand shades fall from the trees as Golds fight beneath them. They’re all red in the end.

Golden Son continues the Rising Red saga, with the protagonist, Darrow, now a Gold. Darrow is staring to navigate the difficult politics of being a part of the Society as a Gold, while trying to create a rift within it. He tries to use the fight between ruling families to create a civil war, weakening the Society from within.

The reader comes to know the final pieces of the puzzle, the ruler of the Society and her coterie, and the antagonist, a brilliant schemer.

Beautiful scifi saga, with action, politics, love and friendships.

The book keeps the same excellent level of writing, perfectly paced action, almost impermeable plot, depth of character and top class editing.

There is a slight drop in the quality of the plot, with a few turns of the action that raise browses.

However, the storytelling remains world class, creating one of the best sci-fi sagas in recent literature.

[Features picture: ESA, NASA and L. Calçada (ESO)]