The 3Es of CleanTech HCM

The 3Es of CleanTech HCM

(This page temporarily features articles by Dr. Betsy Joy B. Tan, Vice President for Academic Affairs, who has been designated as Acting President in concurrent capacity, while Dr. Ben S. Malayang III is on official leave. Dr. Malayang will resume his reflections in August.)

The 3 Es of CleanTech HCM:  The Economist, The Electrical  Engineer, The Environmentalist

By: Dr. Betsy Joy B. Tan
(Note: Message delivered at during the 13th Regional Conference of the Institute of Electrical Engineers of the Philippines on July 22, 2011.)

In this day and age when climate change has become a byword – a household name – we move forward into the future with a conscious effort to understand the interplay and interconnectedness of socio-economic, political and environmental issues.

On behalf of our President, Dr. Ben S. Malayang III,  our warm greetings from Silliman University to all of you. It is our pleasure to welcome you to this campus by the sea in this City of Gentle People. Dr. Malayang is still on official leave and is now in the United Kingdom as one of only 18 distinguished international environmental experts invited to speak at the 6th International Conference on Environmental Future at the Newcastle University. Sponsored by the Foundation for Environmental Future based in Switzerland and the Newcastle University, he is there to present his paper on, “Rethinking How We Do Environmental Science”.

This morning, I then stand before you as his representative, and while I am not an environmental expert as Dr. Malayang is, I hope to share with you my thoughts on your topic. I also  feel that the invitation  you  extended to Silliman University means that you wanted to get in touch with your academic roots, touching base with academia as you deliberate on and investigate your take on your chosen theme in this 13th regional conference, “Economic Development through Clean and Affordable Electricity”.

Last weekend, our area of Dumaguete again experienced another brownout; but I hope it wasn’t a blackout.  It would seem then that the absence of electricity in our city during a day of rest is already a pattern of living that we have to learn to grin and live with. However, in a faxed message dated June 27, 2011 in response to our query on why there are still brownouts in spite of us hosting Green Corporation, our supplier of electricity, NORECO pointed out the usual factors:  the scheduled interruptions due to preventive maintenance and the unscheduled interruptions due to the weather and disruptions from trees.  Please take note that an unscheduled interruption because of the weather is beyond man’s direct control; but because trees grow  before our very eyes, such kind of interruption is certainly and within man’s control.  In the same fax message, NORECO also promised that because of assurances from Green Corp and KEPCO, there would be no power shortages anymore for the next ten years.  Then, within a few weeks after that  June 27 fax message,  last Sunday’s brownout just popped up like the unwanted pop-ups that we get when we surf the internet.

Whether it’s the inclement weather, preventive maintenance checks, the growing of trees, or even the economics of a clean and affordable electricity, man cannot distance nor dissociate himself from the wonder of living fueled by electricity.  Whatever happens on this planet, man will always find himself in it . . .  either as an individual or as an individual in an organization  – a field of study now known as HBO, Human Behavior in the Organization – because even a family . . . is an organization, the smallest unit in the organization called society. 

As someone who then belongs to the knowledge organization called Silliman University, my take on your theme is necessarily bound towards the human capital of knowledge and knowledge management. But between the study of the human potential in HRM and HCM, allow me to take the perspective of Human Capital Management – the study of man that focuses on the transformation of his potentials into assets in the service of his fellowmen.  From your theme then, let me dwell on the three Es of CleanTech HCM:  the economist, the electrical engineer, and the environmentalist. A scrutiny of the CleanTech landscape then is a T- E-A-M, Together, Everyone Achieves More.  

Many decades back, the Industrial Age had already segued into the Knowledge Age. The expectation was that, wealth as labor in the Agricultural Age and capital in the Industrial Age had already segued into wealth as the power of the mind in the Knowledge Age.  And yet, more than five decades after American management guru Peter Drucker coined the term, ‘knowledge work’ in 1959, the Knowledge Society has not yet emerged into  a Knowledge Revolution of a global state of mind similar to that which marked the Industrial Revolution. 

From The Journal of International Trade and Economic Development, Columbia  University Professor Chichilnisky commented in 1998 that the world is on a “threshold of a knowledge revolution driven by knowledge and by the technologies for processing and communicating it”.  Moreover,  in a 2003 article on the Knowledge Revolution, Dr. Noel Tichy, director of the Global Leadership Partnership at the University of Michigan’s Business School noted that  in a knowledge revolution, the “issue is going to be: who is best at generating knowledge, harnessing the energy of workers, and making sure that it is targeted to the most productive uses” because in  this internet age, “high-tech companies may have the agility, flexibility, and speed; but like preadolescent kids, . . . they may have moments of dazzling brilliance but neither the muscle nor the discipline to go the distance”.  

A drawback  to the Knowledge Revolution is therefore more the issue on EQ, our emotional quotient, our relational and harmonizing skills rather than our IQ. Clearly, like a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis, new models of knowledge management have to emerge for a knowledge revolution to lift off!

From our corner of the world, how then should you, in this Institute of Electrical Engineers, generate the best knowledge, harness the energy of your knowledge workers so that our country can achieve the essential economic development through clean and affordable electricity?  How should you as a professional organization in Negros Oriental contribute to the reality of a knowledge revolution for this University Town in Dumaguete City?

With TEAM – Together Everyone Achieves More – as a given, let us take a mirror to ourselves and learn from the knowledge structure and organization of others.

From the perspective of public service, the State of Colorado in the USA offers us these learning insights: a collaborative partnership between their federal government’s Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory has allowed the State of Colorado to form an organizational structure called CREEP, Colorado Center for  Renewable Energy Economic Development . . . made up of  a team of government partners, universities, industry associations, venture capital organizations, and small businesses – all designed to boost growth in the energy sector by bringing together innovation, entrepreneurialism, and job creation.  This is a set up where both IQ and EQ have equal space in building respect, discipline, and harmony in the group.  Also structured into the academe, CREED last June 23 had its first class for entrepreneurs that focused on CleanTech business plans through workshops, ‘pitch practices’, and opportunities to meet with potential investors.

From an academic perspective, Singapore has identified clean solar energy as a key growth area in their country.  Thus, taking the lead is an R & D Research structure to build up and groom research leaders from a pool of global citizen-scholars through a Ph. D. program in disciplines like Electrical Engineering, Materials Science or Engineering Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Environmental Science or Engineering, Civil Engineering and Mechanical Engineering where all R & D research topics are spread to knowledge areas in Solar, Wind, Fuel  Cells, Energy Efficiency in Green Buildings, Storage, Smart Grid Technology, Carbon Capture and Utilisation, among others.  Qualified scholars from all over the world are not only limited to study at universities in Singapore but have also choices in universities overseas – USA, UK, Switzerland, Germany, and Australia – universities that have already established their academic credentials in clean energy.

In both the Colorado and Singapore models, knowledge generation is central to how they organize themselves into various knowledge networks to attain their goals of economic growth through clean energy: the Colorado initiative structured through public management from top-down and the Singapore initiative from bottom-up that starts from education and training.  

There is no doubt then, that a successful CleanTech program for a country’s economic development is not only interdisciplinary but also approached from an HCM rather than an HRM point of view – because HCM (Human Capital Management) doesn’t stop at an inventory of human potentials that is the domain of HRM;  but instead, on the process of transforming human potential into an organizational asset where EQ and other relational skills facilitate knowledge generation.  Today, a successful CleanTech program then is at most, a team effort of the basic three:  the economist, the electrical engineer, the environmentalist.

Like the computer, we all know that knowledge is generated, assimilated, accommodated, stored, retrieved, and communicated through the brain, the vital human capital of the Knowledge Movement – where knowledge is not only  intangible but also privately produced and is expected to replace land and machines, the primary factors of production in the agricultural-industrial society.  We also know that when knowledge is shared and cross-fertilized, it does not diminish or decrease;  instead, knowledge takes on the innovative edge for public good.  Knowledge is then a private property that easily acquires a public, shared identity.   HCM takes on this knowledge-intensive growth for human capital to blossom and societies to succeed.

On the other hand, for an agricultural archipelago like the Philippines, the director of De La Salle University’s Center for Engineering and Sustainable Development Research, Dr. Raymond R. Tan, in his Philippine Star column of July 14, 2011, also points out that knowledge on “climate risk must be considered an important criterion in long-term energy planning since factors such as rainfall, temperature, and the frequency of typhoons affect agriculture”.

At this point, you may then ask,  with the province hosting Green Corporation, what is the take of Silliman University? 

Three knowledge structures are already in place in the university:  our electrical engineering program where research is geared towards R & D just like the Singapore model; a graduate program in Environmental Science with a strong knowledge structure between environmental economics and sustainable development; and an economics program that emphasizes social concern and responsibility.  As a University Town that has been awarded the only Institutional Accreditation in Central Visayas, granting a certificate program as knowledge anchor for a CleanTech economic development initiative in this part of the Philippines is a most welcome move from Silliman University to the Institute of Electrical Engineers of the Philippines! 

As you then set your thoughts in motion, let us take heed of these significant points on knowledge work from Professor Graciela Chichilnisky of Columdia University as published in the Journal of  International Trade and Economic Development, Volume 7, Issue 1 in 1998:

  1. knowledge and ideas are more important  today, replacing physical capital; thus, human capital rules the knowledge economy;
  2. because markets function quite differently when knowledge is traded, a project towards economic development needs the most appropriate institutional structure for it to stay viable;
  3. a revolution in knowledge can offer an alternative model of human economic and social progress based less on the use of fossil fuel and environmental resources and more on human knowledge and systems which disseminate and use it;
  4. the greater challenge today is to develop and implement a model of economic development where humans count more than anything else as they produce, contain, and distribute the ultimate source of economic value, knowledge;
  5. that the more diverse an organization of knowledge workers is, the more it can innovate through cross-fertilization of ideas from different sources; and
  6.  that everyone agrees to change – including the excess supply of knowledge workers with old-fashioned skills.

Let us also find comfort from the reality that when knowledge becomes a public good because it is shared, the source of that knowledge never loses it. Instead, there arises a situation where the more one gives and shares such knowledge, the more knowledge one can gain.  

The economist, the electrical engineer, the environmentalist are the core knowledge specialists needed to drive our economy through clean and affordable electricity. Whether you chose the path of Colorado or the path of Singapore or even take the best practices from both models, there is no way for our economy to go except to grow.

All the best as the Institute of Electrical Engineers of the Philippines journey for our country!  From Dumaguete to the world,  . . .   good luck . . . good morning!