MIT ESM Challenge: Progress Update III

Having left Medellin just over one week ago, I can now say on reflection that the last 3 months have been the most challenging, intense, and rewarding of my life. I don’t think I could have extracted more self development, enjoyment and fulfilment if I had the time again.

Some achievements include;

  • Studying the MIT Energy Studies Minor independently and remotely, completing 6 out of 7 mandatory course subjects in 12 weeks
  • Integrating myself in the local culture, by attending local football matches, cultural events, theatre performances, and exploring Medellin and the surrounding towns (pueblos)
  • Becoming a comfortable social salsa and bachata dancer through nightly lessons
  • Building professional and social networks with locals and expats, including navigating some challenging yet hugely rewarding personal relationships with Colombian women
  • Maintaining solid strength gains in the gym, and general health and wellbeing through cardio, stretching and yoga, and cooking most meals using fresh, seasonal produce
  • Achieving all of the above building on my level of conversational spanish, which I’ve been told is not far from a working competency

I think the amount I have crammed into three months is testament to the fact that as I write from the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador, I am recovering from three days in bed, which I put down to sheer exhaustion, sleep deprivation, and potentially some questionable Quito ‘menu del dia’ food. The last thing I feel like doing is sitting on a boat for hours, smelling fish and diesel, and snorkelling, which is unfortunate, as under clause 48 in the fine print of my travel insurance policy, there is no cover for ‘loss of enjoyment’.

MIT Energy Studies Minor Challenge Status

I’ve not entirely completed the MIT Energy Studies Challenge in the time I’d originally allotted, which is partly due to sacrificing planned study time to pursue other activities listed above. It is also a result of underestimating the amount of reading required in the penultimate subject of the minor.

Since the last update, Principles of Microeconomics was completed ahead of schedule, with all assessment and course notes uploaded to the ‘progress’ section of this site. As someone with an aptitude for maths and a current active investor in a number of businesses, this subject was hugely enjoyable, and felt very natural and intuitive.

Subject six, Economics and Regulation of the Electric Power Sector, requires the student to select a currently operating energy network, and conduct a semester long analysis into all aspects of the network including economic regulation, system operation, network structure and public policy, from generation to consumption. This includes the economic structure and regulation of the various free and highly regulated horizontal markets (wholesale, transmission, distribution and retail), the roles of the various government monitored and sanctioned regulators, rule-makers and network operators, and a thorough review of all legislative and regulatory documentation.

Naturally, I selected the Australian National Energy Market (NEM), given my vested interest as an Australian resident, and the fact that the NEM has just gone through the most technically and politically challenging period since market deregulation in 1998. One key document among dozens, the National Electricity Rules (NERs), is over 1500 pages long, and describes the full economic regulation and operation of the NEM. Based on the 14 days I’d originally set to complete the course, it just wasn’t feasible to honestly get through this much reading in the allotted time. 75% of lectures and assessment for this course are complete, and all that remains is some final report editing and completion of some lecture content.

As I am now back on the ‘backpacker trail’, heading for some life highlights such as trekking to Machu Pichu in Peru, visiting the Salt Flats in Bolivia, and camping in the Atacama Desert in Chile, I have put the completion of these studies on hold until I return to Australia in early 2018. I’d rather fully immerse in and enjoy the experiences I have at hand, rather than try to cram in study to meet a self-imposed deadline, where I can comfortably delay a couple of months, and complete in a controlled environment where I am much more likely to retain the content.

Studies Review

On reflection of the time spent studying, not only have I expanded my technical and non-technical skillsets in the areas of climate science, public policy and sustainable energy solutions, but by immersing myself in the content, I have effectively self-confirmed my new found passion and zeal for this type of work. The value of this self-realisation and verification cannot be stressed enough.

Above all, holding myself personally accountable to a plan has been one of the most challenging aspects of the 12 months, but one area in which I have grown the most. Getting up day after day and sitting at a desk for 8-10 hours, especially when no one is looking over your shoulder, takes a huge amount of mental resilience and motivation.

“Interpersonal integrity is challenging enough; doing for others what you promise to others. Intrapersonal integrity is harder again; doing for yourself what you promise to yourself.”

I highly recommend anyone who has an interest in climate science, climate change, energy and emissions public policy, or sustainable energy, to dig into the freely available MIT materials I have utilised to complete these studies. If you’re reading this, you have a stable electricity supply and internet connection, and a rich vein of knowledge is only a few clicks away.