By Trista di Genova
Toronto native Scott Phipps came to Taiwan with a mission. After graduating from the London School of Economics with a master’s degree in Communication and Development, he consulted governments, then worked with academia, NGOs and international organizations – and the private sector.
“As impetus for starting my own company, I realized I wasn’t happy with how all these different sectors dealt with international development. I’d taught at universities, advised in private sectors and decided to start my own approach to dealing with international development with a sustainability component,” he said in an interview last week.
Less than a year later, he gained recognition from the United Nations for his efforts, “and from that on, it started growing.”
Two years ago, he started his own consulting company, the Clean Development Group (CDG), which provides solar, wind and biomass energy to communities, companies and individuals around the world. According to CDG’s website, its focus is “directly addressing issues of environmental sustainability and the global digital divide, building a full-scale project group that does everything from the original design of each renewable energy project to its construction.”
“Most of my work is done with federal governments and international organizations,” he says, and mostly in developing countries.
“Now, the big issues are energy — clean, effective energy. That’s why I work with wind, solar and biomass energy. Then other issues are dealing with conflict resolution and education. And they’re all heavily entertwined.”
“The reason I’m here in Taiwan is because I order my equipment from here, because it has high production values, the quality control is good and prices are good. I could go to China and get better prices, but the quality isn’t as good,” he explained. “I’m focusing on Taiwan’s solar products, particularly photo-voltaic (PV), but also wind and biomass equipment.”
Then it takes a lot of skillful negotiation. “I negotiate the projects with the other countries and international organizations. Once I’ve done that and come to necessary terms, I design the project or projects, because sometimes it’s more than one. Then I order all equipment based on those designs and ship it, then follow it up shortly after I ship it. Then I go to the country and build the project with a local crew. In that way, there’s somebody in each country who knows how it works and how to maintain and repair it.“
Scott is currently working on two projects in Samoa, and starting one project in Panama. “Those are my three current projects, with others on the go. But they’re long-term projects with many multi-leveled stakeholders involved, and will take a number of years to complete because of their scale and number.”
He’s been coming to Taiwan off and on for past three years and “basically came here with a long-term girlfriend.” He stayed in Taiwan after “they went their separate ways,” because he “quite enjoys the quality of life;” Taiwan and England, he feels, are his second home. “Taipei as a city is totally discombobulated but that’s a part of its charm,” he remarked.
Scott spends time in Taiwan touring different factories and companies, and attending trade shows. He goes to international trade conferences, here and abroad, such as the one sponsored by the U.N. in Athens and Kuala Lumpur. In 2006, he spoke on a panel on the world’s information infrastructures with one of the two “fathers of the Internet,” Dr. Vinton Cerf at the IGF (International Governance Forum).
He’s constantly having meetings, figuring out what new technologies are available in solar and wind fields, identifying different suppliers of solar, wind and energy storage. He and his new partner, Jonathan Raabe of Colorado are soon going to British Columbia to check out cutting edge technology in industrial storage systems.
“There are many different types of clean energy, renewable energy. Oil, coal and gas are going out the door because they create a lot of pollution, and involve power control structures, and violence ensues from that. So they’re not very viable sources of energy anymore. All these companies are realizing that waves and geothermal are new sources of energy that are reliable and clean, and they’re more and more abe to build their infrastructure upon that, as the development become more reliable,” he said.
“Taiwan is very good at the development, design and manufacture of the newest technologies in these areas, such as polychrystalline and monochrystaline (the two most popular ones), amorphous thin film, and CIGS (Copper indium gallium selenide). But they’re not technologies that are widely used in Taiwan. I would like in my efforts to speak with the government to expand these technologies further in Taiwan, and see them more readily utilized, as in the most progressive countries of Germany and Japan,” he said.
“And there isn’t just one type of solar energy, there are multiple types,” he stressed. “In technology like solar and wind there’s no production of emissions. That’s why I tend to favor those technologies. And wind – we’re looking at Canada and the U.S. for cutting-edge wind technologies and turbine design.”
He sees biomass technology, which he describes as “finding a better way to get rid of and incinerate garbage and produce energy from it,” as more readily available in smaller economy situations and more readily applicable to larger economies like India and China.
“But biomass doesn’t burn so cleanly so the offshoot is minimal. Wind production is a very enviable attractive energy option. So sometimes I like to bring hybrid systems of PV and wind. It’s most logical to use that because otherwise we’re currently unable to maximize the power outlet of the system.”
At time of print, he was off to North America to ready the next batch of equipment and return to Samoa, and was looking forward to spending quality time with his family.
Originally published in The China Post Sunday, September 21, 2008