I’ve been making games for 20 years this year, which means the phrase ‘listen sunshine, I was making games before you woz even born’ is something I can smugly tell more and more people at GDC this year. This is definitely an achievement unlocked. However, milestones are always times for reflection, and after 20 years I am forced to reflect that my non-games ‘business goals’ are still missing an important piece.

I am someone cursed by a drive to work hard at something I know nothing about, have no skills in, and do not understand. Before you crack jokes about my games being ‘not that bad’, I’m not talking about games development, but something else entirely. For about 30 years I’ve been an environmentalist, and have long desired to do something concrete and tangible about the threat of climate change. My fantasy for a long time has been to own a wind farm (not a single turbine, I think big), and although they can be expensive (a 5MW turbine is about $5million), its not that which puts me off. What puts me off, is my complete lack of knowledge about engineering, energy production, and the entire marketplace. I would be like one of those well-meaning but completely doomed idealistic dreamers who opens a restaurant because ‘they really like food’.

Still, I got further than most. I’ve met with 2 people who ran a turbine installation company and talked about the options, although TBH it was just depressing. Despite the UK public having overwhelming support for onshore wind, the idiots in the current government pander to those who bizarrely hate it, and would rather spend TWICE the money per KWH on the most expensive white elephant in human history.

That power station will never be finished, and never generate power. it. is. doomed.

But anyway…

I’ve managed to still ‘make a difference’ as a hands-off investor in renewable energy, by investing in a whole bunch of projects through abundance. I have chunks of solar farms, wind turbines, anaerobic digesters, tidal power stations, and rooftop solar installs. The only problem with this is that it doesn’t ‘feel’ real. I cant go out there and see ‘my’ wind turbine, and for all I know, all of this would have happened without me.

What compounds this feeling of frustration is working on production line (which is all about building real tangible things efficiently), and the long tedious opera-in-waiting that is trying to get fiber optic internet for my home. I won’t bore you with the details, but even being prepared to put down £17,000 and wait a year was insufficient for engineers from BT Openreach to lay a single tiny cable to my house. Yes really. The sheer dumb, mindless incompetence of that just flattens me, and is compounded by the fact that it looks like we are going to get it now anyway for free. Incompetence squared.

The real nail-in-the-coffin is that this fiber link will be delivered on overhead cables, ie: ‘telegraph poles’ as we call them in the UK. Essentially the wooden posts that they would have used in downton abbey times. Have I mentioned that its now 2018 and this is the best that modern Britain can do? This INFURIATES ME. I have total sympathy with Elon Musk when he was stuck in traffic and said ‘I’m going to just buy a machine and start digging’. We urgently need that attitude here, and probably all over the world. It pains me massively to see how pathetic the UK policy on climate change and energy independence is. New houses get built without any solar power, solar thermal or even rain water harvesting. Its like we are stuck in the 1970s. We still dont have smart meters. I had to specifically request a water meter. Madness.

But what can I do? I’m 48, I’m not about to retrain as a civil engineer, and getting into a business you do not understand the basics of is a recipe for disaster. Thus I remain on the sidelines, doing a job that I love, and enjoy, but to be honest, I get pangs of thinking ‘shouldn’t I be doing something more socially useful’?

I read a book on ‘doing good well’, and there is definitely a serious argument in there for ‘earning to give’. In other words, do what you are good at, make money, and use that money to pay others to do what you wish you were good at. I’ve definitely made big investments in green energy, and have vague plans to build a super-eco house to retire in, with a little (maybe 100 panels) solar array next door to it. It wouldn’t make me Elon Musk, but its still something to aim for.

8 Responses to “2018 and I’m not running an energy business.”

  1. IPv6 says:

    Good luck with that!

  2. Victor says:

    Love your thinking. If only our whole generation could think like that, maybe I would have better hope ;) Thanks Cliff !

  3. Michael says:

    I think if you continue with the work ethic you already demonstrate every day, producing and publishing great games, and investing well, I do not think it will be long before you have that first turbine. The farm will soon follow! Just wish I had your drive.

    As for the the government and BT, it would not be the UK if there were not totally incompetent and wasting our money. I too feel your fury with total lack of forward thinking.

  4. Jeff says:

    Renewables are great free energy, but it is worth bearing in mind that the national grid does not have extensive storage capacity. Therefore supply must meet demand at all times.

    My current beef with renewables is that they are unpredictable. Solar and tidal are reasonably predictable, while wind isn’t. The downside of that is for every MW of unpredictable energy sources that are added to the grid, another MW of easily accessible and controllable energy source needs to be on call, ready for action. Our current source of that power? Coal and gas.

    Nuclear is always run flat out as far as possible to make it profitable, and this is used as a base load, with others making up the transient difference.

    IMHO, renewables can only really take over the energy market completely once the problem of storage of surplus energy is resolved (a la Elon’s Australian mega battery)

    A good website for energy demand and supply (which I use daily) is grid watch


  5. Vladimir Kozlov (ai_enabled) says:

    Great read,
    Same thoughts, though I’m a much younger gamedeveloper, about 10 years vegan and doing only small charity (mostly ecology-related) I can afford.

    BTW, what about the waste reduction? Something like that https://www.dropbox.com/s/qg7fxlzkcct7erx/006.pdf?dl=0 to transform organic waste into very useful fertilizer. Can be easily built even by coders like us :-). A full article there https://www.dropbox.com/s/pc869atuq9qgg9r/Summary.pdf?dl=0 it’s only part of the whole idea of creating sustainable farms and profiting from waste.


  6. While reading I was thinking of “earning to give” but then you mentioned it yourself. So I don’t really have something to add just: Love your blog posts :)