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3Energy Renewable (Pty) Ltd is the South African branch of 3Energy GmbH, a German facility management company with a track record of more than 15 years in the operation and management of wind and solar photovoltaic (PV) assets in Europe.
3Energy can operate in all aspects of a power plant, including technical and administrative tasks on behalf of the Plant Investor and Plant Owner.
3Energy Renewables (Pty) has shown a lot of growth in recent years in the renewable energy industry and their scope of services include the following services:
The renewable energy industry is more about generating electricity using clean energy such as water, wind, sunlight without emitting CO2 gases that impact climate change. Secondly, these resources are free of charge and are unlikely to get depleted as fossil fuels such as coal.
One of the biggest challenges was facing renewable energy was their cost of generation. This was the main reason Eskom was refusing to sign Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) for new renewable energy projects in South Africa. Now, however, with the cost of wind and solar power dropping fast, and the cost of fossil-based power generation increased in many countries, the cost of the renewable energy is perhaps no longer the toughest challenge facing the sector. The renewable energy it is driven more by targets, governmental support, and simple economics than a consumer push for being green.
The department of energy (DoE) announced earlier this year the signing of 32 Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) by Eskom for new renewable energy projects. This meant that the energy industry is making progress again in South Africa after it was flat for two years. More job opportunities will open for the manufacturing and construction industry. The life cycle for renewable power plants is 20 years and that means there will be sustainable jobs during operations specifically for technicians.
If you compare South Africa with other European countries with renewable energy such as wind and solar you would see that South Africa is still new in this market. There is still a lack of limited technical capacity to conduct operations and maintenance, the inability of the existing electrical grids to absorb a large amount of energy supply, and lack of transformation in the industry.
The government has put strong policies in place to ensure that all the Independent Power Producers (IPP) are complying with government regulation to tackle the transformation issue in the renewable energy sector. Yearly audits are being carried out by the government to ensure compliance.
In terms of business opportunities, the market is very competitive because there are more international companies with a lot of experience in the wind and solar energy sector which makes it very difficult for small companies to break through. However, the good thing about some of these international companies they also recruit local labor and train them which helps the skills transfer.
3Energy is a small organization with less than 30 employees. However, when it started in South Africa it started with one service “Asset Management” which is also referred to as Facility Management. Other divisions they started a few years back due to their demand in the industry and the Facility Management is the parent to those divisions. Facility Management is focused upon the efficient and effective delivery of support services for the Plant Owner. The services include technical and administrative tasks on behalf of the Plant Owner/ Plant Investor. By employing an independent Asset Manager, the Plant Owner can concentrate on his core business, whilst be being assured that the asset is operated at the highest standards by an accountable party.
The Facility Management division side of 3Energy I can say is the core of the business because it can start as early as during construction to provide services such as construction monitoring, inspections etc. When the plant enters commercial operation stage that is when the Facility Management takes full charge and deliver its full scope of work according to the service agreement entered with the Plant Owner. Other services provided by 3Energy such as End of warranty inspections, blade repairs they also come during the plant commercial operational stage.
The Facility Management contracts 3Energy gets is at least 2 years and more, whereas for other services is very small usual a month or two depending on the scope of work. The main source of income or big profit 3Energy get is from the Facility Management division contracts. The more the Facility Management contracts it gets, the more the company grows.
In the Facility Management division I am working as a Site Manager, also referred to as a Plant Manager. My role entails to oversee the general management of the Plant and to be the first point of contact for the Plant Owner. I oversee the main day-to-day site operational functions and provide support with respect to the administrative functions to be performed by the Plant Investor/Owner.
In my division, I work with Facility Technicians to carry out day to day activities. I also get support from the sub-contractor for the GCC and H&S functions.
One of my core strengths as an individual I am very patient. As a Site Manager, I am also required to train and develop my team members on-site operations, technical issues, safety, and environmental issues. Training people sometimes need patience because people are different and take time to understand things. What also makes things more difficult is because when people are recruited by 3Energy Renewables they have little or no experience in the renewable energy field and then when you train them you start from the stretch. This is when you need to be patient. What I enjoy most about training people is when I see that individual can achieve the outcomes and can deliver as expected.
Training people and making sure they understand their work helps me to be able to delegate the work on them without having trust issues if they can deliver decent quality work on time. In addition, since I am working with facility technicians and our company rotates them between the Power Plants we are managing that means they can work in any plant without struggling too much because they have already got the knowledge and skills required. In overall, this makes a huge contribution to the Facility Management Team and in turn makes the Asset Management division to be effective and efficient in its operations.
I am very independent, determined and decisive person. I am very focused, and I pay a lot of attention to detail. With these attributes, they help me when it comes to monitoring of the contractors on site to ensure compliance and that contractual obligations are fulfilled. For example, when contractors are working on site I make sure I understand their scope of work (contract) and their outcomes. We held weekly and monthly operations meeting about the progress of work to ensure deliverables are met without any shortfalls or deviations. This ensures adequate monitoring and management of the Power Plant by the Facility Management Team (FMT). If this happens, then the Plant Owner/Investor will be happy and obvious will want to continue with the business with 3Energy Renewables.
When I started in this Site Manager position I had a problem with delegating work. I had a trust issue with delegating work because the staff I am working with has got less experience with me in the Facility Management field. Often, this led me to have a lot of work and forced me to work overtime even when not necessary. Through this course, I have learnt the process of effective delegating work. Before, I use to delegate work without explaining to the individual what is expected and give them resources to carry out that task. Now, before I delegate work I make sure I explain the task and I give adequate resources to enable the task to be achieved effectively with efficiency.
Engaging and have one on one open conversation with team members has also help me to discover what they are good at (strengths) and what they are lacking in terms of work. If I really know what each of my team members is good at in terms of work, then when I am delegating work I can delegate based on their strengths and what they like sometimes. An open conversation with others helps to ease the tenseness at work and made me understand their personal life, creating a good healthy working relationship.
Coaching and mentoring is something that I must do in my position to enable my team members to achieve their full potential at work. On-site we are a very small team of only 4 people, it is very easy for me to know each individual performance and strengths. The other advantage I have is that the same position they are working on I have been to it and I have almost 3 years of experience in it. I have broad knowledge and understanding of their positions which helps me to be of a great asset to them when it comes to coaching. I know the deliverables in their positions very well and the tricks to get the job done effectively in an effective way.
My coaching is based on an assessment of need in relation to the job role, delivered in a structured manner, and generates measurable learning and performance outcomes. During this course, I learnt that the best or effective way of coaching at work is to coach around 20% that will give 80% output. For me, this will not be an issue at all since I already have the knowledge and experience of the positions filled by my team members.
Coaching is “a process that enables learning and development to occur and thus performance to improve. To be a successful coach requires a knowledge and understanding of the process as well as the variety of styles, skills and techniques that are appropriate to the context in which the coaching takes place” Eric Parsloe, The Manager as Coach and Mentor.
Job roles are changing at an ever-increasing rate, but in my work environment, it’s easy to keep up with pace and adapt to that because whatever the client is asking it is the responsibility of the Site Manager to show his team members how to do that task. It is easy for me to deal with these fast-moving requirements. In this instance, I do one-to-one skills coaching which allows a flexible, adaptive just in time approach to skills development.
Sometimes based on customer feedback (performance review) and audits I can measure my team performance, then from this, I know exactly where we need to improve our performance as a team. The performance review is done once a year by the client and it is formal, but it does not go in depth. The audits they go very deep and they focused on plant operations in detail. Often, from audit findings I make an assessment and judgment to see which areas I need to improve with my team members in terms of plant operations. If coaching is required for some individuals to perform better in their job functions then I do it, but then if I see that training is more essential to enhance performance, then I send them for training. Leading others by making them powerful and never doubt their capacity is what will make me a good leader in my team.
At 3Energy we hardly get a performance review, the only time it happens it is when people are going for salary negotiations. From this course, I have learnt the importance of doing effective employee performance reviews. My action plan is to start by documenting job roles, responsibilities and expectations. Discussing both positive performance and areas for improvement on regular bases, which is something I have been doing even on a daily basis. Goal settings and preparation, I will have to hold a key conversation with my staff. The spirit in which I approach this conversation will make the difference in whether it is effective. My intention must be genuine, to help my staff member to improve performance. Performance review will be a learning curve for me, but by creating a development plan for each individual team member can help me a lot to achieve this outcome.
Often, we hold meetings on weekly basis to reflect on what we have been doing during the week and what are we expecting to deliver for the upcoming weeks. On this platform I allow individuals the space to say whatever they want to highlight. I do not limit them. On a daily basis, we hold safety morning meetings with all the site teams. During the meetings, everybody can raise any safety-related matters and ask questions as well. If there are any questions that need senior management attention, then I take note of those questions and escalate them to the senior management. On these safety morning meetings, I also use them as an opportunity if I need to make a quick announcement to all the employees of different contractors on site. This has been a great platform for me if also I really need to do team management and I want to ensure my message reaches everyone onsite without its context getting lost.
Time management was an issue for me in the first two months when I started in this position. I am saying this not because I was not able to deliver on time my work, but I had often seen myself working even on weekends at home and putting too much pressure on me. This was slowing my effectiveness. Since I was still new in the position I was also trying to find my feet and create my own way of doing things. Juggling between tasks and shifting my focus from activities to results has often helped me to sort of managing my time effectively.
Finding my priorities was the key to me to manage my time very well. I learnt to spend 20% of my time on key tasks that will yield 80% of my job output. I learnt to judge which of my responsibilities are urgent and not urgent. Day-to-day job planning is something I often do, however, due to the environment I am working at – destructions are normal and they often require my attention as I am the plant manager. So whatever plan I have for the day it can easily get destructed. Knowing which things are urgent and not urgent has improved my time management.
From my position, I also learnt that I will always face criticism from the people and I understand because I am their leader. Whether you do good or bad people will always criticize you. Criticism can be positive or negative and can destroy or build you as a person depending on how to take it. What I learnt from this course is that I should not put a shield over me. I should allow people to talk and listen to them. Leaders do less talking and more listening.
In conclusion, I have learnt a lot from this module that can help me to improve my position and be a better leader/ manager. For me, this is my starting point and I will improve as time goes on, but to be honest I cannot say much at this point because I have only been in this leadership/management position for 3 months. To dwell more than what I have seen already would be a lie.
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