Editorial - VGB PowerTech Journal 7/2018

Communication in change

Energy technology and its further development is undoubtedly the strategic element and it is decisive for the long-term success of the so-called “energy transition” and this without restriction to technology. Energy technology has delivered impressive results over the past decades, including for all energy technologies. For example, technical progress in pure steam power plants has led to an increase in efficiency from 35 % to up to 46 % in a few decades, in combined gas and steam power plants 62 % have been achieved. In the field of renewable energies, for example, the usual output of wind power plants was 80 kW thirty years ago; today’s offshore plants can be in-stalled with up to 7 MW and plants with outputs of more than 10 MW are under development.

A keystone for such technical developments is also the openness to technology. It is a fundamental factor for the future, especially in research. Research and government research funding should not be based a priori on one direction or the other. A preliminary deter-mination would also led the sense of research ad absurdum, because it is necessary to explore what is not yet known or to design it technically. How technical progress is applied later, and to what extent, is sometimes a very complex decision with many players.

In addition to openness in research and development, communication is another element of effective action. It is not enough to provide good research results or develop suitable products; “Do a good turn and talk about it” is the proverb of choice. Communication has changed fundamentally over the past decades with the development of the internet and its offspring, the World Wide Web. 30 years ago, it was almost exclusively left to the (specialist) media to circulate information, but today virtually anyone from anywhere in the world can circulate their information or opinion in the WWW. The fact that “quality” can fall by the wayside with regard to content is inevitably associated with this, because content checks do not take place and when opinions are expressed, it is now often the case that the number of “approval clicks” determines validity. But science and technology are difficult to coordinate; relative majorities do not determine what is right or wrong in physics, chemistry and technology. For those who are looking for valid information, equally valid sources known to them come into play here. Trade journals are certainly just as much a part of it as specialist literature. But here, too, caution is now called for. For several years, “predatory publishers” have been trying to take over the publications market for specialist literature. These companies, which are primarily based in Asia or Africa, offer exclusively digital publishing. Since there are no additional costs for digital publishing from the first printed copy, this is an attractive business model. Basically, this business depends from acquiring authors from science and technology to publish the manuscripts for a fee. A control of the contents does not lie thereby rather in the sense of the publisher. The visible consequence is now a flood of online publications that damage the entire system of specialist publications. In the meantime, this problem has become public and detailed analyses are available on the WWW for anyone interested*.

With such problems, however, the benefits of digitisation in communication must not and should not be misunderstood; it is an important driver of current developments. VGB PowerTech has been involved in communication and organisation via the WWW for the benefit of the association from an early stage. Today, committee work without the member platform “myVGB” is almost inconceivable – information and documents are exchanged via this service and myVGB supports day-to-day administrative business. The VGB regulations, which with its almost 350 documents provides an important basis for efficiency, reliability, safety and environmental friendliness in power and heat generation, are available to the ordinary members of VGB PowerTech in digital form via “myVGB”**. Almost 7,000 hits since going online in mid-2017 underline the importance of these publications for our industry. And last but not least, this also applies to this trade journal, VGB POWERTECH. The most important overview information is available on the WWW, a digital annual edition with the PDF files of all editions will be available from 1990 and our print edition underlines our quality standards.

Despite all the enthusiasm towards the digital world, common sense is also appropriate – digital can do a lot, not everything, and in the end it’s still man who decides.

* https://bit.ly/2uzAeca
** https://www.vgb.org/vs4m - login with “myVGB” access