Project Everest

Work Update

ADF Meeting: A Den of Eagles and an Unexpected Opportunity

James Balzer
James Balzer | Jan 24, 2018 | in Knowledge Base

So far in Timor-Leste our energy assessment team have contacted a significant amount of stakeholders. However, a few days ago I had the pleasure of meeting with key Australian military officials here in Timor-Leste. From the perspective of the ‘Four Birds’ personality types, it was Yosemite National Park - a Den of Eagles.


It was this “Den of Eagles” effect that made it such an interesting experience. As a Taronga Zoo Peacock myself I actually felt quite at ease with these task-orientated, sharp-thinking individuals. I don’t know what bird type my fellow colleagues are, but it’s these moments that make you really appreciate EQ and understanding whom we all are. EQ is personally my favourite aspect of Project Everest, and it was awesome to see its practicalities and applications for myself. It reinforces the lessons that I’ve learnt regarding making sure you understand your stakeholders and work with their way of thinking, thus utilising each other’s personalities to achieve a common outcome.


We unexpectedly realised that the major bases of Baucau, Hera and Metinaro were not particularly put off by the power outages, as all the major pieces of electrical equipment were able to operate via battery or generator, and the other affected appliances were not necessarily crucial to their operations. Considering that our main focus was to sell solar power to these bases, I felt rather disconcerted hearing this.


However, despite this the ADF advisors did express concern that a lack of consistent energy supply amongst the East Timorese military (FFDTL) hinders their ability to become a professional army. This is as it restricts their communications and ability to do work, with the ADF officials claiming that the FFDTL often choose to sleep instead of work in the case of a blackout. In that sense, we have the potential to offer the national army value in our proposition to make them more professional through providing them an adequate energy supply.


Instead we’re considering using the ADF as a medium through which to work with the East Timorese military for social development work in rural areas. They offer outreach, presence and knowledge that we would find notably useful. One of the major difficulties that PE has is that we are a lean start-up with minimal capital and presence in country. The FFDTL have community and government support, knowledge, outreach and a permanent presence and role in the country. When combined with the fact that they operate in a variety of communities along the border with Indonesia, and continue to regularly support medical facilities and schools around the area, there is undeniable value in further collaboration with them via the ADF.


It would be great if people reading this had suggestions about how to use this potential pathway of working with the FFDTL and the communities they operate in to facilitate the development of energy supply in Timor-Leste. What do you think?


The important thing to understand is that energy is not just energy. It opens the gate to internet and computer access, televisions and media for education, lights for studying, air conditioning for schooling and hospitals and telecommunication services. Therefore, along with supplying energy to the FFDTL, we could also support their efforts to provide socially beneficial assets and technology to the local populace.


While the meeting content and outcomes were rather unexpected, we are Project Everest. We are predicated on the values of expecting the unexpected. Whenever the unexpected happens, remember that Bear Grylls meme: Improvise, Adapt, Overcome!!


It is under this mind set that I instill hope for the February Energy Assessment team! May they be successful in their ventures and powered by an unstoppable faith in their courage, teamwork and ambition. I personally see a significant amount of potential in collaboration with the FFDTL via the ADF, and would love to see this come true!


edited on 24th January 2018, 05:01 by James Balzer

Patrick Edwards Jan 24, 2018

Have you also made further contact with the Australian Navy?

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Cris Birzer Jan 25, 2018

The DCP didn't have a RAN representative when I worked with them, but that was a long time ago. If there is a RAN representative in East Timor, it would most likely be through DCP, or DCP would have the contacts. The ADF is a small close-knit community when in a place like East Timor.

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James Balzer Jan 26, 2018

As far as I am concerned, the Army personnel that I met the other day are the ones running the DCP and infrastructure programmes in East Timor. This would make collaborating with any RAN personnel redundant as they would most likely have to simply refer to the DCP personnel I met with the other day. However, I will try to confirm with the Army whether RAN representatives are present. Thanks for the comment Patrick and Cris.

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Cris Birzer Jan 25, 2018

Hmmm. The June/July team last year were told by DCP staff indicated that power on the main bases wasn't an issue, but the FDTL outstations had problems. So your unexpected realisation is a little disappointing (not your fault, just highlighting the need for detailed hand-over/take-over documents).

It was also mentioned that the cost of diesel to the Government as a whole is always an issue, so diesel-based power reduction on the bases is still desirable, but not necessarily high priority.

My current suggestion is that you could probably put together a proposal to the Asian Development Bank for a medium/large solar PV system for Metinaro that can put back into the grid. Either go in with FDTL, the Ministry of Defence, or similar; or simply go with their approval and lease their land (not ideal). Their may be scope for battery storage, but if you are selling to the grid, that wouldn't be needed.

Note that pumped hydro storage was initially consider, hence why Metinaro was initially scoped (high and steep mountain range behind, close to the ocean and flood area, security with military), but culturally, water storage wasn't going to be an easy sell. I still think it might be possible, you just need a demonstration plant (8kL rainwater tank, suitable piping, a small 1kW turbine and generator, and something that needs power). I'll be setting that as an assignment to my 3rd/4th year mechanical engineering students this semester if the June/July 2018 team want help.

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Wade Tink Jul 2, 2018

Status label added: Work Update

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