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Solar Surge Is Making Coal Plants Unprofitable in Top Exporter

Solar Surge Is Making Coal Plants Unprofitable in Top Exporter

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Stacker-reclaimers operate next to stockpiles of coal at the Newcastle Coal Terminal in this aerial photograph taken in Newcastle, Australia. , Photographer: Brendon Thorne/Bloomberg

Even the world’s top coal exporter is struggling to make money from burning the fuel.

Australia’s coal power plants, which make up more than half of the nation’s generation mix, are facing increased pressure as rooftop solar hollows out daytime demand. That could mean early closures among the country’s aging fleet, giving energy planners the tricky task of ensuring energy security while replacing the steady, predictable flow of power with more variable renewable generation.

“We’ve got a problem with coal closures,” Kerry Schott, chair of the Energy Security Board, told a virtual clean energy summit on Thursday. ‘We’ve got plants that are becoming uneconomic and some have got very tight margins at the moment.”

A surge in new wind and solar capacity is driving wholesale electricity prices as low as A$40 ($29) a megawatt-hour in some parts of the network — in many cases lower than it costs the plant to buy its coal, Schott said. Reduced demand because of coronavirus restrictions has also damped prices. While that’s a good thing for the consumer, it’s vital to ensure that any capacity lost due to coal retirements is replaced in a way that also safeguards network security and reliability, she said.

Australians love of rooftop solar is also under-cutting coal plants. Almost one in four Australian households has panels, and there’s still scope for solar capacity to jump by 500% by 2050, according to BloombergNEF.

Australia’s coal fleet is mostly owned by the country’s three big power companies: AGL Energy Ltd., Origin Energy Ltd. and the CLP Holdings-owned EnergyAustralia. AGL’s Liddell facility will kick off a raft of retirements over the next decade with a phased shutdown from 2022.

For many, those closures will be necessary if the world is to meet its long-term targets for curbing the rise in global temperatures.

“As it stands now, if they continue to operate as they run then it is impossible. We can forget reaching hard climate targets,” International Energy Agency Executive Director Fatih Birol told the same conference on Thursday.

(Michael Bloomberg, the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News, has committed $500 million to launch Beyond Carbon, a campaign aimed at closing the remaining coal-powered plants in the U.S. by 2030 and slowing the construction of new gas plants.)

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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Getting the right mindset to flourish in Japan

Understanding the Japanese interview process 

Preparing For Your Job Interview and Tips Before Accepting An Offer

Source: https://www.bnnbloomberg.ca/solar-surge-is-making-coal-plants-unprofitable-in-top-exporter-1.1469565

Author: James Thornhill

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How Tesla defined a new era for the global auto industry

How Tesla defined a new era for the global auto industry

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FILE PHOTO: Tesla Inc CEO Elon Musk dances onstage during a delivery event for Tesla China-made Model 3 cars in Shanghai, China January 7, 2020. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo

Tesla Inc’s rapid rise to become the world’s most valuable carmaker could mark the start of a new era for the global auto industry, defined by a Silicon Valley approach to software that is overtaking old-school manufacturing know-how.

Tesla’s ascent took many investors by surprise. But executives at Daimler AG, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz, had a close-up view starting in 2009 of how Tesla and its chief executive Elon Musk were taking a new approach to building vehicles that challenged the established system.

Daimler, which bears the name of the man who invented the modern car 134 years ago, bought a nearly 10% Tesla stake in May 2009 in a deal which provided a $50 million lifeline for the struggling start-up.

That investment gave Mercedes engineers an inside view of how Musk was willing to launch technology that wasn’t perfect, and then repeatedly upgrade it, using smartphone style over-the-air updates, paying little regard to early profitability.

Mercedes engineers helped Tesla develop its Model S luxury sedan in exchange for access to Tesla’s partially hand-assembled battery packs, but in 2014 Daimler decided to sell their stake amid doubts Tesla’s approach could be industrialized at scale.

Tesla would go on to pioneer new approaches in manufacturing, designs in software and electronic architecture which enable it to introduce innovations faster than rivals, leaving analysts to draw comparisons with Apple (AAPL.O).

Three people directly involved with the Mercedes side of the collaboration said the brief partnership highlighted the collision of old and new engineering cultures: the German obsession with long-term safety and control, which rewarded evolution, and the Silicon Valley carmaker’s experimental approach which embraced radical thinking and fast innovation.

“Elon Musk has been walking on the edge of a razorblade in terms of the aggression with which he pushes some technologies,” said a former Mercedes engineer who worked on the partnership.

By contrast, Mercedes and other established automakers are still not comfortable about releasing a new technology, such as partially automated driving, without years of testing.

Tesla did not respond to requests for comment.

Investors favor the Tesla model, in an industry undergoing fundamental and dizzying change even though the U.S. carmaker will face an onslaught of competing electric vehicles from established automakers during the next few years.

They are putting their money on Musk and his company, even though Mercedes-Benz alone sold 935,089 cars in the first half of 2020, dwarfing the 179,050 delivered by Tesla in the same period.

Today, Tesla is worth nearly $304.6 billion, more than six times Daimler’s 41.5-billion-euro ($47.7 billion) market capitalization

TWO CULTURES COLLIDE

Daimler and Tesla began collaborating after Mercedes engineers, who were developing a second-generation electric Smart car, bought a Tesla Roadster. They were impressed by the way Tesla packaged batteries, so arranged a visit to Silicon Valley to meet Musk in January 2009 and ordered 1,000 battery packs.

The collaboration expanded. At a joint press conference in the Mercedes-Benz museum in Stuttgart in May 2009, Tesla said the partnership would “accelerate bringing our Tesla Model S to production and ensure that it is a superlative vehicle”.

For its part, Mercedes wanted to use Tesla’s batteries to power an electric version of its compact Mercedes-Benz B-Class. The Tesla Model S would hit the road in 2012. An electric B-Class, arrived in showrooms two years later.

Despite having batteries supplied by Tesla, the Mercedes had a shorter operating range after Daimler engineers configured the B-class more conservatively to address their concerns about long-term battery degradation and the risk of overheating, a second Daimler staffer who worked on the joint projects told Reuters.

German engineers found that Tesla engineers had not done long-term stress tests on its battery. “We had to devise our own programme of stress tests,” the second Daimler engineer said.

Before starting production of a new car, Daimler engineers specify a “Lastenheft” – a blueprint laying out the properties of each component for suppliers. Significant changes cannot be made once the design is frozen.

“This is also the way you can guarantee that we will be profitable during mass production. Tesla was not as concerned about this aspect,” the second Daimler source said.

Daimler’s engineers suggested the underbody of the Model S needed reinforcing to prevent debris from the road puncturing a battery pack, the first Daimler engineer said.

To quash doubts about safety and security, following a series of battery fires, Tesla raised the ride height of its vehicles, using an over-the-air update, and a few months later, in March 2014, said it would add a triple underbody shield to new Model S cars and offered to retrofit existing cars.

Musk was able to make adjustments quickly thanks to Tesla’s ability to burn through more cash during development.

“At Mercedes you can make such adjustments every three years at best,” the engineer said.

The Model S, a four-door electric sedan would go on to outsell the flagship Mercedes-Benz S-Class in the United States in May 2013, and outstrip S-Class deliveries globally by 2017.

MUSK: INNOVATE OR GO

Musk’s relentless focus on innovation explains, in part, why he has disrupted the traditional auto world. In an interview here at the 2020 Air Warfare Symposium, published on YouTube, he was asked about the importance of innovation among his employees.

“We certainly need those that do advanced engineering to be innovative,” Musk said. “The incentive structure is set up … such that innovation is rewarded. Making mistakes along the way does not come with a big penalty. But failure to try to innovate at all … comes with a big penalty. You will be fired.”

Established automakers are playing catch-up to Tesla, designing their own software operating systems and dedicated electric cars.

Mercedes will release its EQS next year – a four-door limousine built on a dedicated electric vehicle platform, with an operating range of 700 km. A new version of the Mercedes S-Class, which will have combustion and hybrid powertrains and semi-autonomous driver assistance systems, is due this year.

From an investor perspective, traditional players face billions of dollars in restructuring costs as they transform product lines and factories to move away from internal combustion technology

“No one is going to give an OEM (established automaker) a five-year window to say … you can totally retool your business, and I am going to buy in and fund this journey,” said Mark Wakefield, co-leader of automotive and industrials practice at consulting firm AlixPartners.

Start-ups, however, get time from investors to learn, make mistakes and grow, he added.

Investors are betting on Tesla’s ability to scale up manufacturing just as they once backed Toyota Motor Corp, which defined the auto industry’s last era with its mastery of highly efficient, high-quality lean production.

Toyota overtook the market capitalization of former industry leader General Motors in 1996, though it wasn’t until 2008 that it sold more vehicles than its Detroit rival.

The Japanese giant also cultivated ties with Tesla, with the U.S. startup helping it design an electrified RAV4 compact sports utility vehicle under a 2010 deal.

Toyota was impressed by the speed with which Tesla came up with the new design, but ultimately decided Tesla’s methods were not suitable for mass production by a mainstream manufacturer when Toyota’s standards for product quality and durability were applied, two company insiders familiar with the partnership said.

Toyota said the joint project involved cooperation on the development of electric cars, parts and production system.

“Toyota accomplished what the project set out to achieve, and it ended in October 2014 after Tesla delivered roughly 2,500 electric powertrain systems over three years” for an electrified RAV4 crossover SUVs, a spokeswoman said.

Both the Toyota and Daimler collaborations were agreed before the Volkswagen emissions-cheating scandal in 2015, which prompted a global regulatory backlash and forced carmakers to step up investments in electric cars.

“That was all before dieselgate, which changed the economics of electric and combustion-engined cars,” a senior Daimler manager said. “Tesla has a lead. Let’s see if they can scale up.”

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Featured Article: 

Getting the right mindset to flourish in Japan

Understanding the Japanese interview process 

Preparing For Your Job Interview and Tips Before Accepting An Offer

Source: https://uk.reuters.com/article/us-autos-tesla-newera-insight/how-tesla-defined-a-new-era-for-the-global-auto-industry-idUKKCN24N0GB

Author: Edward Taylor, Norihiko Shirouzu, Joseph White

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NEC pushes new working style with touchless technologies

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NEC Corp has started an experiment using its touchless technologies to promote a new working style at its Tokyo headquarters amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The experiment targeting 100,000 employees of NEC and its group companies is aimed at preventing the spread of infections as well as improving business and labor management practices at a time when an increasing number of people are teleworking.

Utilizing the company’s facial recognition and video analysis technologies, NEC employees participating in the project will be able to pass through office security gates without carrying their ID cards, even when wearing face masks.

NEC said employees can perform a range of tasks based on facial recognition, such as logging on to their personal computers, photocopying documents, and buying items from vending machines and in-house shops.

It said they will also be able to receive information on their PCs about the degree of congestion in restrooms and restaurants. As for employees not wearing face masks, they will be urged to do so via their smartphones if detected by cameras set up in the corridors of the head office.

Should someone at NEC come down with COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus, the company said it can swiftly identify those who were in close-contact settings with the patient by analyzing video footage.

For the experiment, NEC is required to have the consent of its employees, who need to be photographed by a smartphone app before they can start using the contactless service.

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Featured Article: 

Getting the right mindset to flourish in Japan

Understanding the Japanese interview process 

Preparing For Your Job Interview and Tips Before Accepting An Offer

Source: https://japantoday.com/category/tech/nec-pushes-new-working-style-with-touchless-technologies

Author: Kyodo News Staff

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Self-Driving Tech Is Becoming a Game of Partnerships

Self-Driving Tech Is Becoming a Game of Partnerships

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Self-driving startup Voyage is integrating its tech into some Pacifica minivans made by Fiat-Chrysler.COURTESY OF VOYAGE

Building a self-driving car was never going to be easy. But Karl Iagnemma says he didn’t expect it to be this hard.

“Vehicles are these massively complex systems, and to [build self-driving cars], we need to integrate them with another very complex system and do it in a way that’s reliable and cost-optimized. It’s really, really hard,” says Iagnemma, the president and CEO of a joint venture formed in March between South Korea’s Hyundai and Aptiv, which designs automotive electronic systems. “I think that’s one of the things that most players in the industry underappreciated, myself included.”

That realization has led to a rash of partnerships between established automakers and self-driving startups. Think Aptiv and Hyundai; Waymo and Jaguar; General Motors and Cruise; Argo AI and Ford and Volkswagen. The Covid-19 pandemic has only heightened the need for partners, as venture capitalists tighten the purse strings on big bets like self-driving. “$1 billion is the price of an entry ticket in the autonomous-driving space today,” says Iagnemma.

Last month, Zoox was acquired by Amazon for a reported $1.1 billion, two-thirds less than its 2018 valuation. In self-driving, it’s getting harder to go at it alone.

“The list of independent startups that are tackling [autonomous vehicles] without a mothership continues to get smaller,” says Oliver Cameron, cofounder and CEO of the startup Voyage, which aims to build and then operate self-driving vehicles inside retirement communities. As a result, “every quarter, there’s a casualty,” he says. “Zoox was this quarter.” In May, Voyage announced a partnership with Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles to integrate its tech into a handful of Pacifica minivans.

Autonomous driving “is a formidable task, and there are going to be very very few actors who can go from silicon [chips] to self-driving systems,” Amnon Shashua, cofounder of Israeli autonomous-driving startup Mobileye, told a conference audience in May. The result, he said, “is a great consolidation.” Mobileye itself was acquired by Intel in 2017 for $15.3 billion, when valuations were lofty. In May, Intel and Mobileye acquired Moovit, an app for moving around cities, for $900 million.

Building self-driving vehicles, and operating fleets of them, are likely to be team sports. With the glaring exception of Tesla—a company with Silicon Valley roots that’s building its own vehicles—most tech companies will leave the manufacturing to the professional automakers, who have decades of experience in construction and quality control.

Aurora, a self-driving vehicle startup founded by Google and Tesla alumni, always wanted to build self-driving tech—not a car. “When we founded the company, part of the thesis as an independent company was to allow us to have the focus necessary to build this technology,” says Chris Urmson, the company’s cofounder and CEO. Aurora is building a software-powered driver for Hyundai and Fiat Chrysler. (It ended a relationship with Volkswagen last year.) Urmson says the company is exploring other partnerships, and he foresees a future in which Aurora builds tech for truck companies, ride-hail networks, and logistics companies such as FedEx and UPS. Flush from last year’s funding, Aurora continues to hire, surpassing 500 employees in May.

empty kodiak warehouse

Kodiak Robotics’ team has been working remotely, navigating its self-driving truck through a “static scene” in simulation.COURTESY OF KODIAK

Others are hurting. Since the Covid-19 pandemic began, many companies have laid off staff, including the self-driving-truck companies Kodiak Robotics and Ike; the Cruise subsidiary of GM; Zoox; and Argo AI, which is partially owned by Ford and Volkswagen. (A spokesperson for ArgoAI says its layoffs were related to redundancies following an acquisition.) “It’s an uncertain time. The best bet is to position for the long term by reducing your burn, reducing your spend,” says Don Burnette, Kodiak’s founder and CEO.

At the same time, Amazon’s acquisition of Zoox has many self-driving execs feeling optimistic. The deal “speaks to the massive promise to driverless technology, full stop,” says Iagnemma. “We think it’s a multitrillion-dollar market opportunity, so it’s no surprise that you’d have major global players making moves to get access.”

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Featured Article: 

Getting the right mindset to flourish in Japan

Understanding the Japanese interview process 

Preparing For Your Job Interview and Tips Before Accepting An Offer

Source: https://www.wired.com/story/self-driving-tech-game-partnerships/

Author: Aarlan Marshall

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A breakdown of where the jobs are coming back and where they may never fully return

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Customers sit at tables separated by dividers outside Boucherie restaurant in the West Village as New York City moves into Phase 2 of re-opening following restrictions imposed to curb the coronavirus pandemic on June 26, 2020.
Noam Galai | Getty Images

The U.S. economy added back millions of jobs in June thanks to rehiring in hard-hit industries like leisure and hospitality.

But for some sectors, the road to pre-coronavirus employment recovery may take years — or worse, never occur. Some now say that the coronavirus and efforts to contain its spread could act as a catalyst for layoffs that may not be fully recouped.

CNBC studied both the short-term and long-term employment changes in a variety of the economy’s sub-industries to isolate the recent impact of Covid-19 from more-enduring trends.

One industry that could have a particularly hard time bouncing back is apparel retail. Economists have for years documented a marked decline in U.S. brick-and-mortar retail jobs at the hands of online shopping.

And now, despite a sizable rebound of 202,000 clothing retail jobs in June, it remains to be seen whether the broader retail sector will be able to make a complete recovery in employment figures.

The most recent data studied by CNBC came in the Labor Department’s monthly jobs report, which showed U.S. employers added some 4.8 million back to payrolls in June and pushed the unemployment rate down to 11.1%.

But both stocks and bond yields moved off their session highs within a couple of hours of the report as economists and investors alike began to doubt the longevity of the headline jobs strength and uneven rehiring.

A grim prognosis for clothing retailers came Thursday morning from Betsey Stevenson, former chief economist at the Labor Department.

Stevenson, who also served on former President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, wrote on Twitter that June’s bounce in clothing store employment won’t do much to stanch the long-term decline in apparel retail jobs.

“Employment in clothing stores is up 202K! But it’s still down 40% compared to last year,” she wrote. “Many of those jobs are never coming back.”

Another industry that may have a more difficult time returning to prior employment levels is mining, and specifically coal mining.

The coal mining industry, which employed some 70,000 people at the end of 2014, lost 27% of its workforce through January 2020 before the Covid-19 layoffs.

But between January and June, the coal industry has lost another 14% of workers. Halfway through last month, the sub-industry had just under 44,000 workers.

Other industries, though hard hit amid Covid-19 lockdowns, are showing signs of a more robust employment rebound.

Leisure and hospitality, which includes restaurants and bars, perhaps bore the worst of the coronavirus layoffs amid an eye-popping contraction in travel and dining out. In early May, the Labor Department reported that the leisure and hospitality industry had lost 47% of its entire workforce during the month of April alone.

But many of those workers were likely placed on temporary leave, or furloughed, and appear to be returning to work at a faster rate than those in other industries.

Bars and restaurants employed 12.3 million Americans in February 2020, only to see that figure collapse to 6.2 million in April. It’s since rebounded 47% off that low and for June rose to 9.2 million jobs.

Another industry that has shown resiliency in recent months — and strength in recent years — is couriers and messengers. This sub-industry includes the U.S. employees who deliver parcels and mail both across states and on a local basis.

In fact, demand for e-commerce amid the coronavirus has corresponded to a net increase in the number of people working in the industry. The courier and messenger industry employed 859,000 people in January, 861,000 people in April and 904,000 in June, according to the Labor Department.

 

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Featured Article: 

Getting the right mindset to flourish in Japan

Understanding the Japanese interview process 

Preparing For Your Job Interview and Tips Before Accepting An Offer

Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/07/02/a-breakdown-of-where-the-jobs-are-coming-back-and-where-they-may-never-full-return.html?__source=iosappshare%7Ccom.apple.UIKit.activity.Mail

Author: Thomas Franck and John Schoen

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Japan’s middle class is ‘disappearing’ as poverty rises, warns economist

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A man wearing a facemask walks past a taxi along a street in Shinjuku district of Tokyo on June 24, 2020.
PHILIP FONG | AFP via Getty Images

As poverty rises in Japan, the country’s middle class is slowly eroding away, according to a recent report by Oxford Economics’ Shigeto Nagai.

“After the bubble burst in the 1990s, income has declined across the income percentiles, and the share of low-income households has risen as those of middle- and high-income groups shrink,” Nagai, who is head of Japan economics at the firm, wrote in the report.

The ten years starting from the early 1990s have often been referred to as Japan’s “Lost Decade.” The period was marked by economic stagnation and deflation following a boom in the prior years.

“Although it’s true that inequality hasn’t widened and income isn’t concentrated in the top tiers, the share of low-income households has been rising at the expense of middle-income groups in a process of secular income decline across percentiles,” the economist said.

Japan’s poverty rate stands at 15.7%, according to the latest figures from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. That metric refers to people whose household income is less than half of the median of the entire population.

“The middle class is disappearing in Japan, albeit gradually,” Nagai warned.

Japan’s ‘life-time employment system’

A “major driving force” determining the income distribution has been its “life-time employment system,” Nagai told CNBC. It has been around for decades and was established during the country’s high growth period in the 1950s and 60s, he said, when there was a “very serious shortage of labor.”

The system is mainly practiced by relatively established companies and has three pillars, according to the economist:

  1. The “implicit guarantee” to take care of employees until retirement
  2. Wages that are dictated by seniority
  3. Company-based labor unions

In this relatively stable but rigid employment system, wages rise only gradually. Companies also place heavier emphasis on job security rather than compensating for short-term improvement in company performance or productivity, Nagai said.

The economist told CNBC that wage increments are decided by an annual spring negotiation known as Shunto, where the wages of unionized workers are decided by labor unions and management. What distinguishes this process from elsewhere is that the base-pay increase usually spreads across the entire seniority-based wage scale.

As a result, Nagai said, the system does not create a “top 1% earner” unlike Western compensation systems where top executives typically earn much more than other employees. In fact, the economist said that executive pay is “negligible” compared with places such as the U.S. He said, however, the elite in Japan have been “satisfied” with this flatter salary scale.

Rising part-time employment

For years, Japanese companies have also been converting regular workers — who could previously enjoy the comparatively privileged lifetime-employment system — to part-time workers.

This shift, according to Nagai, started in the early 2000s as companies attempted to “survive” the competition with rising emerging-market economies such as China, where labor costs are lower.

More recently, the increase in part-time workers may also be coming from greater labor-market participation among two demographics, Nagai suggested: women who need work, but may not be able to commit full-time due to childcare duties and seniors who are no longer able to enjoy retirement as their pension benefits are not large enough.

According to data from Japan’s statistics bureau, the number of non-regular employees rose 2.1% annually in 2019. That was far faster than 0.5% growth in regular employees.

“Although hourly wages have been rising faster for non-regular workers amid a shortage of
labour, they’re still paid much less compared to regular workers,” Nagai said. “In addition, the entry of women and the elderly into the labour market as part-timers has depressed hours per worker for several years.”

“The share of low-income households will keep rising as more part-timers work fewer hours,” he said.

Low inflation expectations

Meanwhile, lower inflation expectations have “really stabilized” in the country, Nagai said, arguing this has also contributed to the stagnation of wage increases. For years, the Bank of Japan has struggled to meet its ever-elusive 2% inflation target despite taking drastic measures such as bringing interest rates into negative territory.

The main beneficiaries of low interest-rate policies and aggressive quantitative easing are usually those who own real estate or stocks, Nagai said. The impact has been “relatively limited” due to the risk-averse nature of Japanese households, which generally do not invest in stocks and corporate bonds.

He said this could be another reason why monetary policy has had limited impact on income distribution.

Sluggish consumption

The economist said he was concerned that the disappearance of Japan’s middle class could lead to further stagnation in consumption.

Consumer spending slumped after a sales tax hike in October. It fell even further this year as lockdown measures intended to contain the coronavirus pandemic froze economies. Recent data from Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry showed May retail sales dropped 12.3% from last year.

Nagai said the “jury is still out” over the government’s consumption tax hike due to the unexpected impact of Covid-19. While the move had “certain justifications,” the economist acknowledged lower income groups are more sensitive to tax hikes.

The way out

A more dynamic human resource allocation could help lead Japan out of this situation, Nagai said.

The lifetime employment system has led to many people being underemployed, he said. At the same time, numerous young people are left “reluctantly” living with relatively low pay, despite higher contribution and productivity.

The “static” allocation of human resources has hampered efforts to get rid of the “deflationary equilibrium” in Japan, he said. While more graduates are now choosing start-ups instead of established companies, Nagai said it is still “not a major trend yet.”

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government has tried to combat many of these issues, attempting to make the labor market more performance-based, Nagai said. But corporations and their management have been reluctant to change, impeding government efforts, he said.

“Reform of the established employment system will be a protracted process because it has for decades served as an integral part of the economy and society,” Nagai said. “Transforming the system will require concurrent reform of social insurance and tax systems.”

Under the Abe administration, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has also worked to promote “economic metabolism” whereby losers exit and upstarts can bring “new energy,” the economist said.

While authorities have made a good effort, he said it is difficult for change to happen in such a short period of time.

For example, Nagai said Japan lacks Chapter 11-like bankruptcy procedures to give those who fail “another try.” He cited this as another example of limited flexibility in the Japanese economy, leaving people “very afraid” to make changes.

Still, Nagai pointed out that “lots of changes” are already underway in Japan, as the labor shortage has pushed companies to raise salaries to attract younger people. At the same time, there have been more start-ups and Chinese companies which “pay a lot” for young talent.

The number of people quitting their jobs early in their career to seek opportunities elsewhere is also “becoming more than negligible,” he said.

Such moves, in his opinion, would free up the labor market to enable more dynamic resource allocation while also contributing to wage inflation.

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Featured Article: 

Getting the right mindset to flourish in Japan

Understanding the Japanese interview process 

Preparing For Your Job Interview and Tips Before Accepting An Offer

Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/07/03/japans-middle-class-is-disappearing-as-poverty-rises-warns-economist.html?__source=iosappshare%7Ccom.apple.UIKit.activity.Mail

Author: Eustance Huang

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Japan seeks stoppage of 100 inefficient coal plants in a decade

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Japan will urge the closure or suspension of about 100 low-efficiency coal-fired power plants by fiscal year 2030. © Kyodo

TOKYO — The Japanese government will urge the closure or suspension of about 100 low-efficiency coal-fired power plants in the country by fiscal year 2030 in the face of international pressure for a transition to greener alternatives.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry will set the policy that urges the closure of low efficiency plants that emit large amounts of carbon dioxide, or CO2.

Japan has 140 coal power plants and around 110 of them are seen as inefficient. About 100 of these, or 90%, will be targeted for closure or suspension.

Nowadays, coal-fired power generation has become more efficient and CO2 emissions have been reduced with technological developments that limit greenhouse gas emissions. Aging facilities that have not adopted such technological progress will be closed or suspended.

METI will set up a conference of experts and come up with concrete methods to close or suspend targeted coal burning plants.

The ministry also assumes that each power company owning a coal power plant will set an upper limit on the amount of generation and will ask operators to reduce their output gradually. The government is also considering introducing an incentive framework to encourage such a move.

While METI plans to maintain and expand high efficiency new power plants, it will promote an environmentally friendly attitude by shuttering low efficiency facilities.

Coal-fired power accounted for 32% of Japan’s total power generation in fiscal year 2018, followed by natural gas-fired generation at 38%.

It is expected that the proportion of coal-burning power generation will be reduced by expanding the use of renewable energy and restarting nuclear power plants, even as the government plans to maintain its position of coal power as a major power source.

Meanwhile, opposition to the use of coal has become the norm in many developed economies as the fossil fuel has a large environmental impact on climate change,

In Japan, there is an ongoing delay in restarting nuclear power plants though their complete abolition is not considered practical.

Under an optimal energy mix adopted by the government, the ratio of coal-fired power will account for 26% of all power sources in fiscal year 2030. Coal has an advantage in terms of cost as price fluctuations are less than that of crude oil.

There is also a view that coal-fired thermal power will be re-evaluated as a backup source amid increasing use of renewable energy in which the amount of generation tends to be affected by weather.

There is also a possibility that coal-based power plants will be suspended rather than abolished, considering their role in energy supply at the time of a natural disaster, for instance.

Consideration will also be given to areas such as remote islands where there is no choice but to rely on coal-fired power.

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Featured Article: 

Getting the right mindset to flourish in Japan

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Source: https://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Energy/Japan-seeks-stoppage-of-100-inefficient-coal-plants-in-a-decade

Author: Nikkei Staff Writer

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A Tesla Model 3 Tear-Down After a Hardware Retrofit

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Tesla Model 3 is a three-year old model. And yet, with software updates and a hardware swap (from HW 2.5 to HW3.0), Tesla is promising to keep Tesla 3 relevant and get it ready for full self-driving future.

At least, that’s their promise.

A mildly cultish cadre of tech-savvy consumers in Silicon Valley are hooked on Tesla and can’t get enough. They love the car, they like its electric propulsion and they follow Elon Musk’s tweets religiously.

Above all, they admire Tesla’s clean, elegant vehicle architecture, designed from the ground up. Tesla can add new features and even upgrade vehicle performance almost magically, by over-the-air (OTA) software updates. None of the other car OEMs — their vehicles tied to legacy platforms — have engineered so sweeping a method of software-based vehicle update.

Tesla fans tend to worry less about Tesla’s controversial “Autopilot” feature. Their focus neither on what it does nor what it doesn’t. They prefer to concentrate on what Autopilot can become, someday, as promised by Tesla. In addition to a series of software updates, Tesla has upped the ante by rolling out a hardware swap — from Tesla’s HW2.5 to HW3.0 — last year.

With HW3.0, Elon Musk claimed in a tweet: “All cars being produced have all the hardware necessary, compute and otherwise, for full self-driving.” We will see what exactly Musk means by “full self-driving.”

What intrigued us is this Tesla-touted transition to HW3.0. What’s under the hood of a Model 3 today, and how will it transform?

Model 3 is a smaller and more affordable EV, first produced in mid-2017. Thanks to the introduction of its home-grown SoC last year, Tesla is promising Model 3 buyers that if they purchase the Full Self-Driving (FSD) software bundle, they’ll get a HW 2.5 to HW 3.0 retrofit with a simple service center appointment.

Just to be clear, though, the FSD package today does not yet make a Tesla capable of driving without human intervention. Right now, it’s a series of incremental Autopilot upgrades. Further, the current $7,000 FSD package is scheduled to go up by about $1,000 on July 1st, according to Musk’s tweeted announcement last month.

In this latest “Under the hood” series with System Plus Consulting (Nantes, France), we take a deeper look inside Tesla Model 3, with focus on the automotive sensors and Autopilot ECU Tesla deployed inside Model 3.

Affordability comes first

The computing power inside cars is an increasingly important feature. A significant amount of computing power is necessary to enable optimal driver assistance and automated driving and activate safety features.

To optimize automated driving, many car OEMs and Tier Ones are adopting a variety of sensors such as cameras, radar, lidar, and ultrasonic sensors, so that vehicles can detect in the surroundings they are in. All the data derived from the sensors must be grouped together, and this is where the control unit comes into play.

Given the “cutting-edge” image maintained by Tesla, the general public is forgiven if they believe all the hardware pieces inside Model 3 are technically the most advanced available on the market.

A peek under the hood, though, reveals that Tesla’s primary design goal for Model 3 was to reduce the cost of ADAS, making the model “affordable,” explained System Plus CEO Romain Fraux.

For automotive sensors in Model 3, Tesla is using eight cameras, one radar and 12 ultrasonic sensors. Model 3 uses no lidars, true to Musk’s famous claim that lidar is “a fool’s errand.”

In the following pages, System Plus shares highlights of sensors and computing unit of Model 3 under the hood.

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Source: https://www.eetimes.com/a-tesla-model-3-tear-down-after-a-hardware-retrofit/

Author: Junko Yoshida & Maurizio Di Paolo Emilio

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Japan up nearly 2% as Asia stocks rise ahead of China manufacturing activity data release

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Stocks in Asia Pacific rose in Tuesday morning trade as investors await the release of China’s official manufacturing Purchasing Manager’s Index.

The Nikkei 225 in Japan rose 1.75% in early trade, following its more than 2% slide on Monday. The Topix index also added 1.5%. In South Korea, the Kospi gained 1.39%.

Meanwhile, the S&P/ASX 200 in Australia added 0.66%.

Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index traded 0.33% higher.

Investors await the release of China’s official manufacturing PMI for June, set to be released around 9:00 a.m. HK/SIN on Tuesday. Economists in a Reuters poll have a median forecast of 50.4 for the data print, above the 50 level that indicates expansion in activity.

Meanwhile, Japan’s industrial production in May dropped 8.4% month-on-month, according to data released Tuesday in a preliminary report by the country’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. That was a larger decline than a median market forecast of a 5.6% fall by economists in a Reuters poll.

Developments surrounding the coronavirus pandemic will also continue to be watched, with World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesu warning Monday that “the worst is yet to come.”

“Although many countries have made some progress, globally, the pandemic is actually speeding up,” he said during a virtual news conference from the agency’s Geneva headquarters. “We all want this to be over. We all want to get on with our lives, but the hard reality is that this is not even close to being over.”

Overnight stateside, stocks on Wall Street jumped. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 580.25 points higher, or 2.3%, at 25,595.80. The S&P 500 surged 1.5% to finish its trading day at 3,053.24 while the Nasdaq Composite gained 1.2% to close at 9,874.15.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 97.4 after earlier trading at levels above 97.5.

The Japanese yen traded at 107.58 per dollar after weakening sharply from levels below 107.5 yesterday. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.6869 after dipping to levels around $0.685 yesterday.

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Featured Article: 

Getting the right mindset to flourish in Japan

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Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/06/26/amazon-spending-1-billion-on-zoox-will-have-to-invest-billions-more.html?__source=iosappshare%7Ccom.apple.UIKit.activity.Mail

Author: William Feuer and Jasmine Kim

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Amazon will have to invest many billions more than it’s spending on Zoox to bring self-driving tech to market

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Blue Origin and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images

Amazon is shelling out more than $1 billion on self-driving car company Zoox, one of its most expensive acquisitions ever. But CEO Jeff Bezos is going to have to invest many multiples of that to bring the nascent technology to market.

The deal, which was announced on Friday and had been in the works for months prior, pits Amazon squarely against Alphabet spinout Waymo, GM’s Cruise, Uber, Tesla and even Apple, which is doing its best to keep its self-driving project secretive. Waymo raised $2.25 billion in outside funding in March, its first external financing, in preparation for the long haul.

Autonomous driving is a pure bet on the future, requiring a ton of capital to manufacture and test systems and lobby policymakers, with no certainty about when or if the market will tip in its favor. For six-year-old Zoox, which had been valued by private investors at $3.2 billion in 2018, selling to Amazon at a discount became its best bet as the coronavirus pandemic made it particularly hard to raise capital for any company that lacks a working business model.

From here, Amazon will likely have to spend $2 billion a year in ongoing development to get Zoox technology into the market, according to people familiar with the matter who asked not to be named because the projections are confidential. Katrin Zimmermann, managing director at TLGG Consulting, agrees with that estimate and added that $33 billion was invested into the autonomous car market last year. She predicts Amazon will likely have to invest 10 times the purchase price before Zoox is ready to roll.

While it could be a decade or more until we have fully functional and commercialized autonomous cars roaming U.S. streets, Zimmermann said that Amazon can use pieces of the technology for its last-mile delivery operations, which are core to its broader business.

“Amazon is all about fast, efficient effective delivery solutions, and they have been looking into all the components that will allow for them to do that,” Zimmermann said. “We might see it earlier than in mass market commercialization opportunities.”

Forecasts for the self-driving car market have been all over the map. In a 2017 report, McKinsey predicted that self-driving cars were five to 10 years away, though advanced driver assist technologies, like emergency breaking and self-parking systems already represented a $15 billion market. Morgan Stanley acknowledged last year, in cutting its valuation on Waymo, that it “underestimated how long safety drivers are likely to be present within cars and the timing of the rollout of autonomous rides-sharing services.”

Expensive proposition

Tesla’s Elon Musk has said that robotaxis will be on the road by the end of this year, but he’s notoriously aggressive and often incorrect with his predictions. And BMW and Daimler formed a joint agreement last year, targeting a market launch for autonomous vehicles by 2024.

Not many companies have the size and capital structure to adequately compete in the long term, particularly with the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus. Multiple car manufacturers were involved in the bidding process for Zoox, but backed out as Covid-19 became a pressing concern, said people familiar with the matter.

Andrew Evers

A Zoox representative said the company wasn’t offering interviews and Amazon didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Amazon said in a blog post that completion of the deal is “subject to customary closing conditions.” Zoox CEO Aicha Evans, who will stay on after the acquisition, said in the post that, “We now have an even greater opportunity to realize a fully autonomous future.” Amazon’s Jeff Wilke, CEO of the consumer business, said “we’re excited to help the talented Zoox team to bring their vision to reality in the years ahead.”

Amazon had been toying around the edges of the autonomous car market, leading a $700 million investment in electric vehicle start-up Rivian in 2019 and also backing Aurora, co-founded and led by Chris Urmson, the former technology chief of self-driving cars at Alphabet. Buying Zoox is by far its biggest jump into the market, especially considering the business isn’t close to generating revenue.

It’s a stark contrast to Amazon’s previous billion dollar-plus purchases. When Amazon bought Whole Foods for $13.7 billion in 2017, it acquired one of the leading super market chains and a company with a fatter operating margin than its core business. After that, Amazon’s largest deals include the purchase of smart doorbell maker Ring last year, online pharmacy PillPack in 2018, game streaming site Twitch in 2014 and internet shoe seller Zappos in 2009. Each deal was close to $1 billion and brought with it a solid business.

Zoox will be a new experiment for Bezos. David Somo, senior vice president at ON Semiconductor, said in an email that the acquisition is likely more focused on bolstering distribution, as opposed to developing a fleet of autonomous passenger cars to compete with Uber and Lyft.

“This fits well into Amazon’s model for automating its distribution network spanning from warehouse robotics, to last mile delivery services,” Somo wrote. He added that the acquisition should “drive operational efficiencies, scale and eventually result in substantial cost savings across their distribution network.”

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Featured Article: 

Getting the right mindset to flourish in Japan

Understanding the Japanese interview process 

Preparing For Your Job Interview and Tips Before Accepting An Offer

Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/06/26/amazon-spending-1-billion-on-zoox-will-have-to-invest-billions-more.html?__source=iosappshare%7Ccom.apple.UIKit.activity.Mail

Author: Ari Levy

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