March 2010

17 March 2010

The Montreal Gazette

The explosion of communication and Internet traffic has made energy hogs of IT networks. Collectively, the information and communications technology industry emits 300 million tons of greenhouse gases annually – the same amount as 50 million cars.

While that represents just two per cent of worldwide carbon emissions, the figure is expected to double over the next decade – and with it, the cost of doing business.

Energy costs were once so subsidized, little thought was given to reductions in use, said Aaron Hays, research manager at Info-Tech Research Group. “Instead, we developed networks optimized for performance and speed. But we can no longer take energy for granted, and most IT managers are being forced to look at energy consumption.” 

Sustainability is now on the wish list of every service provider and vendor, but existing solutions have been piecemeal. GreenTouch, a project spearheaded by Bell Labs – the research arm of Alcatel-Lucent – is hoping to change that.

“There is a general realization within the ICT community that no one company or one region can redefine the entire network on this scale. We have to do it together. The ICT is no longer competing within itself,” said Gee Rittenhouse, vice-president of R&D, Bell Labs and GreenTouch leader. “We must be doing pre-competitive research because we don’t have the solutions today.”

The groundbreaking project has wooed an international group of carriers, researchers, government agencies and industry labs to take on the mammoth task of creating a sustainable network in just five years.

The consortium’s 15 founding members include research laboratories at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, University of Melbourne and France’s national computing lab INRIA. Other heavy-hitting members include China Mobile (the world’s largest carrier), Huawei, AT&T, Swisscom, Telefonica, Freescale, and the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology.

Hays believes this international approach is the only way to achieve an energy-efficient network. “It’s a wise thing for GreenTouch to get a perspective from other parts of the world, since they have a different awareness of energy. North America brings a lot of goodwill but not a lot of proven energy practices to the table,” Hays said.

The group’s first task was to ask a simple but fundamental question: What is the minimum energy needed to run a network? GreenTouch determined that ICT networks could be 10,000 times more efficient but that was an impossible goal within the five-year time frame. So the consortium settled on lowering the network energy by the still ambitious factor of 1,000.

The energy saved in one day with a thousand-fold reduction would be enough to run the world’s communication networks for three years – a significant reduction in IT’s carbon footprint.

Rittenhouse said the industry will need to explore both techniques and technology to achieve this result. “In order to deliver a more efficient system, the industry will have to look at coding computation, architectural restructuring, data traffic and operations,” he said.

Rod Tucker, research director at Australia’s University of Melbourne department of electrical and electronic engineering, said the tremendous amount of research required will focus on, “energy efficiency of equipment used in switching centres, as well as looking at how to reduce energy consumption of user modems and wireless and mobile Internet access.”

Huge savings are expected to be found in bundling Internet data across the networks. Currently, systems use a large voltage to send binary code over fibre, which Rittenhouse compares to screaming across the lines.

“Large signals require large amounts of energy but if the signal gets too small there is a chance the noise within the signal will change the meaning of the code,” he said. “An algorithm developed to extract the noise from the signal would allow us to lower both the amplitude and the energy needed.”

ICT professionals will be watching the technologies and protocols developed by GreenTouch closely. “I hope they can bring in a platform that keeps the project open and prevents it from becoming proprietary. Fortunately there are existing paradigms of multi-year projects that brought new technology into existence they can use for inspiration. Internet Protocol, satellites and GPS are a few good examples,” Hays said.

12 March 2010

Natural Resources Defense Council, USA

New analysis released today at a symposium on “Climate, Mind and Behavior” reveals that Americans can reduce U.S. carbon pollution by 15 percent – or one billion tons of global warming pollution  – through collective personal actions that require little to no cost.

The analysis released by NRDC and the Garrison Institute’s Climate Mind Behavior (CMB) Project is part of a larger collaboration that seeks to integrate emerging research findings about what drives human behavior into new thinking on climate solutions.

“While our nation develops clean energy strategies to reduce large-scale industrial pollution, this study empowers individual Americans with the knowledge that they can take action today in their daily lives,” said Peter Lehner, Executive Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “We all have an opportunity to significantly reduce climate change pollution and cut costs at the same time.” 

Focusing exclusively on simple and affordable behavioral changes, the research indicates that Americans can reduce our nation’s annual carbon emissions by one billion metric tons below business-as-usual emission levels by 2020 through small modifications in the sectors of home energy use, transportation, food consumption and waste. One billion metric tons is equivalent to 15% of the United States’ 7 billion tons of annual greenhouse gas emissions and roughly equivalent to the total annual emissions of the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia combined.

Suggested behavioral changes in the study include: reducing unwanted catalog subscriptions, decreasing vehicle idling, using a programmable thermostat, replacing seven lightbulbs with CFLs, setting computers to hibernate mode, shutting off unused lights, and eating poultry in place of red meat two days per week. All of the recommendations offered in the study are available to be adopted immediately, at little or no cost, and will reduce not only emissions, but home energy, transportation and food costs as well.

The analysis details how each of the common sense actions can result in significant emissions reductions when implemented across the country. For example, if Americans collectively cut personal food waste in by 25%, the nation could eliminate 65 million tons of greenhouse gases, which is approximately the emissions generated from 11 million cars – or roughly all the cars in New York and Missouri combined.

The findings were presented this week by NRDC executive director Peter Lehnerat the Garrison Institute’s Climate Mind and Behavior symposium, which convened leading thinkers and practitioners in the fields of climate change and environmental advocacy, neuro-, behavioral and evolutionary economics, psychology, policy-making, investing and social media.   

“The behavioral approach by no means replaces or competes against other policy, regulatory, market and technology innovations which we need,” said Jonathan Rose, co-founder of the Garrison Institute. “But it’s one key front among others in the quest for climate and energy solutions, and conservation now is key while we move forward on those other fronts. Economists and people who study behavior and decision-making have broken through to new understandings of human behavior and human choices, based on brain physiology and evolution. They can explain for example why we may be slow individually to do simple things well within our capability that would reduce our climate impacts, even though it would be in our interests to do so, or why we are much more likely to make those changes when we know we’re not alone, that others will do it too, and our contributions will aggregate. The opportunity now is to start applying these sorts of insights concertedly to get people to adopt them faster.”

Participants in the symposium were tasked with working together on ways to get individuals to shift behavior on a large scale, and sketched out dozens of new collaborations, from community organizing to building management to communications and social networking – all designed to actualize the massive potential for positive climate impacts through individual choices and behavior shifts.

“Neo-classical economics provides a powerful model for thinking about the world, but new research in behavioral economics highlights the ways in which neo-classical economics only give us a partial view,” said Rebecca Henderson, co-director of the Harvard Business School’s Business and Environmental Initiative and a participant in the symposium. “Behavioral economics may be able to help us make progress on meeting the challenges of climate change; the new research points out how our decisions are driven not only by self-interest and the dynamics of the market but also by our emotions, by our commitments to the communities of which we are part, and by our innate sense of fairness. I think this work has the potential to help us design and implement large-scale behavioral changes, not only on the individual level, but in organizations, policies and markets.”

 

18 March 2010

Media Release: American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy

 Energy efficiency can create 38,000 new jobs for North Carolinians while saving consumers $3.6 billion in energy bills, according to a new report released today by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). The report, North Carolina’s Energy Future: Electricity, Water, and Transportation Efficiency, suggests a broad set of policies that can meet nearly a quarter of the state’s energy demand and enables North Carolina to become a national leader in clean energy development and deployment while boosting the state’s economic growth.

ACEEE’s suggested policy recommendations include:
• Energy Efficiency Resource Standard: Set a statewide goal for long-term energy savings to spur the creation of programs and incentives for residents and businesses to make energy-saving improvements to homes, offices, and industrial facilities, lowering utility bills and creating local jobs in the energy efficiency, clean tech, smart manufacturing, building retrofit, and retail sectors.
• Livable Communities to Reduce Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT):Invest transportation dollars in a robust multi-modal transit system to encourage the growth of compact, transit-oriented communities and reduce statewide vehicle miles traveled.
• Clean Energy Innovation Hub: Enhance the state’s position as a global leader in technological innovation by facilitating greater collaboration among North Carolina’s clean energy industry leaders, universities, research facilities, and policymakers to boost clean energy innovation, business development, and leadership in the state.
 
ACEEE researchers were joined by Lieutenant Governor Walter Dalton, State Senator Josh Stein, and State Representative Pricey Harrison, as well as regional governmental and business leaders, to offer support for the goals outlined in the report, which was released at an event held at Southern Energy Management’s headquarters in Morrisville.
 
In presenting the report’s findings, R. Neal Elliott, Associate Director of Research at ACEEE, said: “North Carolina is one of the most rapidly growing states in the nation. Making homes and businesses plus water and transportation systems more energy efficient is the cheapest and most reliable way to meet the state’s growing energy needs and create a secure energy future.”
 
In his remarks, Lt. Governor Dalton said: “North Carolina has the potential to be a leader in creating green jobs by investing in energy efficiency initiatives. From the Wright brothers onward, the people of this state have a proven track record as innovators, entrepreneurs, and technological revolutionaries. I’m excited to see how the people of this state can tap into the latest energy technology to keep our state competitive in today’s global economy.”
 
“North Carolina has taken several initial steps towards improving energy efficiency,” said Chris James, Vice President for Business Development at Cree, a LED lighting innovator located in the Triangle.  “However, as this ACEEE report suggests, aggressive actions by the state can establish North Carolina as a leader in energy efficiency, creating lasting jobs and saving money for the citizens. At Cree, we know first-hand how energy efficiency can create jobs and drive business success.”
 
Senator Stein, a member of the Senate Select Committee on Economic Recovery and the Senate Select Committee on Energy, Science and Technology, noted: “If we make smart investments in energy efficiency today, we can create tens of thousands of jobs and save consumers a billion dollars in power and water bills over the next fifteen years. Improving energy efficiency is critical to North Carolina’s future.”
 
Representative Harrison, Vice Chair of the House Energy and Energy Efficiency Committee, praised the analysis, saying: “The roadmap to greater energy efficiency that ACEEE has provided in this report will serve North Carolina’s energy policy decision-makers well.”
 
Recognizing the broad nature of the report’s scope, David King, CEO of Triangle Transit, said: “I am very pleased that the ACEEE report prominently features land-use policy as a principle energy-saving opportunity. This finding should elevate the regional discussion of the role that rail transit can play in focusing growth around transit stations, lowering vehicle miles travelled per household throughout the region.”
 
Maria Kingery, Co-Founder of Southern Energy Management and the host for today’s event, said, “This is not revolutionary stuff we’re talking about here, it’s just plain common sense. In North Carolina alone, if we continue supporting policies that boost energy efficiency we can save more than $3 billion in energy costs, put more people to work in jobs that can’t be outsourced, and strengthen our state as a national leader in the clean energy industry. It is important that our state leaders continue working to support initiatives that improve the energy efficiency of our homes, businesses, and water and transportation systems to build a strong foundation for a more sustainable energy future.”
 
“North Carolina is poised to be become a leader in energy efficiency,” said Maggie Eldridge, ACEEE’s lead researcher for the report. “Adoption of the energy efficiency policies suggested in this report would put the state on the path to greater economic, energy, and environmental sustainability. Changing the state’s energy path can create more livable communities that will be able to accommodate the expected population boom over the next 15 years. Efficiency will allow North Carolina to maintain the vibrant economy and quality of life that have characterized the state over the past half century.”
 
ACEEE will also present its findings to the North Carolina Energy Policy Council (www.energync.net) at its meeting in Raleigh later today.
 
The full report, North Carolina’s Energy Future: Electricity, Water, and Transportation Efficiency, is available for free download at http://aceee.org/pubs/e102.htm or a hard copy can be purchased for $60 plus $5 postage and handling from ACEEE Publications, 529 14th Street N.W., Suite 600, Washington, D.C. 20045, phone 202-507-4017.
 
The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy is an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing energy efficiency as a means of promoting economic prosperity, energy security, and environmental protection. For information about ACEEE and its programs, publications, and conferences, contact ACEEE, 529 14th Street N.W., Suite 600, Washington, D.C.20045 or visit www.aceee.org.

18 March 2010

Environment New Service

New York State is investing more than $100 million over two years to help data centers and manufacturers control energy costs and improve their competitiveness, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, NYSERDA, announced today.

Funding disbursed through the state’s Industrial and Process Efficiency Program will support energy studies and capital improvements to increase energy efficiency and productivity and reduce waste.

“The investments NYSERDA is making in energy efficiency are absolutely critical for both improving New York’s economy and protecting our environment,” said Francis J. Murray Jr., the agency’s president and CEO.

“New York is a great place to do business, and our funds will help leverage New York’s benefits as a business location, while making the businesses that are here more competitive in the marketplace,” he said. 

To help manufacturers and data centers identify cost-effective energy saving options and educate these businesses on available funding, NYSERDA has awarded each of three companies $2 million.

Clough Harbour & Associates of Albany, Energy & Resource Solutions of New York, and Willdan Energy Solutions, also based in New York, will work with eligible companies to help them take advantage of the program funding, improve energy efficiency in their facilities, and reduce their overall cost of doing business.

Some New York companies are already moving to upgrade the energy efficiency of data centers. Last May, Syracuse University and New York State entered into an agreement to build and operate a new computer data center on the university’s campus that will incorporate advanced infrastructure and smarter computing technologies to make it one of the most energy efficient data centers in the world.

Through its Smarter Planet initiative, New York-based IBM is working with the state and the university to ensure the new data center uses 50 percent less energy than a typical data center today, making it one of the greenest computer centers in operation.

“Energy use is becoming the largest single cost in operating data centers – with $2 billion per year wasted nationally due to inefficiencies – and IBM is dedicated to helping customers reduce electricity consumption to benefit their businesses and the environment,” says Vijay Lund, vice president for development and manufacturing operations in IBM’s Systems and Technology Group.

In 2009, NYSERDA invested about $4 million to improve the energy efficiency of manufacturing and data center facilities, reducing their energy consumption by nearly 41 million kilowatt hours of electricity – the equivalent of supplying nearly 6,300 single family homes with electricity for a year.

NYSERDA already offers incentives for all business sectors to retrofit existing buildings and incorporate energy efficiency measures into new buildings, but the $100 million announced today is being targeted specifically to data centers and manufacturers. These businesses are among the largest consumers of energy and have good potential for efficient growth, Murray said.

Funding for this new initiative is collected from electricity customers by their utilities through the System Benefits Charge. For this charge, each utility must collect a sum roughly equal to 1.42 percent of its 2004 revenue and submit this sum to NYSERDA every year.

The funding announced today uses $100 million of the $175 million raised annually by the System Benefits Charge through 2011, when the charge again comes before the Public Service Commission for reauthorization.

This initiative is part of New York’s Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard, a statewide program to reduce New Yorkers’ electricity usage 15 percent of forecast levels by the year 2015, with comparable results in natural gas conservation.

On June 23, 2008, the Public Service Commission issued a decision establishing the New York Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard and set interim targets and funding through the year 2011.

The state’s utilities were required to file energy efficiency programs, and NYSERDA as well as independent parties, were invited to submit energy efficiency program proposals for Commission approval.

Between June 2009 and January 2010, the Commission approved 45 electric energy efficiency programs and 44 gas efficiency programs.

31 March 2010

Australian Financial Review

 The federal government will consider innovative financing to encourage companies to invest in energy efficiency as part of an initiative that could hand it a new suite of climate change policies to take to the next election.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd appointed a task force yesterday that will advise the government by midyear on ways to encourage business and households to make smarter use of electricity and other energy sources, according to The Australian Financial Review.

Mr Rudd also released an issues paper that acknowledges energy efficiency improvements are likely to account for a "significant proportion" of the emissions reductions needed to achieve international greenhouse targets. 

The paper seeks ideas on ways the government can remove barriers to investments in energy efficiency, including a lack of awareness, split incentives between tenants and landlords, and the high up-front cost of investing in improvements.

But it warns the government may be reluctant to introduce any policies that would drain the public purse.