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Carbonetworks on Carbon platforms and Carbon strategies

I talked with Carbonetworks’ President and CEO, Michael Meehan, the other day. We discussed Carbonetworks’ Carbon platform, and how their application helps companies participate in global carbon markets.

Carbonetworks software helps companies understand whether their carbon is going to be an asset or liability to them today and in the future as and works with companies to roll out their carbon strategies.

The television image in the video is from videocrab

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Any questions for Carbonetworks CEO Michael Meehan?

Questions
Photo Credit Marcus Ramberg

Carbonetworks have developed an incredibly full-featured, online, carbon strategy platform.

This application generates or takes in carbon footprint information, normalizes the carbon data across all of a company’s facilities and then monetises it so companies can think of their carbon as either an asset or a liability on the balance sheet.

But Carbonetworks then goes the next logical step and gives companies access to their marketplace where they offer fully verified offsets as well as a network of other reduction options so companies can have a diverse spread of carbon reduction investments.

Carbonetworks CEO is Michael Meehan and I will be chatting to him tomorrow and podcasting the conversation.

If you have any questions you would like me to put to Michael during the discussion, please feel free to leave them in the comments of this post or email them to me ([email protected]).

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How to make a hosting company carbon neutral РRen̩ Wienholtz of Strato

CO2
Photo Credit <

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Episode 4 of the GreenMonk Podcasts – 36 mins 28 secs

My guest on this podcast is Strato’s Executive Director for Information Technology and Innovation Rene Wienholtz.

Strato are Europe’s second largest hosting company and Strato are also carbon neutral! Amazingly they achieved this without buying any offsets. How did they do it?

Listen to René explain it.

Here are the questions I asked René and the approx. times I asked them:

Can you tell us something about your own background first and who are Strato? – 00:34

If I heard you correctly you are now the largest hosting company in Europe? – 02:28

You guys are a bit like RackSpace in the sense that you don’t do co-location, you rent space on your servers, id that right? – 02:38

You mentioned that you decided to re-architect the setup in Strato and reduce your carbon footprint, was this for environmental reasons or business reasons? – 03:34

Questions from readers:

Jiri Ludvik
what percentage in carbon reduction they achieved by each of the step you mention? – 05:48

Do you use underfloor plenums as well to direct the air to the cold aisles? – 21:47

Can you talk to us too about the energy savings you are getting from buying CO2 free energy? – 25:44

Have you negotiated a set price from your clean energy supplier for a set period? – 29:36

Can you tell me how long this price is guaranteed for? – 30:15

Have you had any independent 3rd party certify that you are carbon neutral? – 30:27

More questions from readers:

Jim Hughes
Has the carbon saving had a real cost benefit? Or have the lower power costs been exceeded by the premium for carbon neutral electricity? – 31:42

Would you recommend other hosting providers take the same route? – 32:53

Do you think environmental awareness is an area where European hosting companies have a head start over the US? – 34:47

Download the entire interview here
(33.4mb mp3)

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Would you buy a car if you had an option to (electric) car share?

Sevici
Photo Credit Cayetano

I live in Seville, Spain and this town has a wonderful community bike rental program called Sevici. This is run by the town council and JCDecaux and use of these bicycles is free for the first 30 minutes and in the order of €1 per hour thereafter.

You use an RFID card to access the bicycles and you take bikes from, and return them to stations throughout the city like the one in the photo above. When you return the bike to a station, it is automatically recognised and locked.

Now what if you took this concept and married it with the idea of Car Sharing? And, what if all the cars in the car sharing program were electric (or plug-in hybrids) so that when you returned the car to its station, it plugged itself in and started to charge?

While a model like this wouldn’t work well in a suburban area, if you lived in a city center and had access to something like this, you might never need to buy a car. For cities trying to reduce their levels of pollution, levels of congestion or their carbon footprint, a scheme like this would seem to be a very appropriate step to consider.

A plan like this could also help with electricity grid stabilisation using vehicle to grid technologies.

Would you buy a car if you had an option to (electric) car share?

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Demand response – how to get more wind energy onto the grid

Wind Energy Curtailment

I read a fascinating article in the New York Times yesterday about how the electricity grid in New York can’t always cope with the amount of electricity being produced by the Maple Ridge wind farm and so from time to time the wind farm has to shut down production!

This problem is not unique to New York according to the article:

That is a symptom of a broad national problem. Expansive dreams about renewable energy, like Al Gore’s hope of replacing all fossil fuels in a decade, are bumping up against the reality of a power grid that cannot handle the new demands.

The dirty secret of clean energy is that while generating it is getting easier, moving it to market is not.

This is a problem for the owners/operators of Maple Ridge and similar facilities – how do you get a return on investment if the grid operators can shut you down at a moment’s notice? In fact, how do you get investment in the first place if your income is completely controlled by another company?

Nor is this just an American problem, I heard reports this morning that in the last few days, for the first time ever, Eirgrid (the Irish transmission service operator – grid management company) had curtailed production from Irish wind farms. I contacted Eirgrid’s customer services department and confirmed that this had in fact happened and I will be receiving more information from Eirgrid about this early next week.

Ireland is currently sourcing an average 9% of its energy requirements from wind but has committed to moving to a 33% average from renewables by 2020. If the grid is having difficulties taking in wind energy at 9%, how do they hope to get anywhere near 33%?

Even more insane is the fact that if you are a wind energy producer in Ireland, you have to sign a contract allowing Eirgrid to shut you down up to 17% of the time. Yes, you read that right – at a time when countries are trying to reduce their carbon footprint to comply with Kyoto, the Irish grid operator is dissuading investment in wind energy projects by inserting curtailment clauses and now by going the full hog and shutting down wind farms!

Have Eirgrid not heard of Kyoto? Or CO2 emissions? Or the obvious solution to problems like over capacity from wind – demand response?

The problem Eirgrid have is not an over-supply of energy from wind. It is an over-supply of wind energy when demand for electricity is low (6am on a warm summer weekend morning, for example).

With a proper demand response mechanism in place, if too much electricity is being created by wind, instead of shutting down wind farms and risking future investment in renewables, you simply reduce the price of electricity to the market to stimulate an increase in demand!

The market gets cheaper electricity, from clean sources, investors are less wary of investing in wind so more wind farms are financed, the government stands a better chance of reaching its 33% from renewables by its 2020 target and Eirgrid get a more stable grid (as well as helping the govt reach its target) – win, win, win,win, and win!

Nor is this issue limited to Ireland and the US. Any countries hoping to increase the penetration of renewable (variable) energy supplies will need to initiate a demand response mechanism to manage the demand, thereby stabilising the system and allowing for even greater uptake of renewable energy.

You can be sure I will be putting this to Bill Vogel, CEO of Trilliant, when I am talking to him next week.

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Build carbon software efficiently (practice what you preach!)

motion gears -team force
Photo Credit ralphbijker

I have been having some very interesting conversations with people in the carbon software sector these last couple of weeks.

The first was with Michael Meehan of Carbonetworks (which I blogged about here) and we discussed their offering which is a “carbon strategy platform”. From my blog post about Carbonetworks:

The app at its most basic helps companies understand what their carbon footprint is, and then helps the companies translate that into a financial bottom line. The app helps companies see what options they have to reduce their carbon footprint and helps them create a carbon strategy from a managerial perspective on how to proceed in the carbon market.

Then I talked to Stefan Guertzgen, Marketing Director for Chemicals and Franz Hero, vp, chemical industry business unit both at SAP. They were talking about the SAP Environmental Compliance application which, in their words:

enables companies to gather information on the use of energy, in all its forms, throughout the enterprise, identify areas for energy reduction, monitor the implementation of energy excellence projects, and make the results available throughout the enterprise

Earlier this week I was talking to Kevin Leahy, who is a director in IBM’s IT Optimization Business Unit about IBM’s House of Carbon for which they have also developed carbon reporting software for their client base.

Finally, yesterday I was speaking to Gavin Starks, founder and CEO of AMEE. We have talked about AMEE several times before on this blog. AMEE is an open-source, neutral, platform for

measuring the Energy Consumption of everything… aggregates “official” energy metrics, conversion factors and CO2 data from over 150 countries… is a common platform for profiling and transactions (there’s a transaction engine at the core of AMEE)

Noticing a common thread here? Guys, stop re-inventing the wheel.

IBM and SAP (and anyone else thinking of embarking on carbon software) STOP NOW! It has already been done and done well by companies with open api’s (and open data in AMEE’s case).

Get on the phone to Carbonetworks and AMEE, and instead of building another carbon app, use their already comprehensive infrastructures and api’s to get a jump-start and bring best-of-breed carbon software to market efficiently!

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Any questions for Vik Chandra?

Questions
Photo Credit oberazzi (Tim O’Brien)

We have started a podcast series here on GreenMonk. As part of the process, when I can, I will be posting ahead of time who I will be interviewing. This will give readers an opportunity to have me put questions on their behalf during the podcast.

The first such interview will take place next Wed, August 13th and the interviewee will be IBM’s Vik Chandra. According to IBM Vik

is currently responsible for Market Management and Strategy for IBM software offerings that enable organizations to reduce their energy consumption and environmental impact. IBM’s software group offers middleware from its Tivoli, Rational, WebSphere, Lotus and Information Management brands. Core capabilities include service management from Tivoli, application servers and runtime infrastructure from WebSphere, database, information management and business intelligence from Information Management, collaboration from Lotus and software development and delivery from Rational.

We will be discussing ways in which IBM software can be used by companies to reduce their carbon footprint.

If you have any questions/suggestions you’d like me to put to Vik in the podcast, please leave them in a comment to this post or email them to [email protected] before Wed August 13th at 2pm GMT.

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Carbonetworks and the open carbon platform

Carbonetworks Carbon Balance Sheet Screenshot credit Carbonetworks

I wrote a quick blog post about Carbonetworks the other day when it was announced they secured $5 million in series A financing.

I made the mistake though of assuming their software was a simple carbon accounting solution. It goes well beyond that.

Yesterday, in a phone call with Carbonetworks co-founder, President and CEO Michael Meehan, I discovered that their offering is a full carbon strategy platform.

The app is an online app and according to Michael, Carbonetworks has about 180 subscribers in 23 countries. The app at its most basic helps companies understand what their carbon footprint is, and then helps the companies translate that into a financial bottom line. The app helps companies see what options they have to reduce their carbon footprint and helps them create a carbon strategy from a managerial perspective on how to proceed in the carbon market.

The app can normalize carbon data across all of a companies facilities, and then monetise it so companies can think of their carbon as either an asset or a liability on the balance sheet! This is a clever approach which will change how companies look to their supply chain, or how they approach investments, for example.

Then when you get to the reduction space, Carbonetworks helps there too. Carbonetworks has what they call their marketplace where they offer fully verified offsets as well as a network of other reduction options so companies can have a diverse spread of carbon reduction investments.

Where this gets even more interesting and the reason I called Carbonetworks a platform is because they are currently working on opening up their API so that other companies can use their backend. if they pull this off, they will be the first to market (that I have heard of) with an open platform like this.

If you had programmable access to an online carbon platform like this, what would you do with it? Think of the mashups you could create!

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Supply chain management and carbon accounting

Supply chain
Photo Credit phitar

I came across two fascinating surveys of supply chain execs attitudes to climate change today!

The first from environmentalleader.com says that:

The survey of over 500 North American supply chain executives shows that the vast majority of respondents, 90 percent, think that over the next three years green issues will remain or become more important to their transport and logistics processes…

This push towards green is reported to be driven by a number of factors, including financial ROI (61%), public relations payback (78%), improved customer relations (83%), decreased fuel bills
(70%), and improved supply chain efficiency (59%)….

The results revealed that 72 percent are or are planning to improve energy efficiency, 37 percent are redesigning warehousing and distribution center networks, and a dramatic 60 percent are measuring and/or reducing emissions.

Amidst the slew of supply chain carbon measurement tools and technologies that have come onto the market in the last year, only a handful of respondents are already using an external measurement tool. But while 16% have deployed an internal system for this purpose, another 30% are currently researching which software to use or purchase in the short term.

30% are researching software for measuring supply chain carbon footprint? I smell opportunity!!!

The other survey I came across came from McKinsey. The report is a survey of 2,000 global executives.

According to the McKinsey report:

for consumer goods makers, high-tech players, and other manufacturers, between 40 and 60 percent of a company’s carbon footprint resides upstream in its supply chain—from raw materials, transport, and packaging to the energy consumed in manufacturing processes. For retailers, the figure can be 80 percent…

Surprisingly perhaps, we find that many of the opportunities to reduce emissions carry no net life-cycle costs—the upfront investment more than pays for itself through lower energy or material usage. Others, however, will require tradeoffs between emissions and profitability, in areas such as logistics and product design (including product specification and functionality). Forward-looking companies are using such discussions as opportunities for supplier development, for example by transferring best practices in manufacturing, purchasing, and R&D—as well as energy efficiency—to key suppliers. This opens the possibility of still lower costs and improved operational performance, in addition to helping suppliers remove more carbon from their supply chains.

Reading between the lines there are a few important messages here:

  1. Good carbon accounting software is becoming more and more of a requirement
  2. Attacking energy efficiency aggressively can significantly reduce a company’s carbon footprint
  3. Companies are increasingly looking at reducing supplier’s carbon footprints as a means to reduce their own. This can be either through working with suppliers or by choosing suppliers based on their carbon footprints.
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Carbon accounting software starting to take off?

Carbonetworks Carbon Balance Sheet Screenshot credit Carbonetworks

We in GreenMonk have written previously about carbon accounting software and the huge opportunities which are about to open up in this space.

Carbon footprint reporting is increasingly becoming part of the purchasing process with purchasers seeking carbon footprint data from their vendors. It will in time be mandatory and when that happens, every company will have a requirement for this kind of software. Companies establishing a name for themselves at this early stage will be well placed when that requirement comes to pass.

No surprise then to see the announcement on Cnet today that software company Carbonetworks received $5 in series A funding for its online carbon calculator from clean-tech venture firm NGEN Partners.


Climate Earth
is another player in this space, to my knowledge hasn’t announced any funding yet and their website could stand some work but their Team is impressive.

These companies should be working with AMEE so that everyone can benefit from the data.

Watch this space, more companies and more offerings are likely to spring up and don’t be surprised if some of these early players become attractive acquisition targets for more established software houses.