Don’t forget – where your cloud apps are hosted helps determine their carbon footprint

Greenwash

Back in July of this year (2011), the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), in conjunction with Verdantix, released a report titled Cloud Computing – The IT Solution for the 21st Century [PDF warning] which erroneously claims Cloud Computing is Green. Shortly after it was released, I wrote a long post outlining exactly where the report was flawed. I also contacted the CDP directly outlining my concerns to them and pointing them to the blog post.

Then, a couple of weeks back, when preparing my slides for my Cloud Computing’s Green Potential talk for the Cepis and Hepis Green IT conference in Athens, I discovered that Verdantix and the CDP had published

a new report [PDF] on the business and environmental benefits of cloud computing in France and the UK

Unfortunately, not only does the new report make the same mistakes as the original one, but it further compounds those errors with an even more fundamental one.

Let me explain.

In the key assumptions section of the report it talks about the metric tons of CO2/kWh in both the UK and French electricity grids (0.000521 tonnes and 0.000088 tonnes respectively). It uses these figures to extrapolate the savings in both France and the UK for companies migrating their applications to cloud computing.

So? You say. Sounds reasonable to me.

Well, the issue is that they didn’t do any work to identify where applications migrated to the cloud would be hosted. The implication being that UK applications migrated to the cloud, will be hosted on UK cloud infrastructure and French IT applications will be migrated to French hosted cloud infrastructure. In fact this would be a highly unusual scenario.

A quick look at where most cloud hosting takes place shows that the vast majority of it is occurring in the US, with quite a lot happening in Singapore with a lesser amount in Europe (and that split between Ireland, Germany, UK, etc. but almost none in France – Ireland is underestimated in the list as it doesn’t include Microsoft which has a significant Cloud hosting facility in Dublin which it is now expanding or Google’s Dublin facility).

Ok, and what about the carbon intensity of electricity generation in these countries? If a cloud application is moved to somewhere with a lower carbon intensity for electricity generation, then there is a possibility of a carbon saving. However, with the vast majority of cloud hosting still being done in the US, that isn’t a likely scenario.

This table of CO2 emissions from electricity generation, by country shows that the US has one of the most carbon intensive electrical grids in the world. France, on the other hand, with its high concentration of nuclear power (78%) has one of the least carbon intensive electricity grids in the world. While the UK grid’s carbon intensiveness at 557kg CO2/mWeh sits just above the world average of 548kg CO2/mWeh.

While it is possible (though not probable) that UK IT applications outsourced to the cloud would be hosted in a country with a lower carbon intensity than the UK, the chances of a French IT application being hosted in a country with a lower carbon intensity than France are virtually nil.

Given this, the assertion by the CDP report that

large businesses in France and the UK can reduce CO2 emissions from their IT estate by 50% compared to a scenario where there was no cloud computing.

seems, at best, extremely improbable.

One problem with coming up with reports like this is the lack of transparency from cloud providers on their locations, their energy and carbon footprints. If all cloud providers reported these metrics, it would be a far simpler matter to decide whether cloud computing is green, or not. Without these data, there is absolutely no way to say whether moving to the cloud increases or decreases CO2 emissions.

If you are wondering why the Carbon Disclosure Project and Verdantix are so bullish in their assertions that Cloud Computing is Green – if you scroll to the bottom of the report, you’ll see this:

CDP & Verdantix's motivations

This study was supported by AT&T
For more information on AT&T Cloud Solutions go to …

The report was paid for by the Cloud Solutions division of AT&T. Enough said.

Photo credit fotdmike

HP’s shrinking wallflower attitude may not be Sustainable!

HP CEO L?o Apotheker addressing the HP Summit

So I wrote a post the other day entitled Have HP?s senior executives lost interest in Sustainability? after attending a HP event in San Francisco. It was a little unfair because I concentrated on the lack of mentions of Sustainability by senior management on the first day of the event while leaving out the fact that I had interesting discussions with people involved in sustainability initiatives within HP the following day.

One of those I talked to at the event, Deb Lyons, was concerned enough by my piece that she went to the trouble of emailing me some of HP’s more impressive Green initiatives:

  1. HP published a fascinating paper [PDF] to quantify the carbon savings associated with switching from analog to digital printing and came up with a savings of somewhere between 114-251 MMtCO2 eq per annum (MMt CO2 is million metric tonnes of CO2) – similar to the savings which would be achieved by a broad implementation of lighting automation or extensive implementation of telecommuting!
  2. When printing is absolutely necessary, HP have comprehensive paper conservation and sourcing policies which include “a goal that 40 percent or more of the HP branded paper sold will be Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified or have more than 30 percent post-consumer waste content by the end of 2011″, an Eco Printing Assessment for customers and a reduction of paper shipped “in the box”
  3. While HP has yet to release its 2010 CSR report, its 2009 one is online and, in fairness, it is one of the better CSR reports produced by a tech co. (though it has a long way to go to catch-up to SAP’s 2010 Sustainability Report, which was released this morning!).
  4. I referenced the fact in my previous post that HP is becoming a devices company (between desktops, laptops, and more recently tablets and smartphones) so it is heartening to see HP have comprehensive policies around sourcing conflict minerals in Africa
  5. and finally, HP announced the other day that it had exceeded its target of reducing the energy footprint of its products by 40% by the end of 2011 and now HP products are 50% more energy efficient than they were five years ago. The release from HP went on to assert that “if all makes and models of printers, notebook and desktop PCs, displays and servers shipped in 2005 were recycled and replaced with new HP energy-efficient models, customers could save approximately $10.4 billion in energy costs, and avoid more than 40 million metric tons of CO2 emissions within a year” – a pretty impressive numbers!

Another release Deb pointed out to me was an announcement that HP are helping Shell extract oil and gas more efficiently from the ground – personally I believe that any technology which helps increase the amount of fossil fuels we burn should be criminalised, not praised, but that’s just me!

So, leaving aside the oil and gas announcement, HP’s green credentials do appear to be completely genuine, laudable even.

Kudos to HP for these and their other Green initiatives – however, I still believe it was a mistake for their executives not to have them as a theme running through their talks. I understand the HP thinking that “Sustainability is part of our DNA, so much so that we take it for granted that it is built-in to everything we do” – I’m paraphrasing liberally. But, the issue is that if your executives are not talking about sustainability, your stakeholders may not be as convinced about your commitment to sustainability. If Sustainability was left out of the talks because there was a lot of content to be worked in which had to be prioritised, just how far down the list of HP’s priorities does Sustainability lie? From talking to HP, I know it is not far down at all, but listening to their executives, you would not get that impression.

HP has a messaging problem around Sustainability. It isn’t that they don’t do Sustainability, it is just that they seem to be shy about talking about it. With the rise and rise of Ethical Consumerism, this shrinking wallflower attitude may not be Sustainable!

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Photo credit Tom Raftery

SAP’s Palo Alto energy efficiency and CO2 reductions

Cisco Telepresence

As mentioned previously, I was in Santa Clara and Palo Alto last week for a couple of SAP events.

At these events SAP shared some of its carbon reduction policies and strategies.

According to SAP Chief Sustainability Officer Peter Graf, the greatest bang for buck SAP is achieving comes from the deployment of telepresence suites. With video conferencing technologies SAP is saving ?655 per ton of CO2 saved. This is hardly surprising given Cisco themselves claim to have saved $790m in travel expenditure from their telepresence deployments!

Other initiatives SAP mentioned were the installation of 650 solar panels on the roof of building 2 which provides for around 5-6% of SAP’s Palo Alto energy needs. This means that on sunny days, the SAP Palo Alto data centre can go completely off-grid. The power from the solar panels is not converted to AC at any point – instead it is fed directly into the data centre as DC – thereby avoiding the normal losses incurred in the conversion from DC->AC->DC for computer equipment. Partnerships with OSISoft and Sentilla ensure that their data centre runs at optimum efficiency.

SAP also rolled out 337 LED lighting systems. These replaced fluorescent lighting tubes and because the replacement LED lights are extremely long-life, as well as low energy, there are savings on maintenance as well as electricity consumption.

Coulomb electric vehicle charging station at SAP HQ in Palo Alto

SAP has placed 16 Coulomb level two electric vehicle charging stations around the car parks in its facility. These will allow employees who purchase electric vehicles to charge their cars free of charge (no pun!) while they are at work. SAP has committed to going guarantor on leases for any employees who plan to purchase electric vehicles. We were told to watch out for a big announcement from SAP in January in the electric vehicle space!

In its entirety, SAP has invested $2.3m in energy efficiency projects at their Palo Alto campus. This will lead to $665,000 savings per annum with a payback in under four years and an annual CO2 emissions reduction of over 807 tons.

This may sound like small potatoes but SAP intends to be both an exemplar and an enabler – so they want to be able to ‘walk the walk, as well as talking the talk’.

One of the points that SAP constantly mention in briefings is that while their CO2 emissions amounted to 425,000 tons for 2009, the CO2 emissions of their customer base, associated with their running SAP software is 100 times that and the total CO2 emissions of their customer base is 100 times that again! Consequently SAP sees itself as potentially having sway over a large portion of the world’s carbon emissions. SAP hopes to be able to use this influence to help its client companies to significantly reduce their emissions – and to use its software to report on those same reductions!

Two questions I forgot to ask SAP on the day were:

  1. if they were getting any rebates from their utility (PG&E) for energy reductions? and
  2. if the car charging stations were being run from the solar panels (and if so, were they also running DC-DC directly)?

15 Green Predictions for 2010

Looking into my crystal ball

Photo credit seanmcgrath

It is the end of the year – that time of year when everyone rolls out their X Predictions for 2010 post and, in that regard, GreenMonk is not going to be any different!

Well , maybe slightly different, some of the following predictions are more like hopes and aspirations on my part than likely outcomes!

  1. There will be an increasing emphasis on sustainability initiatives as organisations understand their financial benefits
  2. CSR reporting will become mandatory for large companies in the EU
  3. Companies will more and more look to IT to help them with their energy efficiency programs
  4. An heightened legislative emphasis on carbon reporting will spur the development of more carbon reporting software
  5. There will be greater and greater integration of carbon reporting functionality into ERP and financial reporting applications
  6. Standards will be agreed for energy and water footprint labels for products and services
  7. Water and energy footprint labels will be made mandatory in the EU
  8. At least one smart grid rollout in the US will fail spectacularly due, in large part, to poor stakeholder communications
  9. More and more Smart City initiatives will come on stream as cities aim to become more sustainable
  10. Mainstream car manufacturers will start to release plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles
  11. At least one major mobile phone handset manufacturer rolls out mobile phones with built-in environmental sensors (for crowd-sourced environmental data viewable in realtime with an Augmented Reality browser)
  12. Bluefin tuna stocks will crash in the atlantic
  13. It will be a record year for ice loss in the Arctic, Antarctic and Greenland Ice Sheets
  14. It will be a record year for damage from hurricanes in the Atlantic and typhoons in the Pacific
  15. 2010 will be the warmest year on record due to the combined influence of El Niño and global warming


  16. and a bonus prediction for good luck:

  17. The US will finally pass climate legislation limiting CO2 emissions (but it won’t go far enough!)

What price carbon emissions?

Excess

Photo credit Pinot & Dita

One of the reasons we are facing a climate crisis is because people have not been paying the full economic price for their carbon consumption. Had they been, we’d be living in a very different world today. A quick comparison of average car fuel efficiency in the US versus the EU (where fuel has typically been priced at 2-3x the US price) bears this out.

When people have to pay a higher price for their emissions, they are less likely to pollute (if only to save themselves money!).

This brings us onto the trickier question though of what is a realistic price for carbon. The recent price of carbon emissions in the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) has varied from €30 to €10 while today as I write this, it has a spot settlement price of €15.31. That may be current, but is it realistic?

What is a realistic price for carbon emissions?

Well, the reason we are charging for carbon emissions in the first place is to counter the damage being done to the environment by those very emissions – the polluter pays principle. In other words, the price to emit one tonne of CO2 into the atmosphere should be equal to the price of extracting one tonne of CO2 from the upper atmosphere.

And how much is that?

I have no idea to be honest! I have asked several people in this space and no-one has been able to tell me – principally because the technologies to extract CO2 from the upper atmosphere don’t yet exist! You can be sure that it is significantly more than €30 per tonne though.

As global CO2 emissions continue to rise and the effects of climate change become even more pronounced, the price being charged for CO2 emissions globally will need to trend closer to the price of extraction and away from the current €15.

If nothing else, this will encourage us to move to a less carbon intensive lifestyle – manufacturers of carbon intensive products beware!

Beam me up Scotty!

The WWF published a report, funded by HP and Microsoft, about the potential climactic benefits of a greater adoption of videoconferencing technologies. One of the items in the report which caught my eye was the stat that:

substituting 5-30% of current air travel by videoconferencing could avoid 5.59-33.53 million tonnes of CO2 emissions annually

The report recommends what it calls ‘digital bridges’ to replace ‘air bridges’ which would otherwise be constructed.

An infrastructure which provided an open access site for every million inhabitants of the world’s urbanised areas would have an estimated $495 million capital cost, and $347 million of annual operating costs (total number of virtual meeting rooms 4620). Much, if not all of which, could be offset by income from those who fly, users of virtual meetings, and other sources. This compares to the estimated $22 billion capital cost of a third Heathrow runway, or the $320 million list price of a new Airbus A380 superjumbo.

Key targets to use the infrastructure would include larger companies with many field activities in different countries; small-medium sized businesses; international Governmental and Non-Governmental organisations; organisers of small-medium sized events; and some distance learning and telemedicine discussions. Countries such as China or India would be especially important, with the aim of many people developing familiarity with videoconferencing before becoming attached to air travel for meetings. ‘Digital bridges’ could therefore supplement, and partially replace, the ‘air bridges’ which would otherwise be constructed.

Personally I don’t think this goes nearly far enough!

I was at a HP briefing last October where HP presented some genuinely impressive internal figures for travel averted using HP’s TelePresence offering (called Halo). I argued at the time (and still believe) that for TelePresence to have a serious impact it needs to be far more ubiquitous – not just (as it currently) islands of hi-def connectivity. HP’s Halo needs to interconnect with Nortel and Cisco’s TelePresence offerrings and vice versa, for a start. I went a step further at the meeting and suggested that for real ubiquity, Halo should be able to interconnect with the likes of Skype video.

HP appear to have been having similar thoughts because they recently announced HP SkyRoom – which, while it doesn’t connect with Skype video afaik, it is a desktop version of TelePresence.

Details are sketchy on SkyRoom as yet, but if we can make hi-def video conferencing and desktop sharing as cheap and easy as making a Skype call, then many of the reasons for having to travel for meetings simply disappear!

Don’t underestimate the benefits of this, not just for companies carbon footprint’s, but also for productivity. I am going to a 3-day conference next month in Orlando, Florida. I am based in Seville, Spain. My travel to and from the conference will take roughly 36 hours – not to mention all the hassles of various airports’ security and then I have to do a week’s work on top of that! For a far more eloquent breakdown of the all of the benefits of TelePresence see Wilson Korol’s excellent post on the Nortel Grassroots blog.

I do believe that desktop hi-def video calls and desktop sharing will become ubiquitous whether enabled by HP or Skype or Apple’s iChat or combinations of clients able to inter-operate seamlessly – there are very few technical barriers to it happening. From there it is a short step to making it a 3-D experience and I will truly be able to say “Beam me up Scotty!” – if you doubt it can be a 3-D experience check out this impressive Cisco video of CEO John Chambers chatting to a full size 3-D Marthin De Beer while Marthin is 14,000 miles away.

[Disclosure: HP and Nortel are GreenMonk clients]

Cisco EnergyWise – turns networks into an Energy Efficiency platforms

As mentioned previously, buildings account for 38% of CO2 emissions in the United States, buildings consume 70% of the electricity load in the U.S and CO2 emissions from buildings are projected to grow faster than any other sector over the next 25 years.

Cisco has decided to tackle this problem, by turning its networking infrastructure kit into a platform for energy efficiency with its launch yesterday of Cisco EnergyWise!

Cisco EnergyWise is a technology for their Catalyst line of Switches which will be rolled out as a free software upgrade for existing switches and included in new Catalyst switches beginning in February 2009.

From the release:

Cisco EnergyWise will roll out in three phases to improve IT and building system energy utilization:

  • · In the first phase (February 2009), Network Control, Cisco EnergyWise will be supported on Catalyst switches and manage the energy consumption of IP devices such as phones, video surveillance cameras and wireless access points.
  • · In the next phase (Summer 2009), IT Control, there will be expanded industry support of EnergyWise on devices such as personal computers (PCs), laptops and printers.
  • · In the final phase (Early 2010), Building Control, Cisco EnergyWise will be extended to the management of building system assets such as heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), elevators, lights, employee badge access systems, fire alarm systems and security systems

EnergyWise will allow companies to create event-based policies for energy reduction (i.e. turn off all lights in data center or hotel room unless someone swipes in – and turn off when they swipe out). It will also allow for control of the energy utilisation of everything from wireless access points, right the way up to building’s aircon systems. Policies can be grouped by tags, so you can control entire buildings campuses or geographies.

Cisco also announced the acquisition of Richards-Zeta Building Intelligence Inc. to get access to the intelligent middleware to provide interoperability and integration between building infrastructure, IT applications and Cisco EnergyWise.

EnergyWise will also enable companies to report aggregated power consumption across an organisation, provide reports of current power conditions and suggests potential changes thereby reducing energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions.

Demand response programs will benefit hugely from systems like this being in place.

Superb to see RedMonk client company SolarWinds being signed up as the first network management partner for the program. SolarWinds told me they hope to have the integration with Cisco EnergyWise complete in 2009 and they told me that:

  • · EnergyWise policies and configurations will be managed by Orion Network Configuration Manager (NCM).
  • · Orion Network Performance Monitor (NPM) will show EnergyWise statistics and reports in its familiar web-based dashboard.
  • · We will also establish EnergyWise forums in thwack, to help support users as they roll out EnergyWise in their corporate environments.

Now, how long will it be before Juniper come out with a competitive offering, do you think? The more companies thinking this way and turning out products like this, the better for everyone.

LEED certified buildings on the rise!

Adobe headquarters in San Jose received three platinum LEED ratings

Photo credit kqedquest

According to the US Green Building Council (USGBC) buildings account for 38% of CO2 emissions in the United States, buildings consume 70% of the electricity load in the U.S and CO2 emissions from buildings are projected to grow faster than any other sector over the next 25 years.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a Green building rating system which has been deveoped to provide a suite of standards for the design, construction and operation of high performance Green buildings.

According to the the LEED Wikipedia entry:

LEED certified buildings have healthier work and living environments, which contributes to higher productivity and improved employee health and comfort.

According to the USGBC January Green building by the numbers report (.doc warning):

By 2009, 82% of corporate America is expected to be greening at least 16% of their real estate portfolios; of these corporations, 18% will be greening more than 60% of their real estate portfolios

The green building products market is projected to be worth $30-$40 billion annually by 2010

With that in mind it was great to see the report that AMD’s Lone Star campus in Texas has achieved a gold LEED certification. Thanks to David Berlind for tipping me off on this.

According to the release this is the largest gold certified LEED commercial building in Texas and some of the sustainable design elements include:

  • Energy Use: Powered 100% by Austin Energy’s GreenChoice® electricity, which comes from clean, renewable energy sources such as wind power
  • Rainwater collection: Designed with a 1.2 million gallon capacity rainwater collection system, which is designed to provide water for the buildings’ cooling towers and irrigation
  • Construction materials: Incorporated more than 20% of construction materials based on recycled content, and with more than 20% of locally sourced construction materials
  • 100% Native Landscaping: AMD partnered with the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center to salvage the native trees, shrubs and grasses within the footprint of the campus, and replant them following construction.

AMD joins other well known tech companies who have rolled large LEED building projects like Adobe (Platinum) and Symantec (Gold).

To paraphrase Fr Ted – “Up with this kind of thing!!!

AMEE lands funding – Green is the new black!

Where there's muck, there's brass

Photo credit nickwheeleroz

I just received news that AMEE has landed funding. We have mentioned AMEE already a ton of times on GreenMonk, but that is because they share our open-source philosophy and they are Green. In fact, AMEE CEO Gavin Starks is the one who came up with the MegaTom concept!

From the press release:

AMEE, the World’s Energy Meter, has secured substantial Series A financing from leading VC funds in the USA and UK.

AMEE is a web-based service (API) that combines measurement, calculation, profiling and transactional systems, representing emissions data from 150 countries and regions. As a neutral data aggregation platform, AMEE’s vision is to enable the measurement of the “Carbon Footprint” of everything on Earth. AMEE aims to assist with the development of energy and carbon as a global currency, assisting governments and companies that need to account for and trade internationally in CO2 emissions.

The collaboration between O’Reilly Alphatech Ventures (OATV), Union Square Ventures (USV) and The Accelerator Group (TAG) will enable AMEE to expand its reach by enhancing its data, and extend globally.

The AMEE platform is already used internationally by many organisations including; UK Government (Defra/DECC), Morgan Stanley, Google, Radiohead, Nesta, the Irish Government, the Welsh Assembly, the Energy Saving Trust, BRE, Sun Microsystems, plus numerous other IT, business services and software companies.

Gavin Starks, Founder and CEO of AMEE commented, “AMEE’s growth over the past 12 months has been quite remarkable. We are delighted to have the financial and strategic support of such experienced investors to take our business forward.

AMEE’s is driving change by increasing the accuracy and transparency of emissions and consumption in a manner that has not been achieved by any legislation, market or service to date. We have developed and demonstrated a forward-thinking and innovative business model. It is based around neutrality, scale and collaboration. This reflects the dramatic changes that will impact our societies, their financial and social systems in the years to come.

The execution of the Climate Change Act in the UK last week, combined with President Elect Obama’s forward-looking Federal Cap & Trade statements are indicators of the scale of change approaching us.”

Bryony Worthington, Head of International Policy at AMEE added, “As one of the authors of the UK Climate Change Act, I am delighted to be bringing dedicated solutions to industry and consumers. The time to act is now.”

Mark P. Jacobsen, Managing Director of O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures (“OATV”), commented: “AMEE’s vision to aggregate all of the energy data in the world fits OATV’s mission to invest in stuff that matters. With the recent sea change in America’s political climate, we look forward to AMEE bringing its platform-based data service to clients in the States.”

Ablert Wenger, Partner at Union Square Ventures, commented, “We believe that emissions information is critical to better decision making by individuals and companies. We are excited that AMEE’s service helps to substantially improve the timeliness and accuracy of emissions measurement.”

Great news, congrats Gavin and team. With the slew of funding announcements in the Green space, despite the trying financial times (because of…), Green is quickly becoming the new black!