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RealtimeCarbon.org gives realtime CO2 intensity of electricity generation in the UK

RealtimeCarbon

If you actively select for cheaper electricity, you are de facto selecting for greener electricity because cheaper electricity has a higher % of renewable energy in the mix.

I wrote previously that it would be great if utility companies were mandated to publish realtime generation mix (% from coal, % for nuclear, % from wind, etc.).

Then if you had a truly open market for electricity, it should be possible to dynamically switch suppliers on the fly, based on the price and the realtime generation mix. If people were actively selecting for greener electricity (and given that cheaper electricity typically has a higher % of green, why wouldn’t they?), imagine the demand signal that would send to the suppliers! There would be an enormous rush to build more renewables and Kingsnorth would be shelved quicker than you can say “dirty coal”.

That idea is a step closer to reality today with the launch in the UK of RealtimeCarbon.org. This is a site which gives a realtime feed of just how “carbon intense” UK electricity is at any given moment. The data behind the real time feed comes directly from the computer systems that manage the UK’s electricity trading market. This data tells RealtimeCarbon.org how much electricity each type of power generator (e.g. coal power stations or wind farms) are currently producing during any particular 5-minute interval.

One of the beauties of this site is that they provide an xml feed of the realtime carbon intensity data (see the pdf on how to access the feed for more info). The xml feed will allow organisations to programatically monitor the CO2 emissions associated with electricity generation in the UK. Thus it will be possible to have devices programmed to automatically respond to realtime CO2 intensity signals coming from RealtimeCarbon.org i.e. shutting down when highly carbon intensive and starting up when carbon-light. This will be a big help in reducing the organisation’s carbon footprint.

RealtimeCarbon.org also has a forum where people can get involved suggesting methodology improvements, ways to improve the numbers (calculation or display) and how to use the data.

Now they just need to build this out for every other country on the planet!

[Disclosure – one of the companies involved in this project (AMEE) is a GreenMonk client]

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June 15th GreenMonk Energy & Sustainability show – Face Off!

Last week I wrote a post in response to Dennis Howlett’s ZDNet article questioning the causes of climate change and therefore our reactions to it.

I also mentioned Dennis’ post in last week’s Energy and Sustainability show so Dennis contacted me and asked for an opportunity to come on the show to put forward his point of view. Dennis is an old friend, so of course I said yes.

So yesterday’s Energy and Sustainability show was a Tom vs Dennis face-off on climate change (actually it was a good natured chat with Dennis basically saying he was asking questions because not enough people were being skeptical!).

What do you think?

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SAP’s Chief Sustainability Officer on Carbon Reduction

I was in San Jose last week for for the O’Reilly ETech conference. I had an opportunity to meet SAP’s newly appointed Chief Sustainability Officer, Peter Graf and we discussed SAP’s announced aim of reducing its carbon emissions by 51% by 2020.

Some great stuff in the video – I especially loved the bit where Peter talked about the enthusiasm of SAP employees for getting on board with this program. They asked for Sustainability Champions for the company hoping to get 100 by the end of March. They had 200 by the end of the 2nd day!!! Everyone wants to be doing the right thing.

This is part II of a three-part video series I shot with Peter. I published the first part, where Peter discusses the role of Chief Sustainability Officer for SAP earlier this week and the third part will be published next week.

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Sunday Times and the Google non-story

CO2

Photo credit \<

I was more than a little surprised to read a story printed in the UK’s Sunday Times yesterday claiming that a search on popular search engine Google:

generates about 7g of CO2 Boiling a kettle generates about 15g

Reading the article a little more revealed that the research has not been peer reviewed, so its veracity as a piece of scientific research has yet to be confirmed. However, given that the researcher in question had no access to Google’s carbon data, this has to be, at best, educated guesswork.

On top of that, the researcher responsible for the claim is CTO of Maxtility, a company whose aim is to:

solve important problems in industries ranging from education to energy

he can hardly be said to be an impartial researcher.

Google responded to the assertions this morning. In Google’s response they mention the energy-efficiency of their data centers which:

means the energy used per Google search is minimal. In fact, in the time it takes to do a Google search, your own personal computer will use more energy than Google uses to answer your query.

Google goes on to claim that

one Google search is equivalent to about 0.2 grams of CO2. The current EU standard for tailpipe emissions calls for 140 grams of CO2 per kilometer driven, but most cars don’t reach that level yet. Thus, the average car driven for one kilometer (0.6 miles for those of in the U.S.) produces as many greenhouse gases as a thousand Google searches.

Google then continues the piece by talking up its philanthropic arm Google.org (see GreenMonks’ podcast with Vint Cerf about Google.org) and the investments it has made through that vehicle in renewables, as well as its co-founding of the Climate-Saving Computers initiative.

As in most issues like this, I suspect the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

Google could do itself no end of good by having its carbon emissions third-party audited (under NDA if they are worried about competitive intelligence) while publications like the Times should know better than to run non-peer reviewed science stories from people who could be perceived to have their own agenda.

I won’t even go into on the childish Twitter bashing further down in the Times article – monumental ignorance trying to pass itself off as intelligent observation, sigh!

UPDATE – quite a bit of discussion about this happening – see Techmeme for more, also I see my old friend Jeremy Wagstaff came to a similar conclusion.

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Linking carbon charges to cleanup costs

Money

Photo credit helmet13

When deciding on the price of a new product, one of the main criteria for setting the price is the cost of production. After all, charge less than the cost of production, and that will soon put an end to the company’s profits and possibly even the company itself!

So, if legislators are considering charging companies for the CO2 they produce, shouldn’t they set the price based on the cost of cleanup? Or is that just a silly idea?

How much does it cost to remove a tonne of CO2 from the atmosphere? Obviously that depends on how one goes about the removal of the CO2 (whether by sequestration, growing 1 tonne worth of carbon or some other method) but surely the price companies have to pay for every tonne of CO2 they produce should be linked to the cost of cleanup. No?

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Save Toms not Tonnes!

At the recent [email protected] Green IT conference Gavin Starks of AMEE had an idea which he and Simon Wardley co-pitched to the audience, to change the carbon footprint metric from tonnes of CO2 to people!

The idea, as outlined in the video above was so well received that we decided to create a site to promote it and encourage anyone who also thinks it is a good idea to become involved. The site is at megatom.ning.com.

From the MegaTom about page:

The average European creates 10 tonnes of CO2 per annum.

The average American, 20 tonnes.

To avert the dangers of Climate Change, we need to drop our CO2 production to 1 tonne per person.

Problem: What is 1 tonne of CO2? How do you visualise it?

Answer: You don’t! You change the metric. 1 tonne = 1 person’s annual CO2 production.
1 average person. 1 Tom.

Because it’s not about saving tonnes, it’s about saving everyone.

For example, a 15 minute shower is 0.1% of a Tom, driving 100 miles in a standard car is 4% of a Tom and producing 1 laptop computer is 45% of a Tom.

How many Toms have you consumed? Don’t waste your Toms.

Save Toms, not tonnes!

If you agree that we should be saving Tom’s, not tonnes, why not go to the MegaTom, join and please leave any feedback/suggestions. Thanks.

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

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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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Skysails uses wind to power ships!

I love this – a German company comes up with an idea to make ships far more fuel efficient using… sails! Yes, wind-powered ships. Why didn’t anyone think of it before? Oh, hang on… 😉

Seriously, watching the video above, Skysails, the company re-inventing the technology, seems to be onto a really good thing. Fuel burnt by ships accounts for 4% of global CO2 emissions – twice as much as the aviation industry produces.

The kite-like sail is computer controlled, extendible up to 300m above the ship and can save up to 20% on a ships fuel (and therefore its CO2 emissions). Also these ‘kite sails’ are up to five times more efficient than traditional sails.

The company expects to kit out 1,500 ships with these Skysails by 2015. If they are that good, they should licence the manufacturing of these and have them installed in 15,000,000 ships by 2015!

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American Leadership: What Could Have Been

I was just reading Industries Allied to Cap Carbon Differ on the Details from the NYTimes when something struck me. The US did the right thing in not signing up to Kyoto, but for the wrong reasons. You know why it should have refused? Because. Kyoto. Didn’t. Go. Far. Enough.

We should all be paying a lot more attention to the Climate Action Partnership, which includes both major polluters and environmental groups.

In January 2007, the eclectic group endorsed a bold national policy that called for reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of 60 percent to 80 percent by 2050, an aggressive target that is in line with recommendations from an international panel of scientists. But the group, which now has 33 members, has failed to reach consensus on a variety of issues, including how to allocate carbon permits and whether to include a price cap for carbon credits.