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Technology for Good – Episode five

This is episode five of our weekly GreenMonk TV Technology for Good Hangout – a show where we discuss news of technology solutions that work to benefit people’s lives. This week we discussed stories to do with Climate, energy/utilities, transportation, health, the internet of Things, and Data Centre’s amongst others.

Here’s a list of links to the stories we discussed today:

Climate news

Energy/Utilities

Transportation/Electric Vehicles

Health

Internet of Things

Data Centre’s

Miscellaneous

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Technology for Good – Episode four

In last week’s Technology for Good show we had lots of stories to talk about. In the show we referenced some very exciting stories in the Energy, Internet of Things, Electric Vehicles, and robotics spaces, amongst others. The links to the stories are below.

As always, if you know of any stories you think we should cover, or someone we should be talking to, feel free to get in touch (@tomraftery on Twitter, or tom at redmonk.com on good old-fashioned email!).

And, as promised, here are the stories which made the cut for last week’s show:

Broadband

Energy

Electric Vehicles

Internet of Things

Robots

Planet

Miscellaneous

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IBM’s 2012 Industry Analyst event in Madrid – the Smarter Cities panel

The future is so bright

I attended the IBM Industry Analyst event in Madrid recently and I was very taken with several of the briefings that I sat in on there.

There was an interesting panel on Smarter Cities chaired by IBM Europe’s VP for Smarter Cities Sylvie Spalmacin-Roma. Also on the panel were Francois Grosse (SVP Digital Services, Veolia Environment) and Marc Sanderson International Investments Director, Málaga City. Francois talked about how Veolia Environment works with public transport data and spun off a startup to meet demand in this space. Marc from Málaga gave a very interesting talk about how the city of Málaga is running many projects simultaneously to transform itself into a truly Smart city.

Some of the things Marc mentioned in Málaga are the water sensor project – Málaga has installed 60,000 sensors on its water piping to help it reduce the amount of water lost through leaks. This is particularly relevant given the recent Water 20/20: Bringing Smart Water Networks Into Focus report which maintains that more efficient use of water may save utilities $12.5 billion a year.

Málaga’s emergency management centre has an app that citizens can download to report issues directly to the town hall.

Málaga is the headquarters for the EU’s high speed rail research and it is currently building an 80km high speed rail test track.

Marc went on to point out that that Málaga has a joint project with Spanish electric utility company Endesa called Smart Cities Málaga where it is rolling out smart meters to 17,000 customers and tracking their energy use in an effort to make consumption more transparent to the customer and align the supply and demand curves.

And finally Marc mentioned Málaga’s Zero Emissions Mobility to All project Zem2All. This is a project which sees the deployment of 200 electric vehicles and 229 electric vehicle charge points throughout the city.It is a four year project designed to assess the usage patters of electric vehicle usage on a day-to-day basis. The project contains some of the first bidirectional electric car chargers in Europe – these chargers are capable of taking a charge from the car, as well as charging the car. This is to enable Vehicle to Grid (V2G) energy flows where electricity can move from the car’s battery back into the grid to help with grid stabilisation, for example, and to enable Vehicle to Home (V2H) energy flows where energy can move from the car’s battery into the home to keep the owners dwelling live in the event of short electrical outages.

The Málaga example is a superb one because it crosses so many domains – water, electricity, transportation, and it includes deep partnerships between the public and private sectors. One of the reasons this was made possible was because the Mayor of the city Francisco de la Torre Prados has been a strong proponent of building Málaga’s reputation as a smart city in order to attract in jobs and reduce Málaga’s 30% unemployment rate. Here’s hoping he succeeds.

Apart from this panel discussion, there were also briefings at the event covering all kinds of topics from data center energy management, to social business and most interesting (to me) one titled “Technologies which will change the world” – more on that in another post.

IBM analyst events are always a great reminder of the breadth of IBM’s interests, and this event was no exception to that pattern. My only quibble with the event would be I’d have preferred the smarter cities panel to have taken the form of a briefing, but given they had customers presenting, I can see how that would have been difficult.

[Full disclosure - IBM paid for my travel (train) and accommodation expenses to attend this event]

Image credit nicadlr

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IBM and ESB develop IT system for smart electric vehicle charging in Ireland

Electric vehicle charging

In August 2010 I was given the chance to test drive a pre-production model Nissan Leaf in Ireland. I was totally taken with the experience, so it was with a certain amount of delight I read last week that IBM and ESB eCars were collaborating to implement a country-wide smart charging IT system for electric vehicles in Ireland.

ESB Networks has so-far approximately 1,000 electric vehicle public charging points currently available, with a target of installing 1,500 on-street charge points and 30 fast charge points. ESB also have Android and iPhone mobile phone apps to help drivers locate charge points throughout the country.

The IT system being created by IBM and ESB will allow drivers to access, charge and pay for a car charge using an identification card. According to the release:

Electric vehicle parking place

The IBM EV platform will enable EV drivers to select convenient payment options and access all charge-points using one ID card – a process that will aggregate usage costs and simplify billing. This smart charging capability allows consumers to charge anywhere at anytime, regardless of their electricity provider and without the need to carry multiple access cards. Additionally, drivers will also have the option to use a mobile device or browser to locate the nearest charge post, check its availability, and make a reservation if the post is available.

This gives tremendous flexibility and ease of use to drivers of electric vehicles, while also providing valuable data to utilities on energy usage. This usage data will allow better forecasting of demand and help balance the load on the power grid as well as help ESB Networks to monitor the health and status of the charge-points to ensure service reliability.

The changeover to a national fleet of electric vehicles is always going to be a difficult proposition which will take considerable time and faces the familiar chicken and egg issue. However a move like this from ESB and IBM will certainly help reduce the chicken and egg issue somewhat and should contribute to a faster adoption of electric vehicles in Ireland.

Full disclosure – IBM and ESB Ireland are not GreenMonk clients (though in the past IBM has commissioned work from GreenMonk).

Image credits Tom Raftery

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Logica’s Global Utilities Director, Nigel Spooner talks Smart Meters, Smart Grids and the DCC

At the recent Logica Utility Analyst day, I talked to Logica’s Global Utilities Director, Nigel Spooner about Smart Meters, Smart Grids and the DCC – here’s a transcription of our conversation:

Tom Raftery: Hi everyone, welcome to GreenMonk TV, I’m in the Logica building in London with Nigel Spooner. Nigel is Global Utility Director for Logica. Nigel we’ve had a bit of a discussion here during the analyst event that I have just been attending, around smart meters and smart grids. Now we’re in the middle of one of the world’s worst economic crises in a long time, why would utilities want to be spending money on rolling out smart meters?

Nigel Spooner: Yeah it’s a good question isn’t it, it is difficult when money is tight, but there are benefits to smart metering, both in terms of the consumer being able to manage their energy consumption more closely, and also in terms of the distribution companies being able to run their networks more efficiently, but also and importantly being been able to cater for consumers doing their own generation for instance with photovoltaics and also for things like incorporating electric vehicles into the network.

Tom Raftery: So this is kind of life smart grid stuff and can you give us a quick idea, I mean you talked just a little bit about it sidewise, give me kind of an overall picture of what a smart grid is?

Nigel Spooner: A smart grid is difficult to define very succinctly, but it is a distribution grid where there is much more control over the way that power flows both on to and off the grid. At the moment grids are very much one way. The power goes in from the power station, it goes through the network and into the consumer.

Increasingly we’re having to cope for the fact that the consumers themselves are generating power, they are also using things like electric vehicles which have to be charged up at particular times, they need to be controlled if the networks are not to be overloaded, and therefore the distribution grids have to be much more responsive to those loads and those demands going on them. Smart metering gives the distribution companies the opportunity to know what’s going on on that grid to a much closer degree, and in real time than they having been doing so far.

Tom Raftery: And advantages to consumers…

Nigel Spooner: To consumers the advantage is that they can get first of all more flexible tariffs, so we may be able to get tariffs that are much more aligned with the way in which we actually consume energy, rather than being just a blanket tariff that’s the same for everyone. There will be much more information on the energy that one is using, so that for instance one can see when one is going for a rather large load and to turn things off if you need to, but also there is the ability increasingly to respond to variable pricing, so that if we know for instance electricity is going to be expensive in three days time because of demands on the system, then we can react to that and make sure that our large items like air-conditioning units that’s on, do not get turned on when the price is very high. So we should be able to save both energy and money through the information that smart metering gives.

Tom Raftery: And, I’ve heard a bit about this DCC thing that’s been rolled out here in the UK, can you tell me a little bit about that?

Nigel Spooner: Well DCC is simply the organization that is going to be setup or is been setup by the British government to basically take charge of all the data that is coming off smart meters as we roll them out. This will be collected centrally and then distributed to the market participants and the view is that, that will be the most efficient way to manage this huge increase in information that smart meters are providing. By doing that it should make it easier for participants to come into the market and it should make it easier for consumers to get the best deal on their energy.

Tom Raftery: Where is Logica in all this?

Nigel Spooner: Well I’m delighted to say that all the things we’ve been talking about require relatively sophisticated information technology services to enable them to happen. Logica has for many years been in the business of providing the systems and the services that are required to make those infrastructures operate effectively and we will of course continue to do so.

Tom Raftery: Okay, great. Nigel that’s been fantastic, thanks for talking to us today.

Nigel Spooner: Thank You Tom.

Full disclosure – Logica paid my travel and accommodation to attend this event.

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Friday Green Numbers round-up for Feb 11th 2011

Green Numbers

And here is a round-up of this week’s Green numbers…

  1. Vice President Biden Announces Six Year Plan to Build National High-Speed Rail Network

    Vice President Joe Biden today announced a comprehensive plan that will help the nation reach President Obama?s goal of giving 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail within 25 years, as outlined in his State of the Union address. The proposal will place high-speed rail on equal footing with other surface transportation programs and revitalize America?s domestic rail manufacturing industry by dedicating $53 billion over six years to continue construction of a national high-speed and intercity passenger rail network.

    As a part of President Obama?s commitment to winning the future by rebuilding America?s roadways, railways and runways, the plan will lay a new foundation for the nation?s

  2. Energy and Carbon Software Market Poised for 300% Growth; Sector Leaders Named

    The market for enterprise energy and carbon accounting (EECA) software grew 400 percent during 2010 and is forecast to grow another 300 percent this year, according to research by efficiency system provider Groom Energy Solutions.

    The research found that more than 200 large corporations ? including Arch Coal, Bayer, RJ Reynolds, Safeway and Wyndham Hotels ? bought EECA software in 2010.

    The report names ten companies as EECA leaders for 2011. They are

  3. US diplomat convinced by Saudi expert that reserves of world’s biggest oil exporter have been overstated by nearly 40%

    The US fears that Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest crude oil exporter, may not have enough reserves to prevent oil prices escalating, confidential cables from its embassy in Riyadh show.

    The cables, released by WikiLeaks, urge Washington to take seriously a warning from a senior Saudi government oil executive that the kingdom’s crude oil reserves may have been overstated by as much as 300bn barrels ? nearly 40%.

    The revelation comes as the oil price has soared in recent weeks to more than $100 a barrel on global demand and

  4. Bridgelux Raises $20M For LEDs

    LED chip and array maker Bridgelux raised close to $50 million just a year ago, but is raising even more money, according to a filing. The nine-year-old venture-backed startup which is looking to do for lighting what Silicon Valley has done for communications and entertainment ? make it digital ? has raised $20.74 million of a planned $21 million round.

    The company opened a factory in California and was making an effort to scale up its production last year, so

  5. British windfarms blow Vestas towards 25% profit rise

    Strong demand from British windfarms helped the world’s biggest turbine manufacturer, Vestas, raise profits by 25% over the past year and have boosted future prospects.

    UK equipment deliveries totalled 530MW ? a leap from 120MW over the previous year ? helped in particular by shipments for the 300MW Thanet windfarm, which is currently the largest offshore windfarm ever built.

    Shares in Vestas soared 5% as the Danish-based group reported

  6. Vodafone [Ireland] embarks on green drive to cut paper bills by 70%

    Ireland?s largest mobile operator Vodafone has asked customers to opt to switch to paperless billing as part of its drive to cut down on paper by 70%. The move, it says, will be equal to saving 5,000 trees and 500 tonnes of CO2.

    The company today launched its paperless billing campaign ?Goodbye Paper Bills, Hello Trees? and calls on Vodafone customers to make the switch to paperless billing.

  7. EMC? Cork plant cuts energy use by 20% after ?radical? retrofit

    EMC?, which employs 1,650 people at its Ovens site, undertook a full retrofit project to implement energy saving technologies at the information technology and data centre site, using free cooling technology systems.

    The ?2.5 million project, which was designed and managed by consulting engineering company Arup, will achieve annual electricity savings of 13 million kilowatt hours and an annual carbon emission reduction of 7,000 tonnes.

  8. Hopes of 30% cut in greenhouse emissions dashed

    The UK government’s plan to push Europe to deeper cuts on greenhouse gas emissions has been dashed by the EU’s energy chief.

    G?nther Oettinger, the EU’s energy commissioner, dealt a heavy blow to the hopes of several member states that have been pressing for a target of slashing emissions by 30% by 2020, against the current 20%.

    He said the tougher target would force industries to ….

  9. China bids to ease drought with $1bn emergency water aid

    China has announced a billion dollars in emergency water aid to ease its most severe drought in 60 years, as the United Nations warned of a threat to the harvest of the world’s biggest wheat producer.

    Beijing has also promised to use its grain reserves to reduce the pressure on global food prices, which have surged in the past year to record highs due to the floods in Australia and a protracted dry spell in Russia.

    The desperate measures were evident at

  10. Obama Admin: 1M Electric Vehicles by 2015 Still On Course

    President Obama?s plan to put 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015 was reaffirmed on Tuesday.

    A new report issued by the Department of Energy outlines a strategy for achieving that goal, which Obama announced in his State of the Union address last month. David Sandalow, the Energy Department?s Assistant Secretary for Policy and International Affairs, said the goal can be reached if the proper steps are taken.

    ?To succeed in meeting the President?s goal, we?ll need …

  11. Ocean energy could create 70,000 jobs [in Ireland] ? Bord G?is

    Bord G?is have claimed that the ocean energy industry could create up to 70,000 jobs and be worth ?120bn to the Irish economy.

    In a speech to the Ocean Energy Industry Forum 2011 today, Bord G?is CEO John Mullins outlined his concern that ?not enough investment and planning is being put into developing Ireland?s ocean energy resources,? however.

You should follow me on Twitter here

Photo credit house of bamboo

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SAP talks e-mobility!

I visited SAP’s facilities recently on their energy efficiency day and talked to them about their e-mobility initiatives and the rollout of their 16 Coulomb Technologies electric vehicle level 2 charging stations for their employees.

Tom Raftery: Hi everyone! Welcome to the GreenMonk TV. With me, today, I have Geoff Ryder from SAP and Henry Bailey also from SAP. Guys, we are at the SAP headquarters, here, in California, Palo Alto, because Geoff ?

Geoff Ryder: So, we started earlier this year taking a survey of all of our employees and are they interested in electric vehicles. It turned out they are. About 200 said they are in the market for one. So, how can we deal with that as a company? We can take advantage of that to show sustainability, thought leadership, we can also make this appealing to our employees, appealing place to work. So, you?re seeing today the culmination of our planning process. We are deploying 16 Coulomb Technologies charging sessions. These are level 2 charging stations, they?ll be across campus. And we?ll also –

Coulomb Technologies Level 2 electric vehicle charging station

Coulomb Technologies Level 2 electric vehicle charging station

Tom Raftery: Level 2 charging stations, means what?

Geoff Ryder: It?ll be 240 volts, that?s the voltage that you run your dryer off of. So, that?s very capable. It can charge the battery in a faster time than if you trickle charge with 120 volts. So, we think that?s probably the way it?s going to go. People will want to see that in their public charging option. Even at home, I think we?ll see you know Level 2 charging stations coming.

So, today, we?ve actually turned our first charging stations on and as you can see we have a small fleet of electric cars here.

We have our partners from Nissan with LEAF. We have a plug-in Hybrid Prius, we have a Chevy Volt, and further down, it?s hard to see, here but we have a CODA Automotive, a demonstration car.

Tom Raftery: Okay.

Geoff Ryder: Yeah.

Tom Raftery: Henry you?re involved with the e-mobility solutions, so ?

Henry Bailey: Correct.

Tom Raftery: What?s that exactly?

Henry Bailey: So, what we have done is we have looked at — as Geoff mentioned, we?ve got our employees interested in electric vehicles.

We also have a lot of our customers interested in the how to deploy electric vehicles primarily utilities looking at how do they manage the infrastructure when these vehicles start showing up in their service territories.

So, as people buy electric vehicles, they drive them home, now suddenly they?re plugging them into the Grid, which in some cases using the Level 2 charging station that Geoff described could look like another small home being plugged into the Grid.

So, the Utilities have a couple of opportunities, they need to look at how do they manage this new load coming on to the Grid and then also with the purchasing of energy by the home owner and maybe by third parties who are offering these charging stations at retail outlets, parking garages of businesses how do they, basically, settle those charges back to the consumer so that they can, basically, charge anywhere they want roaming freely around the country if you will.

Tom Raftery: The example being, if I go to the local supermarket and plug-in there, how does that charge appear on my electricity bill?

Henry Bailey: Exactly, but there may be different types of settlement options that the consumer wants. They may want it come back to their home energy bill as a separate line item, so they can see exactly what their energy usage is both when they plug it into their home as well as when they are roaming around to different shopping malls, grocery stores, as you are talking about.

They may also want to settle it to the credit cards, they may want to settle it to cell phones and have it as a part of that infrastructure. So, we?re looking at all different options and we also see businesses taking advantage because – take the mall, for example. If you can attract people with electric vehicles to come and stay maybe an extra hour or two giving them some sort of incentive to stay that hour or two by either the convenience and/or electricity at maybe low or no cost to them directly, then that entices them to stay longer, shop more.

So, they?re looking at it as a way to incent the customers to come and visit their place of business.

Tom Raftery: Excellent. Guys, thanks very much.

Geoff Ryder: Thank you.

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Smart Grid Heavy Hitters – Jon Wellinghoff, Chair of US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission – part 2

Jon Wellinghoff is the Chairman of the United States Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) – the FERC is the agency that regulates the interstate transmission of electricity, natural gas, and oil.

I recorded an interview with Jon a few weeks back. The resulting video was too good to reduce to a single piece, so I split it into two. I published the first part of the interview a couple of weeks ago, this is part two.

In this second video we discussed:

  • Why it is a good thing for utilities that customers consume less electricity – 0:36
  • How smart grids help increase the penetration of renewables on the grid – 2:12
  • How electric vehicle owners are being paid up to $3,600 per annum to provide regulation services for utilities while charging! – 2:54
  • How renewable energy sources can be used as baseload power (no coal or nuclear baseload need ever be built) – 4:34
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Friday Morning Green Numbers round-up 03/19/2010

Green numbers

Photo credit Unhindered by Talent

Here is this Friday’s Green Numbers round-up:

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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Why electric cars are the future

Tesla Roadster

Photo credit Djof

I was talking to an American friend the other day who had recently taken delivery of their new Tesla Roadster. He was really enthused about it. What was the thing which impressed him most?

He took the car for a spin over the weekend. He went over 100 miles on the journey. When he got home, he plugged it in to recharge it (the car is rated at over 200 miles on a single charge so it would have done the 100 miles very comfortably). When he entered the cost per kWh from his utility, it turned out that the 100 miles had cost him $3.50!

Now with gas prices currently averaging around $3.20 in California, and his previous car averaging around 18mpg, a similar journey would have cost him around $17.50! As well as that electric cars do not require routine oil changes, they do not have any tailpipe emissions and therefore do not require any muffler or exhaust system work, and they do not require replacement spark plugs, pistons, hoses or belts.

Electric vehicles are still in their infancy but when they deliver demonstrable savings on running costs as above, and produce no tailpipe emissions, you start to see that they really are the future